June 2018

Dear Members and Friends of First Reformed Church of Bethlehem:

What a season of contrasts!  Only a few days ago most everyone was complaining of the cold and damp.  I joined that chorus of lamenters, focusing on the damp soil that would not be turned.  While the rototiller was only making mud balls, the calendar was telling me “time is speeding on.”  Today (Saturday, May 26th) the humidity has climbed and the temperature has risen to the point that we greet one another with complaints about the weather, only substituting the word “hot” for the word “cold.”  We do live in a world of unpredictability.


Early Saturday morning, May 19th, I sat glued to the TV as the wedding of Meghan and Prince Harry was coming to us live from England.   I was prepared for a beautiful ceremony, great classical music and stately prayers, and of course rigid adherence to traditions.  I was moved to tears as I witnessed a most amazing happening for the world to watch.  Thanks to the careful planning of Meghan and Prince Harry, the service took turns in surprising directions.  Differences in culture and racial backgrounds were noted.  There was an underlying social justice theme.  Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry preached on the theme of love and challenged this diverse group to take the theme of love home with them.   He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noting it takes the power of love to make this old world a new world.  Great music of many varieties inspired the congregation and, at least for that moment, allowed them to experience more “new world” than “old world.”


The Royal Wedding was an experience of contrasts.  In a moment where the power of royalty and the ruling class prevailed, two young people managed to crack the cathedral walls, inviting a new vision and a new way.


June 7-12, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America meets at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The internet is alive with conversations, especially around the LGBTQ issues.  In the past, division came for many reasons, such as singing psalms exclusively in worship or wearing choir robes -- or not.  I fear this year’s Synod will continue to be divisive.  The love that it takes to bring into being a new world from our worn out old world seems to be missing.


Two questions emerge as I reflect on the Royal Wedding.  First, change came from within the powerful, the Royal family.  What a spectacular, beautiful and rare exercise of power from the top down.  Who are the powerful among us?  Who holds office?  Could their offering be a stunning love contrast to the thick-walled structures and theological barriers we have constructed?


Second, I assume there will be Harry and Meghan types in Grand Rapids.   Will we be able to hear from young leadership?  Will the Meghan’s and Harry’s have a voice?  At the wedding, the contrasts stood out, as even the Queen and the Court -- symbols of the old, gave way to a new vision of royalty.  I know we believe in decency and good order, in process and repetitive dialogue year after year.  I pray for a breath of fresh air, a stunning wall-crumbling, loving event.  Only weeks ago we witnessed such a happening.  I wonder… if it happened before, could it happen again?


May the radical break-opening LOVE of Christ be with you!


Pastor Harlan E. Ratmeyer


38 Church Road

Selkirk, New York