Fall Letter to the Congregation from Pastor Dave

October 20, 2022

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. Exodus 2:23-25

Dear Christ Memorial Congregation,

A long time ago, a wise man pointed out to me that there is something in this passage that most of us pass right by. The Israelites, who once found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, were now under great oppression when a new king came to power. This wise fellow pointed out that the text does not indicate the intended recipient of the Israelites’ prayers. They simply cried out to anyone who would listen…and God heard.

Another part of this story is what precedes it. The new king in Egypt feared the Israelites, so he ordered their children killed. But the midwives feared God, so they kept the children alive. Interestingly, one of these Hebrew babies is actually found by an Egyptian princess, and by instinct, conscience, or the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit, this person foreign to God’s people, keeps the baby alive and gives him a place in her home. Turns out, he is the one God chooses to liberate His people.

Just like God heard the Israelites crying out, the Bible says this Egyptian princess, “saw the baby…was crying, and she felt sorry for him.” (Exodus 2:6) Both God and the foreigner heard and looked. They took the time to listen and see.

Today we live in a world with a lot of talking, but too little listening. Our eyes take in a lot of different images, but it is sometimes difficult to truly see. Behind all of the yelling, the bombardment of ads, and the robocalls, we are living in a world full of people crying out, desperate, and groaning.

Jesus was always one to hear, to see, and to show compassion. My prayer is that the same be true of us as his followers. Today the unborn are crying out, and I promise you God hears. At the same time, despairing women of all ages are crying out, wondering if anyone is listening to their whirlwind of confusion, uncertainty, frustration, and fear of the future. The poor and oppressed are groaning as their options for hope become fewer and fewer. The passage from Exodus says that when the people groaned and cried out, God looked on them and was concerned about them. Our calling as a church is also to be a people who come along side and demonstrate concern, compassion, and conviction that life, in all its forms, is both holy and sacred. We are proud to support mission partners who help provide needed shelter, clothing, free medical care, counselling services, and positive options for people making life’s most difficult decisions.

Jesus took the time to be present because each of these challenges is a challenge with a face, with a body, and with a soul. All of these are real lives at stake; real human – flesh and blood – problems being traded in the marketplace of politics and propaganda as talking points and bargaining chips. Don’t hear what I am not saying – politics is necessary as a way of governing the nations. Those who serve in office do so in an effort to make our lives in community better. We should pray for, encourage, support, and challenge our leaders when necessary, understanding that they too are human and worthy of dignity and respect. As citizens of heaven, we should also be honorable citizens of our nation.

Let me leave you with one last thing (or maybe two). We all know we are in an election year with some very significant issues and candidates being placed before us. Please do your best to be informed citizens, understand the ramifications of proposed measures, pray over the scriptures, and vote to help create the kind of world that honors a God who hears the cries. And understand that when the votes are tallied and the results are in, our job as followers of Jesus is not over. No matter which candidate or which side wins, there is always work for us to be people or presence, compassion, grace and truth to our neighbors, colleagues, and classmates. And always remember, it’s when things seem darkest that the light of God and the church can shine brightest when we represent Jesus Christ to the world.

Thank you for letting me be a part of such a remarkable community.
Grace and peace,

Rev. Dave VanOpstall
October 20, 2022