A COVID New Year’s Poem…
Twas the month of Christmas,
And all through the town,
People wore masks,
That covered their frown.
The frown had begun
Way back in the Spring,
When a global pandemic
They called it corona,
But unlike the beer,
It didn’t bring good times,
It didn’t bring cheer.
As the world entered lockdown
To flatten the curve,
The economy halted,
And folks lost their nerve.
From March to July
We rode the first wave,
People stayed home,
They tried to behave.
When summer emerged
The lockdown was lifted.
But away from caution,
Many folks drifted.
Now it’s December
And cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived,
Much to our disliking.
It’s true that this year
Has had sadness a plenty,
We’ll never forget
The year 2020.
But Christmas was not cancelled
And neither is hope.
If we lean on God and each other,
I know we can cope.
There’s a fascinating and obscure line of scripture in the gospels spoken by Pontius Pilate that applies to the end of one year and the beginning of another. It is regarding the sign that was affixed over Jesus cross. (What I have written, I have written.)
We wrote (or allowed others to write!) a lot of things over our head in 2020. And much of it was not positive. Who told you that you were hopeless, unlovable, broke,
scared, or anxious? Listen, whatever name 2020 may have placed over your head right now, it DOES NOT define you. Things may have rattled your cage in 2020, but
just because we’re rattled, doesn’t mean we’re defeated… Bad setbacks make for bold comebacks - just ask the Browns!
2020 made us feel like Chippie - You ever hear the story of Chippie the parakeet? One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in,
washed up, and blown over.
Chippies’ problems began when his owner decided to clean Chippies’ cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it
in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “whoosh!” Chippie disappeared.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive, but stunned. Since the bird was covered with
dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under cold, running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and
shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do…she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who broke the Chippie story contacted Chippies’ owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie
doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sort of sits and stares.”
Can you relate to Chippie? That’s how 2020 feels and how some of us are responding! Listen, we’re not called to be a people that sits and stares, rocking in the corner… Throughout history, the church, capital C, has seen its fair share of challenge and persecution. But nothing has ever stopped the church from moving forward, and nothing ever will.
And now I say to you that you are Peter (which means rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give the
keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Ex. Peter gets knocked down… look what happens next… 2020 may have knocked a lot of us down, but we are getting back up. Our knock downs don’t define us, but our
resolve to get back up, does…
My favorite theologian, Rocky Balboa, said it this way: “It ain’t about how hard YOU can hit… It’s about how hard you can GET hit, and keep moving forward.”
COVID has hit a lot of things this past year… it has changed a lot of things, but for Whitewater, some things have NOT changed…
The mission of Jesus and our church hasn’t changed.
Our Core Values haven’t changed. Glorify God, Obey the Bible, Love People, and Follow Jesus.
The local cultural context hasn’t changed. Lost people are still lost. Hurting people are still hurting – maybe more so now!
The gifting and special calling of you watching this hasn’t changed.
The basic human desire for hope hasn’t changed.
And our most important spiritual realities have not changed. God’s promises have not changed, God’s love hasn't diminished, His grace is still greater than our disgrace, and heaven is still our reward.
So let’s get back in touch with the things that will outlast this or any crisis - like your faith, your values, the things you will still believe in no matter what happens. Let’s stop our end-of-the-world thinking, and engage in spiritual and physical activities, such as prayer, worship, Bible study, confession, and giving. Get out of yourself and help someone else. What the Sparkle Box taught us is that there are strong emotional, psychological and even physiological benefits to giving of yourself to others. (insert sparkle box story from Becky here?) Let’s not let the benevolent heart stop in December. So find a place to serve and to give. It will do you good, now and for the long term.
Psalm 103:1-5 is a great reminder as we end one year and start another. In Psalm 103, King David says this:
Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and a heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Some of you 65 and old may hear that last line from King David and think that sounds like that doesn’t apply… it’s been awhile since you felt ‘youthful’. Please hear me… your heart is being renewed. Your work is not done. We need you now more than ever. We need your wisdom, your guidance, your support. I know some Sundays, you may think the music is too loud… and the pastor may talk too long… and you wonder why no one ever wears a tie anymore… but if you’ll remember, not that long ago, what captured your heart for Whitewater, was its fierce determination to reach lost people. That stirred your heart. That fire to reach the lost has never burned hotter than it is right now. It’s never been about preference, it’s been about living out the great commission. As one of our older members said recently...as long as you’re reaching lost people and preaching the Bible, … I’m good. I love that. But more than “i’m good”, I want you to receive this season of a renewed youthful heart to help this next generation of leaders with your wisdom and support.
