Dear people of Bethlehem,

 

Two weeks ago, I arrived at church early on Sunday morning, but I was not alone.  Emma (9 yrs. old) and Jonah (6 yrs. old) were there too.  They came dragging a wagon full of brilliant pink flowers and contagious enthusiasm.  Emma pulled the heavy wagon all by herself, while Jonah told me all about his biblical namesake and that Jonah had helped people.  With a flower pot in each arm, he said, “My favorite thing to do, is help people too!”  I knew then, it was going to be a good day.  More people arrived.  Shade structures went up, hands grabbed tables and chairs.  Even more people came.  By the time the sun had risen in the sky, 98 of you had arrived in “Live Generously” t-shirts with gloves and tools in your hands, buckets and hoses, school supplies and toothpaste.  It was a sight to behold!  It was the single largest gathering we have had in Covid, including Easter Sunday.  And that says a lot about you.  What a tangible reminder of what is at the heart and center of this congregation — our determination to be community together in service to this world.

 

I have come to cherish community as I never have before, both its gift and its power.  In last Sunday’s Old Testament reading, Moses complained that he alone, bore the weight of the journey through the wilderness.  It has never been so at Bethlehem — because of you.  Because of this generous community.  Because together, even during a pandemic, you choose to: make 400 hygiene kits, put together 200 backpacks full of school supplies, deliver 24 flower pots to neighbors, clean up a beach, thank our first responders, dig a ditch and pull countless weeds — all in under 3 hours!  And this is but a symbol of all that you do, and a testament to who you choose to be.

 

I found myself that morning deeply inspired by you, so heartened by you — because it is so hard right now, and still you came.  Still you bore witness to this faith that binds us.  Thank you for your resilience, faithfulness and grace in these times.  Thank you for your voices in worship and online.  Thank you for your financial support and your prayers.  Not only on one Bethlehem Serves Sunday, but every Sunday, and on every day in between.

 

“Sustained by Grace” is our chosen stewardship theme this year, because it feels so deeply true.  Together we are being sustained on this long journey by the grace of God.  And in the midst of the challenges, we are sustaining one another.  And here may be our greatest gift.  We are always ready to put that grace in a wagon and carry it to our neighbor.  We are always looking for the next grace that while rise from the ground.  I give thanks to God for you.

 

God bless you all,  Pastor Laura