Last weekend we looked again to the story of our forebears who worshipped God at “Blue Spring,” otherwise known as the head of Scotch Valley. How in 1788 they chose to form Frankstown Presbyterian Church, which would later be renamed Hollidaysburg Presbyterian Church. Even when literal fire and snow brought the buildings low, or the sparks of hatred and oppression drove us to use our tunnels to protect those escaping to freedom, or two pandemics a century apart pushed us to the brink – through it all, our congregation has and does still stand.
Why? Because those who came before us made the choice to seek and serve God in this place. Not just once, but over and over again. Every major landmark in the history of our church marks one of those choices. Yet it was likely a daily choice for those believers who came before, just like it is for us today.
You see, the great cloud of witnesses to whom we will refer this Sunday – on All Saints Sunday – well, they were not so different from you or me. They lived regular lives. They faced challenging times. They found joy in unexpected places. They saw life and death come and go, just as we do. And in the midst of all of it they chose to remember that God was with them. Present. Active. A moving, breathing ferment. Just as God still is today.
God will always choose us. Scripture reminds us of this promise repeatedly, in both Testaments. I will be with you, God said to Moses. I will never leave you nor forsake you, God reminds Joshua. I have called you by name and you are mine, God promises Isaiah. I am with you to the very end of the age, Jesus assures his followers. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, Paul prompts. God is always here. Already working in our midst.
When I teach little children the promises of God that we find in Scripture, I always focus on these three. The first is that God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. The second is that God is with us, wherever we are, wherever we go, no matter what. Now the third, this is where I want us all to pay attention: because God loves us and God is with us, we get to be brave. Have courage. Move mountains. Do all the great incredible things that people of faith have done before us.
1 John 4:18 reminds us that perfect love casts out all fear. It may be difficult, be we need to cast it out. Let it go. Push it away so that we can look to where God wants us to focus.
For whatever challenges lie ahead of us, we are blessed that we can latch onto the strength and courage of our forebears who built this church from a tent into a log cabin. Then rebuilt the cabin when it burnt down. Then bravely bought property and built a cupola on a house of brick until the snow did it in. Then finally rebuilt a structure that stands today. They kept moving. Kept focusing on how God was working with them.
My friends, what we do know is this: the choice is ours now. To courageously step up and step into the future God has in store for us. Even if we do not know precisely what it will look like, we can be sure of one thing – God is already there.
Blessings, Pastor Janie