You are Loved

 

By Nathan Esser

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Following Thanksgiving it doesn't seem to take very long for the arrival of Christmas morning.  As a child, I spent most Thanksgivings and a good chunk of Christmas vacation with my Mom's side of the family at my Grandparent's farm. I always cherished the time I spent on the farm.  I don’t recall ever feeling bored; there was always plenty to do. I enjoyed the chance to work in the barn alongside my Uncle and Grandpa who were milking and feeding the cows.  My job was to tend to the calves – this meant cleaning out pens and feeding them their morning (and evening) bottles of milk.  It wasn't always easy!  There were occasions when the calves were stubborn and seemed as though they wanted to make me really work to finish the job!  Even though they were hungry and wanted to be fed, I would often end up wearing a good bit of the milk that I was trying to feed them.  

 
 

After our early mornings in the barn, we would return to the house where Grandma had a hearty breakfast waiting for us.  I was used to a bowl of Frosted Flakes cereal most mornings at home before rushing off to school; but breakfast at the farm included eggs, bacon and toast – yum!  And, we didn’t rush through breakfast; it was a part of our day at the farm that we took time to enjoy.  After all, we’d already had a busy morning and it felt awfully good to sit around the table.  Grandpa would often spend a little time reading the morning paper with his coffee a few minutes after breakfast while I took in the comic section with a cup of hot chocolate.  I hadn't yet developed a liking for the taste of coffee and "Big Nate" was always my favorite comic!

  The Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

The Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

Walking through the building, and sitting in the pew alongside my Mom, brought back a lot of memories. I recalled many years that I attended Sunday School and participated in VBS & youth group. Our longtime pastor helped lead worship and gave the sermon.  Pastor Chuck Jessen and his wife, Alice, traveled all the way from North Carolina.  It felt good to hear his voice. 
— Nathan Esser
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I look back with fondness upon Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation at the farm.  The memories I have of those times seem to be even more meaningful to me as life continues on.  I can't think of a time in my life when I felt more at home and content than those times spent with family working on the farm. I enjoyed the hard work and I loved being around the animals. Everyone had a job to do and relied on each other that it would get done.  After all, we wouldn’t be able to have breakfast or dinner, until each of our chores were finished.  

The farm was a place where I felt that I belonged.  I knew that I was doing good work and I enjoyed working with people that I dearly love.  

It's not a stretch by any means to think of the ministry of the church in a similar way. 

God has called us into being as a spiritual family. We all have a place as part of this community and we rely on each other.  We provide vital encouragement and ministry to each other and there’s not one person who would be able to do all the work of our ministry on their own.  We also do very good work.  Our work and ministry makes a difference in our lives and the lives of many people in our community.  

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the church of my youth.  The congregation was celebrating its 200  year anniversary and had invited former pastors and members to attend a special gathering and worship service marking the occasion.  The Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was established in 1818.  The sanctuary of the current church building and manse were built around the time of the Civil War.  A hidden staircase and tunnel still connects the manse with the sanctuary basement; originally it provided slaves refuge and the chance for a better life.

We saw familiar faces of many people in the pews around us with whom we had shared our lives.  These people mean a lot to me and my family.  We had spent a lot of time together studying the Scriptures, learning about God and how to live faithfully.  We had listened to each other’s questions, calmed each other’s fears and worries, rejoiced together in our successes, and held one another through times of loss and hardship. 
In his closing remarks, Pastor Chuck stated how grateful he was for the people of the church and the time that he had spent as their pastor.  He expressed that he and his family had forged a significant bond with this particular group of people and, furthermore, that he and his family felt loved.

He then shared a statement that has stuck with me.  He stated, “There is nothing greater on the earth than to feel that you are loved.”  So very true.  I dare say, for our church and all churches, that there is nothing greater on the earth for us to do than to help another person feel that they are loved.

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Enjoy this time of Advent and the arrival of Christmas.  Don't rush through it!  Take time to enjoy the Christ's promise of hope, peace, love and joy.  Be reminded that you are so deeply loved by God and that God loves and believes in you so much that God has called you to do work that is very good!  Be encouraged knowing that you have a place and a people where you belong as part of a larger, extended family.  You belong here!  

Nathan is the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Sioux Falls. He can be reached at nathanesser@fpcsiouxfalls.org.