Dear Citylife – Letter to Congregation from Pastor Um (4/1/20)

Dear Citylife,

Many of you have been asking me to share the list of the six unchanging realities which I shared with you this past Sunday. Of course there are many other unchanging truths in Scripture, but in the midst of numerous shifting changes which keep emerging, we should take confidence in these unwavering truths.

  1. God has not changed 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” – Revelation 1:8 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” – James 1:17

  1. God’s love for us has not changed 

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35, 37-39

  1. God’s purpose for us has not changed 

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” – Hebrews 6:17-18

  1. Our inheritance has not changed

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” – 1 Peter 1:3-4

  1. God’s Word has not changed 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8

  1. Our mission as a church has not changed 

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

For this week, I would like to draw our attention to a verse that I’ve been meditating on for a few days: 1 Peter 4:19 – “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

There are many activities that we could be doing right now as a church. Be assured, we will continue to operate to the best of our ability to be the church and to do the work of the church. I believe 1 Pet. 4:19 is compelling us to focus on a few particular priorities during this season.

First, we should focus on providing spiritual care for our church so that we will “entrust our souls to a faithful Creator”. We need to be involved in a season of consistent prayer lifting up prayers that are not insipid but are Kingdom-oriented. We need to engage in moments of prevailing prayers that are asking our God to help us to do deep soul-search and to reflect on what we consider to be “gain” and what we consider to be “loss” (Phil 3.7-8)

This crisis like any other trial has exposed many things, one of which is the dynamic workings of our own hearts. That’s what trials tend to do! Trials can either make our hearts become bigger and larger or they can cause our hearts to become smaller and harder. 

Of course, this crisis is a big trial that all of us individually and collectively as a church and as a city, country, and even world are experiencing right now. Are we going to learn what it means to trust in our all-knowing, all-powerful God who is never caught off-guard by this pandemic? Or are we going to allow this crisis to make our hearts become smaller and push us into a posture of self-preservation? 

We want to be a prayerful people and I’m grateful that God is leading us to recognize that there really is no one else we can ultimately rely on to rescue us from the force of this pandemic. 

To that end, I would like our congregation to pray specifically for our healthcare workers in our city and in our church. As you are aware, Citylife has a large percentage of our congregational members who are medical professionals. Let’s pray for them! Here are some ways that we can pray for them.  These requests were shared by some of our own physicians. Let’s pray…

  • That healthcare workers and the people they work with would be safe while providing the best possible care to those patients who are in need.
  • That they would have the appropriate personal protective equipment for every patient examination.
  • That they would not inadvertently infect their spouses and children at home after coming home from the hospital. And that the Lord will comfort them as they work through the tension of having to honor their duties to their patients as well as to their families.
  • That God would spare them from having to be in a situation where a decision needs to be made on who receives or is denied life-saving care (e.g. ventilator support).
  • That they would display the love of God under these unusually stressful circumstances.
  • That they would appreciate the privilege of being able to display the beauty of the gospel by risking their own health for those who are in need.
  • That they will remember, despite their training, that God is the Great Physician and is in full control.

Second, I would like to draw our attention as a church in providing pastoral care. It’s interesting that Peter doesn’t end with the phrase “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” You would think in a moment of suffering that he would simply direct people to protect their own spiritual souls. But he adds the phrase – “while doing good.” I believe this is a great reminder to us that we should not forget to do good. 

We want to be involved in doing good by providing pastoral care for our congregation and to be acutely aware of whatever needs that our members have. This is part of our Citylife One vision.  We promise to care for you and to nurture you, especially during this time.

To this end, we as a leadership and as a pastoral staff want to be in constant contact with you – to pray for you, provide good pastoral support, and care for your soul, your family and your children. 

We would also like to encourage all of you to provide mutual pastoral care through your community groups and various ministry/focus groups. Stay in constant contact utilizing all the virtual platforms available to us to encourage and creatively provide for one another’s needs so that no one will feel isolated during this sheltered period for the next five weeks.

If you have any acute needs, please also get in contact with the Care Committee (care@citylifeboston.org). We do have a fund to help provide for your needs, and we want to be able to support you. This crisis is an opportunity for us to show the world how much we care for one another. Remember Jesus’ words in John 13:35 – “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We need to be here for one another!

Third, we are called not only to do good to our own members by providing pastoral care but also to do good by providing neighbor care. I’d like to draw your attention to the wonderful work that our Neighborhood Outreach Director, Nam Hee Kim, has been coordinating for us. Please participate in all the opportunities that she has provided for our church. You can learn more about these opportunities through the Neighborhood Outreach website (https://sites.google.com/view/citylife-neighbor) or by emailing Nam Hee (namhee@citylifeboston.org). 

We want to be prudent about taking safe precautions not to infect anyone so social distancing is a form of loving our neighbors since we don’t want hospitals to get overwhelmed by increasing the potential for transmission. At the same time, we cannot stop being a church that seeks to love its neighbors well. I would like to encourage all of us to participate in these Neighborhood Outreach initiatives. There are people in our city who are in greater need than we are. We should be concerned for them!

There are unique individuals in certain sectors (i.e. the homeless, the marginalized, even our healthcare workers!) who need a lot of our support. This is our opportunity for us to apply James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” 

Here, the focus is for us to be concerned not only with personal piety (“to keep oneself unstained from the world”) but also to engage in public morality (to visit orphans and widows in their affliction). We are called to do justice, love mercy/kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

I am very excited about the opportunity for us to be the church of Jesus Christ by continuing to be on mission, testifying to the truths of the gospel, engaging in providing pastoral care and neighbor care, and being merciful to one another and to our neighbors in our city.

We, as a pastoral staff and session, would love to pray for you. Please do not hesitate to share your specific prayer requests. 

I will be making myself available through a new platform starting this Wednesday, April 8th called “Wednesdays with Pastor Um” where we will be able to meet together through a Zoom chat. I’d like to hear from all of you and to answer any questions.

I am so proud of our session, staff and church in the ways that we have been trusting in the Lord and responding to the crisis by supporting one another, being sensitive to people’s needs and having a desire to live out the gospel in these trying times.

With much love in Christ,

Pastor Um