Pastor Letter: September 2, 2020

Dear Buck Run Family:

Every time I think of you, the overwhelming thought and emotion I experience is a profound sense of gratitude. Your determination to honor the Lord, to stay connected as a church, to support the mission, and to love one another keeps me going. The challenges of the past few months have been greater than I have ever faced in forty years of ministry. Frankly, leading through the relocation was easy compared to the obstacles of 2020, which is the reason why I am forever in your debt. I loved you before all of this, but my love for you has deepened and my desire to shepherd you well has only grown. You are the most precious people in the world to me.

Thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for thinking the best of me rather than the worst. Thank you for trusting my heart even when my decisions may differ from yours or what you would do. Thank you for faithfully giving even when times are difficult and uncertain. Thank you for the way you care for one another when you learn of a need. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Word even in the unprecedented craziness of the world.

I am indebted to our pastors, staff, and volunteers for doing so much for the safety of our worshipers. We have followed these careful procedures since our regathering in May, and they have worked. Even though people in our church have had COVID-19, no infection contacts have been traced to us. Even when one of our pastors got it, it did not spread through our staff or the congregation. It is worth the extra work of having three services to keep you safe. I am so happy to get to see people in person that I would preach six times if I had to! I am glad that gathering with fellow believers means so much to you that you are willing to endure the inconvenience. Worshiping with church family means so much.

My challenge to you is to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of your life and thinking. That proves difficult when the 24-hour news cycle is dominated by stories about the global pandemic and the national elections. Many matters are certainly important but do not stake your credibility and your energy on things that will pass away. When COVID-19 is a story we tell our grandchildren and the 2020 elections are history, Jesus Christ will still be Lord and the world around us will still need the Gospel. We must remind ourselves of that and of eternal things before posting a Facebook rant about some momentary issue that might needlessly alienate people who need Jesus. Even when we are right, we should be more energized and animated about the Gospel than about whether to wear a mask or what happens in November. The danger for most of us is not disbelief but distraction, not rejection of the Gospel but replacement with things that don’t matter in eternity.

The key goal for Christians during this challenging time is humility. We desperately need it, and we need it in large doses. When Jesus characterized His heart, he said, “I am gentle and lowly in heart.” I don’t see a lot of gentleness and lowliness of heart these days, particularly in mine. Instead, our hearts often seem pitiless and haughty. We are certain of our own rightness and everyone else’s irrationality. How unlike our Savior.

As I am preaching through the passion narrative in Luke and witnessing the humility of Jesus as He bore the weight of sin and suffered the wrath of God, I am often reduced to a puddle of tears. My tears are not simply because I am sorry for Jesus’ suffering, but more for my realization that I can be proud or self-centered when all I have is the result of God’s grace. In these next four weeks, we are going to be immersed in Luke’s account of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial. May it so grip our minds that we are motivated to live, to love, to give, and to serve with humility as unworthy recipients of God’s grace. May we always be “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).

Your grateful pastor,

Bro. Hershael