Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Endurance, Character, and Hope
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
As we finish our journey through Lent and anticipate the celebration of the Resurrection, amidst one year of a global pandemic, these words of the Apostle Paul seem especially powerful and important. Amongst the struggles of our present time, I have seen signs of endurance
, and hope
in small, rural congregations. I have witnessed many of these congregations adapting with endurance and character in order to protect the health of their members while remaining faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and continuing to serve their neighbors. I see hope in the production of vaccines for the Covid-19 virus, which now we must make available globally even to our remote rural communities. I see hope in faces around me that we may soon be able to embrace with confidence a future beyond the pandemic. It is obvious that this endurance, character, and hope is not based on numbers of members, abundance of money, or being located in big cities or centers of power. It is based on the certain knowledge that we have been justified to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. I recall the words of a hymn written by British Baptist minister and composer Edward Mote:My hope is built on nothing less,
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
No merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
As global brothers and sisters in Christ, may we all live into that hope, an eternal hope that does not disappoint.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen
Chair International Rural Churches Association