The coronavirus has indeed created the single greatest disruption in American society (and church life) in our lifetime. But it affords us many opportunities too…
Although we have numerous subgoals for 2021, we have specifically boiled the church goals for 2021 down to four. THE big four!
We will reach new people and spread the good news in person and online. Especially those of you who come from a non-practicing Catholic background. Which
is the majority of our tribe on the Westside. Whitewater Crossing Church and its services have always been a simple/easy step from Catholicism. What got us to where we are is a passion for lost people and it’s time for a refresher. And all people need hope – especially coming out of the inevitable downside of the Christmas euphoria. We will be rolling out a new I Found Hope website in early January that will also empower this… Our goal is to see 365 people take the step of baptism.
We will create a movement of missionaries by launching 4 movement leaders in the next 12 months. Just like we did with the Briscoe Family recently as we sent them to the Middle East to reach Muslims. We want to identify and commission 4 key leaders in 4 strategic areas where groups will begin meeting. We had already been moving toward this pre-COVID as we added elements like Solve 7, encouraging people to live on mission and be ‘For My Street’ and ‘For The One’. This is what we mean when we say - “The church has left the building.” And “Whether you’re on-line or on-campus, we’re still ‘on mission’.” As a member at whitewater, you’re still inviting, but not just to a building or Sunday service, but a lifestyle relationship with you and Jesus.
We will repurpose our wonderful facility to become a beacon of hope for the Tri-state area. We have been dreaming of the numerous things that can be done in this
new unique year. Think of our whole campus/building as a huge Life Center of Hope. The highest and best use of the building is fueling, supporting and empowering what God is already doing OUTSIDE the building.
We will transform the church into a spiritual leadership and development engine. Everything rises and falls on leadership. We will create a ‘leader of leaders’
team to help us navigate this. Leading and serving in areas beyond just the Sunday morning systems.
So these are the things we are planning for next year. We want to be courageous and continue to take risks For The One. We can’t be so afraid of doing something wrong that we forget to do something right. We don’t want to be so consumed on what we can’t do, that we lose focus on what we can do. As David says occasionally to the staff - ‘No Risk it, no biscuit!’ But we’re not blowing things up’, we’re ‘building things on’ a stronger foundation.
Think of this being a ‘back to the basics’ year. And to help us with that, we are going to use 3 little chapters in the New Testament - Matthew 5,6,7 and the Sermon on THE
Mount as our primary weekend teaching material. Every problem you and I will ever have or face is mentioned/addressed by Jesus there. And David will kick us off next Sunday by talking about how we can be stronger salt and brighter light. The series is titled, ‘Brighten with Flavor.'
You can’t go wrong with Jesus. He is the great equalizer, the great uniter, but also the great divider.
My missionary hero friend in India, Jay Henry sent me a few lines, written by a poet in India:
As our time is divided into two parts, before the birth of Jesus and after the birth of Jesus, my life is also divided into two parts, before I met you and after I met you.
Jesus stands in the middle of our timeline and story. But he also stands between our destiny. Between 2020 and 2021. The question is this - Which side of Jesus are you standing on? Are you doing life with him or without him?
The word I would use to describe us around here in 2020, is this word - Resiliency. And as we get back to the basics in 2021, we may be smaller because of Covid, but we will be stronger. But this is the group of leaders/members watching this that will help rebuild the church in America and in Cincinnati.
I have a pastor friend named Cam Huxford. He's the minister of Compassion Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia, and he said recently that the current Covid situation actually energizes him. When asked to explain, he said, "All my life, I've felt guilty when learning of Christian leaders and missionaries in other parts of the world enduring hardship and suffering persecution. I have been so pampered and spoiled. Now it's my turn. Thankfully I don't have to show up in Heaven like a trust fund baby who served in the most comfortable country, in the most comfortable time in history. I may actually have some wounds and scars when I stand before the Lord."
Good words from Cam for all of us as we move from 'what I have written', to what 'I will write' in this brand new year. The phrase, 'hindsight is 2020' has never felt truer than it does right now! And as the New Year approaches, and 2020 takes its spot in the rearview mirror, remember this - 'The words that we live under, fail in comparison to the Word we stand on.'
We live under all sorts of words that get shared or spoken over us, some good, some bad, some helpful, some that don't last (like resolutions) and fade, but some that are beneficial for a New Year or an entire life...words of truth and promise that we can hold fast to and build a foundation on because they are words that Jesus Christ speaks over us.