Dear Church Family,
March 23, 2020
I had many responses to my message today. I was encouraged. Pre-listening, Frank Moore texted me, “FYI, you are about to feed the family Jesus. The bright flash of light up on the hill will be us receiving the message.” That ENCOURAGED ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had more responses by preaching on line while looking out my study window than preaching in front of the congregation. I don’t know what to make of that. Maybe I’m so ugly that it changes how people receive the words—or the WORD. I don’t like it though. I feel disconnected. I feel non-incarnation. I feel non-relational. All those feelings reflect anti-gospel. And yet we are working at living Gospel in the context we are facing. Maybe there is wisdom in the commercial I saw on TV—ALONETOGETHER!!!
I will speak on-line Wednesday. Remember to access our website at: http://www.redeemerephrata.org/ . Midweek meditations will reflect on favorite verses that have encouraged the faithful throughout the ages. This week the focus is Romans 8:28. My hope is we will memorize these scriptures while living WITH them in these times. On Sundays I will preach on different Psalms. Next Sunday will be Psalm 23. Larry Dacy pushed me in this direction. I was thinking of this and when he suggested it, well, I jumped at it.
I read an interesting and practical article in the NEW YORK TIMES. How does it make you feel to see this picture?
I have a brother-in-law that doesn’t fly without Lorazepam. I understand him as I have used that calming pill. He is a pastor. He has pastored in Hong Kong and Cody, Wyoming and Seattle and New Jersey. But if he steps onto what he calls a “flying coffin,” he pops a pill. I think Closter phobia is in Carrie’s family DNA. One time I pulled the drawstrings on Carrie’s hooded sweatshirt. I closed it tightly. Carrie in that moment had Superman strength. I thought I was going lose my life. Her dad wasn’t Closter phobic. It came through her mother’s line. He thought everyone in the family was crazy—but him!
I look at that astronaut, Scott Kelly, and think, “DON’T show that to Carrie. She will come unglued.” He spent almost a year in space ALONE. We talk about social distancing. This guy has earned a PhD in it! So what does this guy have to say to all of us about what we are experiencing?
#1 Follow a Schedule. Make a NEW NORMAL schedule for yourself. Everyone should do this. The old and the young. It is hard. We are creatures of habit. I’m still trying to change my schedule. But we all need schedules. Our kids and grandkids need structure.
#2 Pace Yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to deal with all the fastballs thrown at you. Throw the overachiever T-Shirt in the Goodwill pile. Remember that some things that are worth doing are worth doing poorly. Please read that last sentence again and allow it to stab you in the heart. One of the best sermons I have ever heard was delivered in 1987. Some things that are worth doing are worth doing poorly. Have a vision and move in that direction. You don’t have to achieve it today.
#3 Go Outside. I feel like I’m in Europe. We lived in Europe. Today we played kick ball with Jack. Carrie’s and my hamstrings are questioning the wisdom of that decision. But what I love is that people are walking with loved ones. The elderly are walking the streets stabilized by walkers. Parents and grandparents are riding bikes together. People are talking to one another. So get off the couch and GET OUT SIDE. Scott Kelly wrote that he played nature CD’s to make him feel and think he was outside. He even found himself swatting at a mosquito. It wasn’t there, but he thought it was. Walk the neighborhoods. Connect!!!
#4 You Need A Hobby. I didn’t make it to the NORTH’s ravine today. It was in the conversation. I’ve found rocks behind their house that are a rock hound’s dream—wonderful rocks to tumble. I need to go find more. Not because I need them. Carrie would say, DON’T GO! Not really, she supports this habit of mine. It helps keep me sane.
#5 Keep A Journal. Carrie was just talking to Jack tonight about this moment in history. He, as a 9-year-old, is experiencing a “once in a lifetime moment.” It is not like going to the Vatican after living in the slums your whole life. We are walking through a WORLD MOMENT when things are crashing upon us in unprecedented speed. Write about it. Reflect upon it. Katie & Bryan—your kids may want to hear your emotions on paper 20 years from now. Dave & Sarah—your children WILL be interested in your prayers of worry & fear when they are raising your grandkids. Tom & Audra—Trevor and Conner and Nolan may want to know what rattled around in your brains when their kids struggle to stay focused in school. Matty & Frank write about your tears. Leave a written record to your kids, your grandkids, your community, your friends.
#6 Take Time To Connect. The Session told me that writing each day was not necessary. Guess what? I’m writing as often as I can. I have missed a couple of days. I will miss more. But I will not stop trying to connect with a congregation I pastor. I worry about Dennis Hamilton in need of familiar human touch from Margie and me. He will miss holding my hand as we say the Lord’s Prayer after communion. But that won’t happen as the facility is quarantined. May our hearts weep at this time for Dennis and people like him. I have seen videos of folks holding their hands up to windows separated from those they love. May we weep like Jesus. Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible. But it says more than most. Let it sink in. To not weep is to not be like Jesus.
#7 Listen to Experts. We tend to think we know because we have heard Hannity or Cooper. Let’s pull our heads out and for one bright and shining moment admit, WE DON’T KNOW MUCH. There are experts in fields of study that have insight into our current situation that demands our attention and obedience. It is time for our American arrogance to kneel in submission. It is time for our pride to be shattered before the cross. I like these words of an astronaut.
“I’ve found that most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist. Living in space taught me a lot about the importance of trusting the advice of people who knew more than I did about their subjects, whether it was science, engineering, medicine, or the design of the incredibly complex space station that was keeping me alive.”
My prayer is we grow in this time of isolation. May we listen more intently and learn to love more deeply. I’m praying for you all. Maybe this song will encourage you (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN). It isn’t the Doxology Frank. But it is the hope we want to instill and inject onto our kids, grandkids, spouse, neighbors, friends, & our community of Ephrata. If we don’t think this, well, we need to ask deeper questions.
Peace of Christ,