Three months ago we were already planning for Easter, and I was scheduled to speak on Easter Sunday. At that time, we had no idea that we wouldn’t be able to worship in person as usual. But as it turned out, yesterday I preached my first sermon live on Zoom, and I also made an audio recording that I’ve posted on my main writing blog that you can listen to here: Easter for Everyone. May Easter joy and hope be with you today and always. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
At this time last year, I was just starting my new job as editor of Purpose, a monthly magazine of everyday, inspirational stories. After twenty-five years as a congregational pastor, I had sensed God leading me to invest more deeply in my writing ministry, and editing Purpose fit well with my other writing, speaking, and new role as resident author with a liturgical worship community. Over the last year, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working remotely with the diverse publishing team in Virginia, Oregon, Kansas, Ohio, and with new and returning writers from all across North America and beyond.
But as we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed our world with the spread of disease and rising death toll, physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and devastating economic impact. In light of this, MennoMedia has made the difficult decision to cease publication of Purpose after the August 2020 issue. Given the realities of publishing and the general state of the world today, I can understand the decision, but I’m also sad that Purpose will no longer inspire readers as it has for many years, that long-time writers will no longer have a home for their work, and that my stint as managing editor lasted for only a year.
The opportunity to serve as editor of Purpose came as a surprising gift, and at just the right time to help me transition from full-time pastoral ministry to the writing life. Now I don’t know what might be next, and the uncertainty of these days with COVID-19 reminds me that none of us knows what the future holds. As always, we walk by faith, not by sight.
So today I’m sharing my editorial from the March 2020 issue of Purpose on the theme of Powerful Faith, used with permission. May it encourage you in life and the work of ministry.
Some years ago, one of my church members suffered a stroke while he was out of the country visiting family. They rushed him to their local hospital, where he spent just two days receiving medical attention. Then, still weak and unable to walk or move his left side, he was transported home by plane and immediately taken to the hospital here.
When I visited him, he could speak only in a hoarse whisper: “That trip was so difficult. I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”
“How did you get through it all?” I asked him.
“Well,” he said firmly, his voice suddenly stronger, “it was by faith.”
With his permission, I shared his story the following Sunday as part of my sermon on Hebrews 11, which lists many examples of powerful faith. By faith Abraham and Sarah believed God’s promise to grant them many descendants. By faith Moses left Egypt and led his people through the wilderness to a land of promise. By faith many suffered imprisonment and torture and placed their hope in the future resurrection.
Mirroring this litany of faith from Scripture, I added more examples of faith from the life of our church. By faith John Jacobs in the aftermath of his stroke had made that long trip home. By faith we prayed for Alex and Rayna’s baby even before she was born. By faith our pastoral intern had moved across the country without knowing what to expect or whom he would meet. By faith a small group of charter members had started our congregation 20 years earlier.
For the sake of privacy, I’ve changed the names and some details, but the point remains: Faith in God continues to inspire and encourage people today. Faith sustains us in difficulty, grounds us in times of uncertainty, gives us courage to take risks.
Faith has staying power. It can overcome our worries, enlarge our prayers, carry us through ordinary days, give us a vision for service, and lead us into the future with hope and trust in God. That’s powerful faith! Not because of the size of our faith, not because of our own certainty, but because faith is powerful when we place whatever faith we have in a powerful and gracious God.
Additional editorial note: Regular writers for Purpose will have already received an email from me and/or the publisher about this change in plans. MennoMedia customer service is informing subscribers. The official notice to the public is available here: MennoMedia to stop publishing bulletins, Purpose magazine amid COVID-19 impact.
For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better: