“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
When we came to Vero Beach exactly four years ago, we metwith the former ministers and church leaders to work out my brief tenure as interim. We could not have imagined how the world would soon change. My husband Ellis and I left the country for mission work abroad the following week, and just nine weeks later, moved to Vero Beach. Shortly thereafter the pandemic changed our world. Just one month into the ordinary work of interim ministry, our focus shifted to creating new ways to be the church in diaspora, new ground for us all.
This Sunday at 10:15 during our Sanctuary worship service, we will bless two of our ministers who served our church faithfully for a number of years. We will release them to their new work, and we will promise to pray for them and their new congregations.
Our moderator will remind us that our church family is constantly changing. People come and go. Babies are born. Children grow up. People commit themselves to one another. Loved ones and friends among us come to the end of their lives. Individuals move into our community and church life. Others leave us, moving away to new places, new experiences, and new opportunities.
We rejoice when those in our community rejoice, and we weep when those in our community weep. Often, we experience our greatest joys in the midst of our deepest sorrows. Just this week a woman whose husband died suddenly, began recounting all themiracles that took place in the midst of tragedy. Even as she grieved the loss of her beloved, she witnessed the power of God making a way out no way, possibility out of the impossible, discovering life and hope even in the midst of death.
At every turn our world now changes. People we love, die, and that hurts. Things we thought we could count on until we leave this earth, now appear to slip away. Just when we think the news cannot get any worse, the shock of man’s inhumanity to man takes our breath away.
Faith means trusting the constancy of God at work in and through all things. When Jesus invited us to have eyes to see and ears to hear, he wasn’t inviting us to get hearing aids or cataract surgeries. Rather, Jesus removed the spiritual cataracts from our eyes that previously kept us from seeing what God is doing and will yet do in every circumstance. Look for the helpers and helpers appear, expect angels and listen for the flutter of wings. Miracles abound out of the rubble of our desolation, every time.
Being a person of faith does not mean that nothing bad, nothing tragic will ever happen to us. Faith does mean that when terrible things happen, as they will by virtue of our humanness, then we will be given whatever resources we need to get through it. Whether we live or whether we die, we affirm that God is Lord of life, of the living and the dead. We affirm that nothing can separate us from the love of God. And we affirm that God will be with us always, even to the end of time.
God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,
The Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida