Pastor's Pen

The Pastor’s Pen

”I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…”

Genesis 28:15 New International Version

Garrison Keillor once observed that the annual Florida gathering of pastors of large churches tended to be a time when ministers got together to let their hair down. “Of course”, he said, “they’re rather a short-haired lot.” All that is to say that we don’t get too raucous unless you call walking the beach in a t-shirt during the afternoon break from meetings a wild time.

For an icebreaker, we stood and introduced ourselves, the name of our church, and the temperature when we left home for the airport that morning. Though we were at twenty below in Maine earlier this week, my Minnesota and Wisconsin colleagues beat me by four degrees.

I’d forgotten how much my colleagues mean to me after three decades of shared ministry, the ways we’ve supported one another through various sufferings and surprising joys. What struck me most this year perhaps is that for all the hidden loneliness of ministry, we’re blessed with deep and abiding relationships that endure through time.

One of our gifted colleagues Sarah Butter preached this week on the power of the word “with” in scripture. I won’t steal her thunder or her sermon illustrations here, though I’m grateful to her for reminding us that the Christian life is a communal journey. We follow this Jesus who is God-with-us, and the Christ who said: “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of time.

Wherever you find yourself as you read these words, take a moment to speak the names aloud of those who walk with you in faith. These companions along the way are gifts from God. I am grateful for them, and I am grateful for you, those of you I know, and those of you I haven’t yet met. As we enter this New Year in weekly reflection on matters of faith, will you walk with me?

Prayer: Beloved God, our daily walk with you may take us along icy shores or sunlit paths. Wherever our journey, thank you for your abiding presence with us, and for giving us companions to walk with us along the way.

God’s grace, mercy, and peace,

Pastor Anna V. Copeland


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

I can’t help but hear the Byrd’s classic “Turn! Turn! Turn!” playing in my head every time I think about this Scripture. It’s a fitting song to become such an American ear-worm, because the message of Ecclesiastes 3 has so many applications for so many different moments in life. I’m thinking about it this season in particular on the back-end of Christmas. The run-up to this week can be so hectic in many of our lives; whether it’s shopping for loved ones, dealing with car troubles, shoveling, heating the house, traveling, or preparing for holiday parties, school break, or church events. Not all of us have a big to-do on December 25th, but it is a special day nonetheless, and the winter holidays make December a uniquely complicated time for all. In the behind-the-scenes life of the church, Advent sometimes feels like a race to the finish line, which is a real shame, as it can distract from the meaning and the beauty of the Advent season as a time of hope, and of darkness waiting for life. There is a time for darkness as much as there is a time for light, after all.

Not to be undone, however, even after Christmas Day is finished more hustle and bustle awaits! Traveling home, cleaning up the house, prepping for New Year’s trips and parties, and maybe even the search for someone to kiss at midnight. We don’t give ourselves a break!

In this most complicated and beautiful of seasons, we must remind ourselves of the promise of Ecclesiastes 3: there is a time to do, and a time to not do. A time for chaos, and a time for order. A time for work, and a time for rest. Let us find our rest where we may, that we may better live into the fullness of this life with which God has blessed us.

Prayer: God of the seventh day, God of Sabbath; thank you for giving us permission to rest. Help me to believe it, and help me to find it. Amen.

Pastor Dan Hollis