Have Faith: Hope in these times

It’s been a year filled with a lot of loss, one way or another.

The holiday season offers hope in many ways. —Gerd Altmann

Something hopeful happened via Pope Francis on Monday. He issued an official document saying that priests can bless same-sex marriages. Who would ever have thought that was possible? He basically says that people who ask for blessings shouldn’t be turned away. (See how I narrowed all those words down?) These are non-liturgical blessings, however, so the doctrine about the only sacramental marriage recognized is between a man and woman is still firmly in place. Still, I’m sure this is ruffling feathers within the church around the world. But for many I used to work with, this is welcome news. I always wondered how men on earth were able to distribute God’s blessings by following manmade (rarely women-made) rules as to who is worthy of that blessing.

With so many distractions, and frankly so much hatred and unrest going on these days, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to wake up every single morning and ask God for blessings for everyone on earth, because they are clearly needed. I’ll get off the pulpit now, and let some clergy chime in on what they think gives us hope these days.

From the Rev. Matthew Splittgerber, at Vineyard Assembly of God:

“Watching the news, I can’t help but think our world is like an ocean being churned by a storm. We’re being thrown from this crisis to that crisis, from this cause to that cause. In so many different ways, people are crying out for help, broadcasting desperate maydays, sending up flares, desperate for attention and rescue. The only thing that will help is if we drop our anchors and connect to something greater than ourselves, our problems, and our world. As Psalm 61 says, ‘Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer … lead me to the rock that is higher than I.’”

From the Rev. Mark Winters, at the Federated Church in Edgartown: 

“Holiday celebrations can feel like obligatory joy. Showing sadness or worry is often seen as ‘ruining’ a party. And if we are missing a loved one who should be with us, or worried about those in war zones who are just hoping to survive the day, it feels like we’re being insensitive. So how can we make room in our celebrations for the grief, the fear, the pain? These holidays of hope don’t raise the winter temperatures, or lengthen the days; they come to us within the cold and darkness. (At least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.) Neither singing carols nor lighting candles, nor drinking hot chocolate, can take away painful things, but they can coexist, and they might help us appreciate the wonder of getting to experience any of it at all. So sing ‘Gloria,’ even if your voice cracks. And lift the hot chocolate in toast to one another, even if some of your tears have fallen into it. All of our lives are sacred and beautiful, all of our losses and fears, all of our hopes and joys.

From the Rev. Greg Bar, at Beacon of Hope: 

“The more I pondered writing something about peace, the more elusive it became. Life on earth is tough, and many (perhaps you) are feeling deep pain at this very moment. Clichés are numerous (and not necessarily bad), and there are countless tips for finding some degree of peace (i.e., a hike in the woods, a glass of red wine by a fireplace). Add to that wanting to respect a wide variety of readership, and perhaps I can simply take you a little deeper on this topic of peace …

“First, I really appreciate when people are a little kinder this time of year, don’t you? Even the added lighting around the Island seems to express a little more joy and hope. But I want to leave you with some words that were spoken long ago, which are an assurance that more peace is available, and possible for each one of us. Here are the words: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’”

From Pastor Leo Christian, at First Baptist Church:

“I’m looking forward to this coming year and all that is possible. We look to have more involvement in our community. We would love to expand our youth program. Right now the teens from First Baptist and First Renewed Baptist (Brazilian) are beginning some joint activities. Our men’s groups from both congregations are doing many things together. Hopefully we’ll be working with other congregations on the Island, to continue our joint outdoor praise and worship services. Also we look forward to the joint outside Easter Sunrise Service at Owen Park. So much is going on, and we are happy to be a part of it. We are also having a joint Christmas Eve service in English and Portuguese at 6:30 pm at the First Baptist Church. All are welcome.”

From the Rev. Stephen Harding, at Grace Church: 

“Once the clocks changed, it got darker fast. Morning light and afternoon light are shorter and with greater clarity, and then it’s dark. Again. To some, this may be an invitation to read, drink tea, cook, be cozy and enjoy the dark. To others, the dark may be a metaphor for the state of the world: war between Hamas and Israel; war between Russia and Ukraine; the looming presidential election; political instability in the world; climate crisis … You get the idea.

“The Season of Advent is approximately four weeks before Christmas. It is the season of anticipation and preparation that Grace Church has been keeping for the past month. This year, Advent has felt like a time of light in the darkness. A time of hope; a time of preparation, and ultimately the season for Christians that culminates with the birth of God’s Son. Right here. On earth. With us. Still miraculous, and still so unexpected that it catches me up short every time I think about it.

“Advent is a time of wonder and of great beauty. This year, Advent has felt similar to a runway at night — a lighted path forward; a place to land in safety, and a way through the dark.”

And from the Rev. Chip Seadale at St. Andrew’s Church:

For those looking for peace, there is an inner peace we may find if we invest a little time to connect with it. Always our God invites us to join her there. When we do, love is the fruit of that connection, and we may ourselves become fountains of love and peace for others when we share that connection with others who are also doing just that. We shall find, and God shall nurture, our strongest inner peace in our chosen communities of faith.

If you’re looking for religious services this holiday season, check out The MV Times website at mvtimes.com/2023/12/07/religious-services-holidays-3.