Happy New Year

Brothers and Sisters,

First things first, Happy New Year! This is the first Illuminator of 2022 and I hope that it finds you safe, happy, and healthy. I know that this year has started off rough with the continued presence of the Omicron variant of Covd-19, but my prayer is that 2022 will be a year in which we can return to some level of normalcy as a society and as a church. Regardless of what 2022 has in store, know that you are loved by your brothers and sisters in Christ here at Hope Valley. Know, as well, that you can call on any of us—both staff and church members—if you need anything! We want to be sure that we are all working together to love one another well.

As we start this new year together, we will be starting a new sermon series as well. There is always a bit of a lull within the church calendar between Baptism of the Lord Sunday (January 9th of this year) and Ash Wednesday (March 2nd), when the season of Lent begins in earnest. Over the next seven weeks, I wanted us to spend some time with the Apostle Paul, especially reading the latter part of 1 Corinthians. Paul’s letter to the Romans typically gets revered as his masterpiece—his best writing and his most elegant argument—but Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church contain elegant passages too. To read 1 & 2 Corinthians is to read letters between a church and an apostle who care deeply about each other. The Corinthians are unafraid to ask Paul questions about how to be faithful Christians and Paul is unafraid to tell the Corinthians exactly what he thinks! That relationship makes for a really interesting letter and so I wanted to spend some time with Paul and with the Corinthians, considering what it means to be Christian and what it means to be a part of a church full of different people with different life experiences.

The title of the upcoming sermon series is, “Gifts and Glory,” and is drawn from two of the major themes of the latter part of 1 Corinthians and the first part of 2 Corinthians. Simply put, as Paul writes to that congregation, he knows that there are divisions among them as people wonder what the gifts of the Spirit mean, how one should use their gifts, and why a person should be Christian to begin with. So, he writes to the people and speaks to them about the gifts of the Spirit. He writes to them about the mission of the church. He writes to them about the glory and majesty of God. He pushes them to embrace the mystery of faith. Ultimately, he reminds them that the love of Christ serves as a through line for everything Christians ought to do. He pushes them to understand that God is the animating force behind everything the church should be about. And he reminds them that God’s love has not failed and will not fail. This part of Paul’s letter is earnest and honest and beautiful. I’m looking forward to walking through it with you all over the next seven weeks!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Ben