Sorrow and Glory
Dear Buck Run Family:
My heart is full and overflowing after our very special Easter weekend. It was so uplifting, so encouraging, and so productive—may we never have another one like it! Like so many things in life, we would not choose this, nor would we want to go through it again, yet we can clearly see God’s providential hand working, doing great things to His glory even in these circumstances that test our resolve to trust and follow Christ anywhere He leads.
Looking back over the weekend, I am struck both by its sorrow and by its glory—which is exactly what Good Friday and Easter should feel like. Friday morning, I preached the funeral of Frances Clark, Bill’s wife, and I struggled emotionally and spiritually with it. Bill has been at Buck Run all of his life. He faithfully volunteers his time and serves regularly, even while he has been the primary caregiver for his wife and mother. He and I have been on mission trips together and have worshiped together now for more than sixteen years. Seeing his sorrow and being totally unable to embrace him and put my arm around him, watching the ten people allowed at the funeral sit at least three seats apart and unable to physically comfort one another wiped me out emotionally. I have been in the ministry now since I was 19 years old, and I never felt so helpless and useless as I did at that funeral. Some of our deacons showed up at the graveside with their facemasks to serve as pallbearers and their simple act of love to their Christian brother overwhelmed me. I was so moved by their kindness, but I felt defeated unable to adequately comfort my friend.
Friday night, I almost was not able to preach the Good Friday service. Minutes before stepping into the pulpit I was a sobbing, sad mess. Only the thought of my church family gathering online to hear the message of the cross enabled me to pull it together enough to fulfill my duty. The praise team and band and the Scripture and narration were absolutely amazing and so comforting.
On Saturday we recorded the Easter service that would be broadcast on CWKYT and we simply made it as clearly gospel-centered as we could, praying that the Lord would use it.
Then came Sunday morning, Resurrection Day! When I began the sunrise service with the words, “Christ is Risen!”, I felt an intense joy but also a deep sorrow that I could not hear my church family answer me back, “He is risen indeed!” Still, the knowledge of the empty tomb flooded my soul with comfort and strength.
Almost as soon as the sunrise service ended, cars started rolling in as Buck Run folks started bringing their Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. I cannot tell you how much good it did me and Tanya to see you. People kept coming right up until our live Easter service began at 10:45, and at 12:30 the steady flow of cars and their precious cargo resumed. All afternoon we stood their greeting families, children, seniors, singles, widowed persons, every segment of Buck Run’s congregation. It was a marvelous way to see one another, if only for a few moments. It was the Lord’s faithful way of comforting my hurting heart and reminding me that He is in control and He has a purpose and a plan. Just those few minutes of contact with each person who came to the church on Sunday gave us unspeakable joy.
When I learned on Monday that you gave the largest Annie Armstrong offering in the history of our church (over $28,000!), even in these present economic difficulties, I was not surprised at all, but I was nonetheless overwhelmed. I wish I could be more creative and less redundant, but I don’t know how to say it other than, “Buck Run, I love you. One of the greatest honors of my life will be that I got to be your pastor.”
Even in these times that frustrate us, isolate us, and threaten our health and wellbeing, God is on His throne and He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. Never and nowhere has that been more evident than in our church today.
I want to thank Tanya, my precious wife and teammate, for the brilliant idea of Drive-by Annie. It was a stroke of genius. I knew it would result in a good offering, but I had no idea how much it would feed my soul to see so many of our people on Easter Sunday.
I also want to thank each of our pastors for the way they are working tirelessly to post content, check on people, think creatively, evangelize boldly, and serve faithfully every single day. Can you believe the team we have here? And this week Will and Abi Morris are moving to Frankfort and starting their ministry among us. We thank God for yet another demonstration of His love and faithfulness by bringing us precisely what we need.
Finally and once again, thank you, precious people who love Jesus, one another, and this unworthy servant. I long for the time when we are physically together again, but until then, stay faithful!
Your grateful pastor,