Valley City Times-Record
“You crown the year with your bounty.”
It’s been 24 years since my name appeared in this newspaper. I was editor here from 1995 until 1998 and really fell in love with this community before I moved to take a job in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was in Sioux Falls that I stopped ignoring the call to ministry. I went to seminary in 2003 and have been a full-time United Methodist pastor in the Dakotas since 2006. It is really good to be back to the Sheyenne Valley, which really has beautiful landscapes – both physical and human.
I marveled this fall at the resplendent colors. As I told the readers of Epworth’s most recent newsletter, those fall colors remind me of God’s love for us. Psalm 65:11 says, “You crown the year with your bounty.” Certainly, that was true this early fall. As you know, the true colors of leaves are present yearround, but during the growing season chlorophyl masks many leaves in green. So, in the fall, we marvel at the beauty that lies beneath the chlorophyl of deciduous leaves.
Autumn is also the time when farmers harvest the commodities and ranchers market the livestock we need to feed and clothe the world. This time of year is crowned with bounty.
It’s kind of hard for some of us to believe, but God provides all of this for us because God loves us. I believe that if you were the only person on earth, God would still provide this kind of beauty and providence for you (or for me, if I were the only person on the planet). God does that for us because God created each of us out of love – divine love. God has made each of us beautiful, and each of us is a person of sacred worth.
A Bible study that meets at Epworth on Thursdays at 10 a.m. (everyone invited) reminded me recently that when Jesus came, He said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:3031; and Luke 10:27) One of the students then reminded us the next most important commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, we are commanded to love our neighbors, but we can’t really love them until we love ourselves; and in order to love ourselves, we each need to see ourselves the way that God sees us.
Psalm 139:14 says that God sees us as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In the Old Testament context, “fearfully” means what “lovingly” means in our context. And in 1 John 3:1, the writer says we are “children” of God. So, we are lovingly and wonderfully created children of God, who are commanded to love ourselves so that we can love others.
Small children love with abandon, not with regret, remorse, guilt, or obligation. They love and know that they are loved. In Mark 10:15, Jesus invites us to think of ourselves like such children.
I just wanted you to know that regardless of the season, you are loved. You are lovingly and beautifully created by the same God who turns the Sheyenne Valley into a cornucopia of color. You are a child of God and are invited to love yourself and others the way that God loves you.
Rev. R. Duane Coates is pastor at Epworth United Methodist Church, Valley City.