In This Time of Winter

posted Jan 14, 2022, 10:57 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Blessings of Epiphany light to you! I pray you are staying healthy and well.


In my Classis peer group meeting this week, our facilitator asked us what is sustaining,  encouraging, and helping us to be well in these challenging pandemic times. Hmmm. The grace of God? That’s the obvious answer. I told my colleagues, though, that if I was honest, I wasn’t feeling particularly encouraged right now. This is, in part, because I am still grieving the loss of my dear seminary friend, Jen. As a pastor I have often encouraged people to stay in their grief, and not try and rush to the place where one says, “Everything’s fine!” knowing that it is not. So, I’ve been listening to my own advice and taking space to remember my dear sister-friend, while lamenting the fact that she is no longer with us, and wishing how much she was. 


And yet still, my colleague’s question got me to reflect on what is sustaining me in these extraordinary times. I have discerned that I am being sustained and helped not by frantically seeking out such things, but merely allowing God’s glimmers of grace to wash over me. Like feeding my sweet squirrel Darwin, watching her rip into peanuts with shell fragments flying willy-nilly until she gets to the yummy nut. Or like yesterday when I went for a walk but with no purpose in mind, as in “I need to walk and lose those extra pounds I put on over Christmas,” or “I’m going to walk and listen to God and see if I can find what’s sustaining me.” No. I merely went for a slow, quiet walk, open to anything that would surprise or delight me, not looking for a theological meaning behind every tree or stone I encountered. As I finished my purposeless driven walk, I saw one of our red foxes on the hill. No big answers from the voice of God, just a beautiful creature existing in creation. That worked.


This encounter caused me to reflect that sometimes we don’t need to look frantically for what sustains us, or what will be the quick fix to help us “get over this thing.” But rather, in this time of winter perhaps we should take our cue from creation — be still, rest in the ground, and let the Holy Spirit’s love and grace wrap us up like a warm blanket, until the moment for reawakening comes once more.  In these times, I think that’s enough.


Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to gather with your church family. Due to the very high transmission rate of COVID-19 in our area, we are online only for the rest of January and are offering two ways for you to worship — either through our FaceBook page or through Zoom. (Please note that music is best heard and less distorted through FaceBook). Tim Anderson is our featured musician and he will be singing “My Lord, What a Morning,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Irish Blessing.” I will be preaching from John 2.1-11 — Jesus’ first miracle — and my sermon title is What Mary Said. 


I leave you with this prayer. May it sustain, encourage, or help you in its own quiet way.


“As the sun revives”


God of all seasons,
in the dreich, wet, cold and windy days of winter
our spirits long for the warmth and comfort of spring.


As the sun revives
and brings life to the whole of creation
so we long to be part of that renewal and rebirth.


Hear our prayer for the reawakening of hope and love and peace
in ourselves and in the world.


And hear our songs of gratitude and praise
as we join together with one voice
in the universal song of love.
— Katy Owen


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

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