The opening lines of the Charles Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, goes as follows:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The two cities in the novel are Paris and London: Paris, amid the terror of the French Revolution, and London, amid the Industrial Revolution between 1775 and 1793.

I think that “the best of times” and “the worst of times” is a fitting description for today. The line “it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness” particularly catches my attention because the Apostle Paul uses the same imagery in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 and following. Paul specifically addresses the fear that the Christians at Thessalonica may have missed Jesus’ return in this text. He writes,

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 NIV

Jesus’ followers are called to live in the light, to be awake and sober. They are to live by faith, love, and hope. They are to live encouraging one another and building each other up! In these times of darkness, it is an opportunity for the light of Jesus to shine.

This brings me to an encouraging email I received a few days ago from my fellow minister, Arlan Howard. Here is what he wrote:

As school approaches and covid overtakes the discussion, it might be good to set aside a time for celebration before we forget what God has done, which will encourage us with what He will do!.

For the last several months, the church has been on the move. I can’t wait for what is next!

Baptisms (17 this year and one scheduled for this week!)
Vacation Bible School (Two sessions in June and July)
Happy Church Mission (Our team of 25 went down and worked for a week on some amazing construction projects)
Men’s Night Out
Happy Church School supplies collections
Packing backpacks (in partnership with inter-parish ministries)
Holy Huddle (Elementary kids bible study)
Golf leagues (We have 3 leagues going)
Saleem’s Hospital in Pakistan (Saleem Massey Pakistan Evangelical Services)
Mount Carmel Women Saturday Mornings
Gift for Bethlehem Living Water Mission Oxygen tent (We sent it to India amid the Covid crisis)
Collections for House of Peace and A Caring Place
Hosting Lead Clermont
Child Blessing (Lot’s of babies were blessed!)
Child Baptism Class
Meet Mount Carmel
1 w 3 leader gathering
Toys for Tots (Local mission support)
City Gospel (Mission support)
Distribution of food and packs
Group Celebration day
School Supplies & Pantry distribution
Young Adults Acts, Campfire & Kayak
23 Rooted groups, many of which have done service projects, gotten closer
1 w 3 groups (we have 13 groups meeting)

I’m sure there are things I missed But Praise the LORD!!!

The way of Jesus is to encourage one another and to build each other up. So, with everything going on that looks like these are the worst of times (Afghanistan, another earthquake in Haiti, another wave of Covid), let us live in the light, praying for those in need, being faithful in doing good, and looking to come alongside those in need to build them up.

With Jesus with us – these can be the best of times.