Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I write this letter, I am still glowing from a magnificent Easter Sunday. It began with the men of the church cooking breakfast for all of us early risers. The food was great and the fellowship was even better! Alleluia! Then we moved outside to watch the children hunting for Easter eggs. The morning topped off with a service filled with joy, laughter and music. It was great to celebrate my first Easter with this congregation in this way.
After we came home, John opened the newspaper and noticed an article that he knew would peak my interest. The article informed us that Thomas Kinkade, known as the “Painter of Light” had passed away in California on Friday at the age of 54. We had met Thomas Kinkade a couple of times at art shows and have a number of his paintings in our home. I knew him as a man of humility, who had a God-given talent to capture on canvas God’s beautiful creation and the importance of love and home. God’s light was always present in his works. When I would gaze at his paintings, I believed that I saw a glimpse of heaven. He was so good that other painters sought to copy him but could not quite do it as well as him.
Therefore, it came as a shock to us to hear that over the past year or so his life had taken a downward turn. He had been arrested for drunk driving, was being sued by the owners of his galleries, had separated from his beloved wife Nannette and was having an adulterous affair.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
As a Christian, I know that we are not perfect and we err. We let the lure of wealth and fame leads us to forbidden places. It can turn us from saint to sinner before we become conscious of it. It causes people to feel like they are invincible. We know that many have fallen onto this path, as well. The only value in discussing his fall is to learn from it so we may avoid the pitfalls.
How do we remain faithful to God?
The best example we have on how to do this is Jesus Christ. He remained faithful during times of tempting, rejection and even to death on the cross. I believe he did this by keeping His focus on God, His reason for coming and His mission while with us.
“Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives.” Luke 21:37
The question we need to ask ourselves, every day of our lives is: How are we honoring His life and death through the way we live and die for the things that matter most to us—our family, our community, our world? How are we using our gifts to inspire others to be faithful? And how can us as members of the Body of Christ help each other achieve our mission? If we go into a period of discernment within our community of faith will it help us to remain faithful to God even during trials and temptations? With God’s help, it can! Our dream should be to create and support a beloved community of faith that will provide experiences that would help us to remain faithful to God’s call on our lives.
As for Thomas Kinkade, I will always treasure the beauty that he brought into this world through his loving heart and his skill as an artist. Now his paintings may also remind me how susceptible we can be when we fall asleep for even just a moment. So let us stay AWAKE and ALERT knowing that if we should fall from time to time, God loves us still.
I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand
Congregational United Church of Christ, Farmingville, NY