The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
As you know from the letter that accompanies this SHOUT, the Session - in consultation with the Trustees – has made some difficult financial decisions which (I dare say) have troubled our hearts and even left them a bit afraid. Troubled because it means we’ll be giving less to those in need through our benevolences – something we know is central to our mission as a church. Troubled because we’ve made salary cuts to dedicated staff. Troubled because we’ll need to do more with less in the REACH program, our outreach to neighborhood youth. And fearful because hard decisions around money always bring up anxiety: about our own finances, the future of the church, and harmony in the congregation. And so it’s always been: when Jesus said these words to his disciples, he knew that they would be only the first generation of troubled and fearful hearts.
But this is the season of Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit which Jesus promises will both teach us and remind us of what he has said, including the promise of his peace to the church. This peace is not an assurance that we can avoid conflict; that everything will turn out the way we wish; or that we will always make the right decisions. But it is an assurance that the church is in Christ’s hands, and that the peace of Christ is always there for us, especially when we’re facing unusual challenges.
I believe the Session made a faithful and wise decision in making the cuts to our budget. I also believe that if we listen to our troubled hearts they can lead us into deeper paths of faithfulness: in our personal stewardship, in our commitment to the mission and ministry of the church, in our care and concern for one another. But we needn’t let anxiety or fear govern our life together. We can keep our hearts and minds in the peace of Christ, remembering that Christ gives his peace abundantly. And there are signs of Christ’s peace everywhere at Summit: at worship and in the new faces we see there, in the renewed nurture of our youth and children, in the care people show one another, in our outreach programs, in the energy and excitement around the Renewal Campaign, which will put us on stronger financial footing. For these things we can be thankful, as we seek to be ever more faithful disciples of our risen Lord.
Grace and Peace,