I haven’t always treated my body so well. Over the years, I’ve collected a few scars. When I look down at my hands, I’m reminded of the events and experiences that left a written history on my body. Some are reminders of my own carelessness, others represent something more. But they all are part of my history and reflect the experiences that have helped shaped me.
As I look back on this year, I’m reminded of the scars we share now as a body of Christ at St. Philip. We suffered through the trauma of our pastors resigning and now bear the scars of the toll that trauma left on us. At times, we have questioned ourselves, our faith and each other. We have lashed out in our pain or have failed to offer comfort to others. We have been rejected, denied and rebuffed. And we have done likewise to others. We have failed to put our complete trust in God, and we have failed to trust each other.
We may be tempted to cover our scars, hide them, and try to forget the pain of those experiences. But it is because of those experiences that we have grown and become stronger. We should honor our scars and the experiences that etched them as part of our collective consciousness and history. They will remind us of how God gives us strength to endure when times are tough.
Scars also reflect healing. The body repairs and renews. When I fractured my arm playing baseball when I was 10, my father told me it would heal stronger in that place than it was before. And sure enough, there is a small bump on my forearm where the bone healed.
The process is the same for us as the body of Christ. Despite the trauma, or perhaps because of it, we have come together this year to understand each other better. As a result, our relationships as individuals and as a community are stronger. We don’t always agree, but we have found better and more respectful ways to seek understanding, which is a sign of a healthy community. We have come together to celebrate and plan for our 50th anniversary. We have risen to meet the financial challenge of our deficit campaign. We have welcomed new members, created a new website, formed new fellowship groups, and launched new outreach efforts. In short, our ministry is growing stronger every day.
As we close out a long and arduous year, I want to express my deep gratitude for your prayers, words of support, and acts of love and kindness. So many people have stepped up this year to assume more responsibility for our church and our ministry. You have come and offered yourselves saying, “Here I am, Lord.”
I am especially grateful for the service of Pastor Anne Marie, Pastor Nagle, our staff and those on council this year. Few will ever understand or appreciate the sacrifices these women and men have endured to deal with the difficult decisions that offered no easy answers and only more challenges. I thank God for bringing these people together at this time, especially Pastor Anne Marie. She has invested countless hours, provided wise counsel, and offered steady guidance throughout the year to help bring healing and renewal.
But as I stand here looking back at the year, I know that we have come so far only because of the grace and love of God. In the end, love wins. The love of a God who sent his only son to suffer and die, nailed to a cross, so that through his resurrection we might be free. In the end, those are the scars that matter.