Member letter (December 2023)

Dear fellow sojourners,

You have probably noticed my use of the term sojourners in my salutation (much like my use of the term pilgrim in my March letter). A sojourner is a person who resides temporarily in a place.

Some Bible translations use the term sojourner in the rendering of “pilgrim” or “foreigner” in Hebrews 11:13:

“These all died in faith without receiving the things promised—but they saw them and welcomed them from afar, and they confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 TLV).

I think these terms also fit with this time of year as we see the end of the Christian year with our observance of Christ the King Sunday and the beginning of the new Christian year with our entrance into the Advent and Christmas season followed by the season of Epiphany.

I was also thinking about how the term sojourner fits the image for this year’s Christmas card to you. While we know the magi didn’t actually arrive at the time of Jesus’ birth, the image illustrates the idea of movement, not staying in one place.

First and foremost, Jesus came to sojourn among us, at his incarnation. There is this sense of movement when he lowered himself to be with us and later on when he took his humanity back with him at the resurrection and ascension.

Secondly, there is the movement of the shepherds urged to look for the Christ child by the angels, and the first disciples as they heeded the words of their friends, “to come and see.”

Thirdly, there is us, those who live in the “the already, but not yet.” We live in the in-between times and try to navigate our way as followers of Jesus in a world that definitely isn’t his.

Being sojourners isn’t easy, is it? There are many voices out there who seek to get our attention and distract us from the relationship that our Triune God wants with us.

Some of us have our doubts at times, or feel roadblocks being placed in front us on this journey.

And of course, sojourners or pilgrims have moments when they get tired, don’t they?

However, once Jesus reaches down to us in his call to us, our life is never the same again, is it? This past year has been challenging for many of us in GCI. We have had to make decisions about the future of our denomination in Canada that have been difficult. We have had to reorganize our resources to continue to reach our fellow Canadians with the message of hope and an invitation to a relationship with the loving Triune God.

Yet even though we are all sojourners in a world that isn’t yet Jesus’s, we can take comfort from two encouraging passages of scripture, written by those who have preceded us on this journey.

The first is found at the conclusion of what we call the “faith” chapter, where the term pilgrim, foreigner or sojourner is used:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).

The second is equally encouraging especially when we face those roadblocks that cause us to doubt or lose hope:

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39 NIV).

In closing, I want to personally thank you for all the prayers and support you have given to this denomination, as we all sojourn together, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Bill Hall

National Director