Weekly Letter, August 7, 2020

Dear Church Family and Friends,

    Amy and I are back from study leave and vacation.  We enjoyed a relaxing weekend at Galveston and returned Monday night.  For those of you who are able to attend church in person, we are looking forward to seeing you this Sunday.  If you are isolating, we hope to catch up with you soon.

     The main project that  I’m working on right now is a series of sermons on the Book of Esther that I will begin preaching on August 16.  Esther is one of the most neglected books of the Bible.  On the surface, it appears deservedly so, as there is no explicit mention of God, worship, or prayer.  But throughout this book, we see the hidden providence of God in preserving his people from destruction through a courageous young woman.

     Perhaps, more than any other book, Esther addresses the questions, “Where is God in all of this?  I don’t see him at work?  Why does it seem that he is absent?  Why am I experiencing such great suffering?  Why doesn’t he intervene?  Has he forgotten me?  Has he forsaken me?”

     In many ways, God seems completely inactive in Esther.  More than any Old Testament book, we see in Esther that we must walk by faith and not by sight.  We see that his normal way of working is not through spectacular events when he parts the heavens and comes down, but through his inconspicuous and almost imperceptible Providence.

    We remember God’s deliverance of his people through Esther, that he raised her up “for such a time as this.”  However, as the Jews were living through these events, it appeared that they would be subjected to cruel and heartless destruction – even to genocide – through the wicked actions of Haman.  But at the last minute, God raises up the righteous and destroys the wicked.

     And Esther is an unlikely heroine.  She was orphaned at a young age and raised by her uncle, Mordecai.  She was taken from him to the king’s harem.  This is no Cinderella story.  There was no “beauty pageant” or “scholarship contest” that she applied to and won.  The text doesn’t allow us to press this point too hard, but today, she might be considered a victim of human trafficking.  This is a child of the covenant, living in exile, who experienced great losses early in life.

     Esther doesn’t seem to be particularly devout.  There is no mention of her keeping the dietary laws, which is central in the Book of Daniel.  She conceals her Jewish identity.  Yet, God raises her up to save his people from destruction.

     One of the lessons that we can learn from Esther is that no matter what kind of baggage we bring into the kingdom, no matter how many hurts and losses we have suffered, or how many times we may have compromised, God is not finished with us yet.  He is able to use each one of us to accomplish his purposes and to further his kingdom.  Esther encourages us that God is able to do great things through unlikely people.

ARTICLES OF NOTE

     Lindsey Brigham Knott, one of my former teaching colleagues, writes about “Why Ceremony is not Nonessential.”

     Here is a paper that chronicles the development of the Presbyterian church in Egypt.  I had no idea that there is a Presbyterian church in Egypt!  While this paper is rather academic, the story of God’s blessing on the work of American Presbyterian missionaries who went to Egypt in the nineteenth century is interesting and encouraging.

     The book White Fragility is one that’s making the rounds right now.  t’s number two on the New York Times nonfiction best seller list.  Tim Challies reviews this book and concludes that it is not a helpful resource for Christians.

 CHURCH SERVICES

     Once again, as long as social distancing is recommended, if you decide to stay home for reasons of conscience or from an abundance of caution, we honor, respect, and support your decision. We continue to offer livestream service at 11 AM and 5 PM here.  If you find that there are still starts and stops and gaps in the livestream service, you may access the recorded service, which is available shortly after the conclusion of the livestream.  This should eliminate those difficulties.  If neither of these works well, our audio sermons are available at Sermon Audio.  We are continuously working to improve the quality of our livestream, so hopefully, it will improve week by week.

ZOOM SUNDAY SCHOOL

    Pastor Julian Zugg will continue to teach the adult Sunday School class on the Holy Spirit on Zoom.  Watch your email for the Zoom links to Adult Sunday School, which runs from 9:40-10:30 and the Zoom chat after Evening Worship, which begins around 6:15.

     Your officers are praying for you, and are privileged to minister to you in any way that you may find helpful.   And remember, if you are ever in need of spiritual counsel or prayer, please ask me, Pastor Lou, or one of the elders. This is what we are here for.  We are happy to serve you in this way!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

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