- Rev. Michelle Vernone
A New Season
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
We read these words about Mary in Luke’s gospel as the shepherds come to find Jesus in the manger. The shepherds have come to find him after they see a heavenly host appear in the sky telling them that the Savior, the Messiah has been born. They come to find him and begin spreading word about everything they have seen and heard. Mary’s response is to “treasure up all these things in her heart.” Just a few verses later, when we read about Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus to the te
mple, Simeon (who the scripture says had the Holy Spirit upon him) and Anna, a prophetess) see them and recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They both speak powerful and somewhat foreboding words over Jesus. I can’t help but wonder, did Mary treasure those things up in heart as well? To hear that her son would be “a sword that pierce [her] own soul too” – did she treasure those words? Did she hear and heed them?
I’m not a mom. I’ve never experienced child birth, but it seems like 2020 has been one, long, painful, complicated birthing process with labor pains too deep, too unexpected to describe. There is no amount of breathing, panting,
ice chips, or medication to dull the impact. After the fact, after the baby is born, and there is a little distance between birth itself and holding that baby, do moms hold that pain of child birth as a treasure in their hearts? Was the pain, the anxiety, the sacrifice worth the new life they get to cradle in their arms?
What if all that we have experienced this past year is about to give birth to something beautiful, new, powerful, purpose-filled, dare I hope, holy, even? We are already changed, but have we chosen to be changed for the better, for good? Within our own church community, different ministry has been given life. There is an incredibly dynamic online worship ministry that took root and bloomed as no one could have predicted. Our music ministry has grown and we have been blessed by the gifts of incredible Music Minister, Omar Samaniego, and our growing worship team and scholarship singers. More people participate in the liturgy than when we met in person. What was once 2 different worshiping congregations at different times has become one, unified worshiping body. Our food pantry ministry has grown and adapted to serve more people in our community in response to increased need and done it in a way that has also grown the number of people who volunteer and serve. Every week we have members coming to the church to work in the prayer garden, take care of the property, prep food for the food pantry, take care of the “work” of the church. I see you all, the work you do. I hear you all, the prayers you lift, the laughter and tears you share, and I treasure them up in my heart.
As I look back on 2020, we began the year with a Wesleyan Covenant renewal (which we do every year) where we commit to the Lord:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
We pressed into a word from the Lord, an instruction, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” We entered Lent with the promise that God is faithful and takes our broken pieces and makes them beautiful. We had no idea how important those words would be, how we would need them to sustain us. Indeed, as I write this, I am humbled and tearful by God’s faithfulness in preparing us and providing what we would need for this season of labor. I look back at this year and give thanks for all that we have experienced, the good and the painful. I look forward to what is to come with joy. I pray you will too, and treasure it all up in your hearts.
Grace and Peace,