For the ancient Israelites, Passover was THE Holy Week. It was instituted in Egypt on the night of the tenth plague. That original event was commemorated each year as they remembered and reenacted the ritual. For them, the Exodus from Egypt was the defining moment that galvanized their identity as the people of God. It was a sacred time. In their reenactment, the fine line between then and now was blurred. They were being redeemed from slavery. They were being rescued. It was not just their ancestors who were delivered. The Passover was a time to remember God’s love for them.
Next week, we will have a Holy Week. We will remember the events of Palm Sunday. We will remember the Upper Room. We will remember Good Friday. We will celebrate the Risen Lord. We will remember that God loves us. The fine line between then and now will be blurred. This is sacred time.
This year, we will once again partner with Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) for BWIM Month of Preaching. Participating churches typically invite a female preacher to lead in worship during the month of February. This year, Rev. Emily Davis will preach on February 28. Emily was raised in Person County, North Carolina and graduated from Person County High School; Emily received her Bachelor’s Degree from Wingate University; she received the Master of Divinity Degree from Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She currently serves bi-vocationally as a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher and the Interim Minister of Youth at Roxboro Baptist Church. I welcome Emily to HVBC and look forward to her leading us in worship.
In two weeks, we will begin the season of Lent as we begin the Lenten Journey to Holy Week. This season is a preparation for Holy Week and a reminder of its significance for us as Christians. On Wednesday night, February 17, we begin the season of Lent with our Ash Wednesday service. This will be a service of word and song. In the place of our normal Wednesday night prayer service, this service will be available through YouTube.
This is the beginning of a season of contemplation and reflection. In the midst of our busyness, this season is an opportunity to slow down and think about our faith and the spiritual practices that could facilitate our growth. I am challenged to move beyond my shallow spiritual life and commit to spiritual practices that will deepen my spiritual walk. Perhaps this will be the Lenten Season where you recommit to deeper spiritual growth and more consistent ministry to others. May this be a Lenten Journey that changes our lives!
Well, we did make it to the end of the year! It has been an unpredictable year. I doubt 2020 has turned out the way we imagined it would unfold, on last New Year’s Eve. But then that is al-ways the case, at least to some extent. But 2020 was an extraordinarily unpredictable year, with more surprises, disappointments, and uncertainty than normal years. While change and disruptions are normal; this was unprecedented. We are living in what they call a once-in-a-lifetime event. As we close the book on 2020, perhaps we are turning a corner.
2021 offers hope that we will finally begin to slow the pandemic; hope that we will begin to re-turn to a new normal; hope that we will soon be able to enjoy activities that we once took for grant-ed. Family gatherings and church activities will once again be cherished events. I suspect that many of us will appreciate them more and value them more. Until that day arrives, we will continue to do the things that are necessary to keep each other safe. May God grant us courage and determination as we face the challenges and opportunities of 2021.
This season brings back so many memories of Christmas past. Childhood memories with my parents and sisters; adult memories of when our children were at home. Those memories are a treasure that I cherish as I remember what used to be. They were the relationships that shaped me and they are the heritage that I take with me on this journey. And I am grateful for these memories.
This season will be different for many of us. The realities of this world-wide crisis will mean that many of our normal events and celebrations will be curtailed. With all that will be different, I am grateful for the Advent Wreath and its reminder of the gifts that Christ brings this season. As in previous years, we need Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. May you receive these wonderful gifts as we anticipate the entrance of the Christ Child into our lives.
Friends, During this month, my attention turns to thinking about all the ways I have been blessed. Family, friends, meaningful work, a measure of health; I am grateful for the ways that my life is enriched by these blessings. God has been good to me, and I am grateful. Being grateful is an important spiritual discipline that affects the way that I look at and experience life. I am better able to enjoy prosperity and success, and I am better able to tolerate disappointment. Challenges and obstacles are not insurmountable when my spirit is grateful. As we approach this holiday season, I want to be grateful for all that is right in our lives and in our world. And it may be that this change in orientation is good preparation as we begin the season of Advent on the 29th. With a grateful heart, may we experience God’s presence in our lives. May God’s richest blessings surround you this season!
Several years ago at Hope Valley, we began a tradition of celebrating All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday in November. All Saints’ Day may not be familiar to everyone, but it has deep roots in Christian history. In the early church, it became customary for the believers to set aside time in worship to remember those brothers and sisters who had been martyred for their faith. Over time, as the list of martyrs continued to grow, the church began setting aside one day a year to remember those “saints” who had suffered and died because of their faithfulness. By 835 A.D., “All Saints’ Day” was celebrated annually on November 1 in an effort to remember the martyrs and canonized saints of the church. It became something of a Christian Hall of Fame day.
In recent years, many Protestant traditions have rediscovered and given new shape to this ancient holy day. Recognizing that the New Testament uses the term “saints” to describe all Christians, “All Saints’ Day” has become an occasion to remember and celebrate the lives of those “saints” within one’s own church who have passed away during the previous year. On Sunday, November 1, during our “All Saints’ Day” service at Hope Valley, we will call the names of those church members who have passed away during the last twelve months. We will have a special time of prayer for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
This day has become a wonderful opportunity to thank God for those faithful servants who have made such positive contributions to the life of Hope Valley Baptist Church. Remembering their example also inspires and challenges me to greater faithfulness. As God’s Word reminds us, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….” Hebrews 12:1-2
The first Sunday in October, October 4 this year, is World Communion Sunday. This has become a time when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church. On that day, we remember that we are part of the whole body of believers. Whether shared in a grand cathedral, a mud hut, outside on a hilltop, in a meetinghouse, in a store-front, or in your home, Christians celebrate the communion liturgy in as many ways as there are congregations. During a “normal” year, we would celebrate in our sanctuary mindful that we are interconnected with Christians around the world. Even though we could not see them, we knew that we were bound together by our common commitment to Jesus as Lord. And this year, we will follow our tradition and practice. We will celebrate the Supper in the safety and privacy of our own homes. And as you eat the bread and drink from a cup, you will know that you are connected; with other members of HVBC, and with Christians around the globe. Bless be the tie that binds!
Life has turned out to be rather unpredictable these past six months; our assumptions about how the spring and summer would unfold have fallen through. And even though we were not prepared for the chaos and uncertainty that this worldwide pandemic has produced, we have survived! We are still standing upright and moving forward, we have learned to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances beyond our control.
And even though we cannot predict when the infection rates and death rates will begin to decline, we hold out hope that we will get though this crisis. We can begin to plan for the processes that we will implement in the reopening of our church campus. The Church Council appointed a “reopening work group” to begin this process of developing guidelines to be implemented when it is safe for us to meet again for in-person services or events at the church. Even though we do not know when the plan will be implemented, we want to be prepared with clear procedures and guidelines for safe reopening. We will keep the Church Council and Deacons updated on the process and will publish the guidelines churchwide prior to the reopening of the campus for in-person events.
Almost every week, we receive a thank you note from one of our ministry partners. Often, it is a Divinity School, like Campbell, that you will find in this week’s Illuminator. Sometimes, it is an agency, like the North Carolina Children’s Home or the North Carolina Baptist on Mission. Sometimes it is a denominational partner, like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or Baptist World Alliance. I always read the thank you notes as a reminder of our continued ministry that remains a critical part of our identity and mission. We cooperate with a wide range of ministry partners. And while our gifts may be just a small part of their over-all budget, their thank you notes remind us that they could not do their ministry without the sustained support of thousands of churches like Hope Valley.
While our local congregational ministries continue during this extraordinary time, our world-wide impact continues as well. Missions and Ministry continue! Thank you for your continued support of our ministry and missions.