I’ve been your pastor for one full year. Reflecting on it, I’m reminded of Noah and the Ark, especially second part of the story—from the dove to the rainbow. In the past year, God has rescued us from the flood, planted us on dry ground, and given us signs of hope and promise.
Remember when Noah, his family, and the animals were still cooped up and on the flood waters’ timeline? The dove Noah sent out returned to the ark with an olive branch—the waters were receding! They were still cooped up, but they knew, God had already saved them. God saved Zion too.
I remember our great excitement, hope, and gratitude—mine, to be your pastor, and yours, to have a pastor. I also remember the promise of the vaccine! Together, these buoyed us through the still-difficult “regathering” phase of the pandemic.
I remember the fatigue! Zion people were worn out from the extra work and stress of pandemic decision-making and the pastoral vacancy and the call process. Worshiping in person was still new—in two worship services, very spread out, masks required, no singing. With a third service of sorts, filmed in parts and stitched together and posted online. That was a lot for the leaders who made it all happen!
And there was grief. Beloved Zion people died during the pandemic. And the grief of separation from everyone for those long months. And Pastor Karen’s departure.
And there was anxiety to get back to “normal.”
The gift of the vaccine and God bringing us together was like the dove returning with the branch. That fatigue, grief, and anxiety did not instantly disappear, but with new hope, they were easier to bear.
The rain had stopped, but the flood waters were still high back then. And now, they’re not anymore. We’re not at the mercy of the waves anymore. Our feet are firmly on solid ground now. Just like with Noah and company.
I remember the vaccine surveys the Regathering Task Force conducted. That was a turning point. Knowing 90% of Zion people were vaccinated gave leaders confidence to relax COVID precautions and make worship again the rich feast everyone remembered and was so hungry for!
In a bigger way, it was your trust in the vaccine that did it. The survey simply revealed what was already true: the people of Zion led the way by getting vaccinated in the first place.
And when the worst case scenario happened after Easter, the vaccine proved to be trustworthy. Twenty-one Zion people contracted COVID, but despite our fears, no one got severely sick. The place God brought us to really was high and dry! God really loved and protected us! And the grace that’s flowed from last month’s newsletter article really has been remarkable.
And if anything was the rainbow in the sky, for me, it was Immerse reading and Immerse groups.
I remember sitting around a lunch table in the lounge with the council, pitching the idea. They loved it! “So, how many bibles should we order?” I asked. “Oh,” they said, with a slumping of energy if not also of shoulders. I sensed doubt: what if everyone else isn’t as excited as we are? And we agreed to order 60 copies.
But boy, did we underestimate! The first week they were available, we ran out. We kept ordering more and more—140 total!
Few things warm this pastors heart as much as you inviting me out for coffee and donuts to explain Revelation. Or you telling me how much better you understand Jesus, now that you’ve read whole gospels. Or that you didn’t think you’d get into this funky new bible, but then you started reading and liked it so much you went ahead and got two more volumes of Immerse. Or simply the joy of gathering after so long apart.
The rainbow was God’s sign of the “everlasting covenant” God made with “every living creature.” But these past couple years included some faith-shaking days. “Everlasting” and “every living creature” are big claims. God will love that long? With truly no exceptions? Will who we are and what we do here matter that much?
What a difference a year can make!
Is the pandemic over? No. Is every problem solved? Of course not.
But Zion’s feet are on solid ground, our heavenly reason for being is powerfully reaffirmed. God rescued us from the flood. The signs of hope we see are indeed trustworthy, because they are from Christ Jesus, crucified and risen.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith