Dear Citylife – Letter to Congregation from Pastor Um (4/8/20)

Dear Citylife,

This is the first time that most of us have entered into Passion Week with this level of uncertainty. I, along with all of you, am processing the anxiety and fear of the unknown, and in some instances real pain and suffering or even death of many people whom we know whose lives are now abruptly being taken by COVID-19.

We know in theory that death is unavoidable. We know that death is unnatural. We need to find a real anchor that will speak meaningfully, powerfully and directly into the dark moments in our lived experience and into the unavoidable and universal ugliness of death.

What we know from history and through the Scriptures is that the Christian gospel is not removed from the pains of the world nor does it seek to remove us from the world. It certainly does not deny, delay, or embrace death. Rather, it confronts death head-on with the good news of hope – of the one person whose work and resolve can give us everlasting life beyond the grave!

The hope of the resurrection is rooted in the historical fact and the biblical truth that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4). This Easter message provides amazing assurance for us who are laboring with the hardness of life by promising us that the finished work of Jesus has settled our past, secured our present, and has provided absolute certainty for our future. To the degree that we look to Christ – to that degree will we be able to see our future hope.

We know that every individual is aspirationally hopeful. Our lives are fueled and directed by a hope that we believe will resolve and answer all of the hopeless circumstances in which we find ourselves. Because we face disappointment every day, we want to find an anchor which we believe will rescue us from disappointment, confusion, meaninglessness, life’s difficulties, and anxieties. 

If we are hoping in something or someone and it disappoints us in the midst of life’s sorrows or even disappointments, then we can be certain that our activity of hoping is not the problem. The problem lies with our misplaced trust in the wrong hope.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 5:1-5 that “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” 

Because our ultimate hope is in a person, namely Jesus Christ, his rising from the dead secures for us the truth that all that is broken in the world will ultimately be fixed through the power of his resurrection. Therefore, this hope does not put us to shame. Rather, this builds endurance and character – even in the midst of suffering.

My prayer for our entire church this week is that we would experience the life-giving personal power of the Resurrection like we’ve never experienced it before. That it would not simply be intelligible where we give our intellectual assent to the reality of Easter but that it would be really personal and life-transformingly beautiful. We fight death, darkness, fallenness, and all of life’s harsh realities because death has already been defeated. We fight for life because we are not ultimately fighting for our own lives because resurrection life has already been procured for us through the victorious work of the Risen One!

Whatever your struggle is today, whatever your fears are today, your insecurities or any lingering struggle with hopelessness – if you are down and depressed, know that there is a powerful reality that can give you the courage to say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 11).

I am so grateful that Jesus rose from the dead because that is where I root my everlasting hope which gives me the strength to endure life’s ever-changing circumstances. Even though we are all laboring together through this sheltered period, I have never been more hopeful for my life, for your life, for the life of our church because I know that God is doing a remarkable work in our midst through this powerful message of Easter.

I long to worship with you this Friday (for our Good Friday service) and on Easter. I encourage you to invite friends for our livestream so we can share how Jesus has changed all of our lives. Again, we are here as your leadership to encourage you, to provide pastoral care, and to support you in any way. If you have any burdens or struggles, we want to know – please get in contact with us and also tell us how we can specifically be praying for you.

Finally, join me tonight at 7:00pm for our first “Wednesdays with Pastor Um” meeting where we can spend time connecting with one another virtually and you can share how you are doing. You can obtain the Zoom link and password by emailing jordan@citylifeboston.org.  

I love our church and I know you do as well. It is a privilege to be walking through this journey together as one church with one vision for the glory of Christ.

Warmly in Christ,

Pastor Um