Monday Morning Meditation 7-6-20

I am tired.  I am completely exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually.  And many others are as well.

This ongoing pandemic is creating a lot of stress and anxiety in people.

The ongoing battle over who’s truth is actually truth regarding Covid is exhausting.  One doctor says one thing, another says something else, and a whole lot of people with absolutely no training in medicine or infectious diseases seem to sway a lot of opinions, especially on social media.

Add to that the continuing civil unrest in our nation and an upcoming election that will bring about more negativity.

It is getting hard to even know what to pray for these days.  Do we pray for a vaccine? Do we pray that the virus just “goes away”?  Do we just pray for everyone to just get along?  How do we even pray for this situation?

Sometimes we just go to God in silence and let God guide us.

Romans 8:26-29

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.

There are prayer times when we need to be bold in asking, and there are times when we need to allow God to tell us what to pray for – so that our hearts and minds can be in God’s direction.

This is one of those times.

You might think things are not as bad as reports indicate.  You might think things are worse than reported.  You might be genuinely confused and concerned (like me).  We may not agree on any of today’s crisis topics but we can agree on one thing.  We need to pray.  And instead of telling God what to do, we need to allow God to direct us.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 6-29-20

When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. Luke 13:17

This is one verse of a great Gospel story.  Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and the religious authorities go after him.  He did, after all, break the Sabbath law, didn’t he?

But Jesus reminds us often that the Sabbath is for humanity – it is a time of rest and a time to remember what God has given us.  Sabbath is a great gift from God.  It is more than just a worship service, more than “going to church”, rather Sabbath is a day to get away from the grind, a day to live into God’s promises.  Sabbath is important.  Sabbath is healing and that is what Jesus did.  He healed people on the Sabbath.

And they rejoiced.

Today as we begin a new work week, today as we near the end of another month, today as we live under the current conditions, think about all the wonderful things Jesus is doing among us.  Get away from the tiring bad news.  Consider God’s presence.

And rejoice.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 6-22-20

Summer officially began yesterday and that was evident in our neighborhood.  It seemed quieter than normal.  Looked like a lot of families went away, maybe for a Father’s Day weekend, maybe for a week’s vacation.  There was certainly less going on yesterday than most Sundays.

And that is always the description of summer, a slower pace, time off, time with family, time away.  Even with the current situation, many people are talking about their planned vacations.

For us, however, things are not slowing down.  The weekly worship continues as we ponder how and when to return to the sanctuary.  The daily ministry continues, although greatly changed since mid-March.  And I look at the continuing pile of reading, writing and other spiritual endeavors I’ve yet to get to do.  It can be overwhelming.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps. 46:10

I cut down some tree branches, and have much more yardwork to do.  There are some bushes that just need to go, and others that need to be trimmed.  We have a spot where a tree came down that needs something planted and we still need to tend the garden.  Lots to do.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps. 46:10

Our basement needs to be cleaned out and we need to get rid of unneeded items.  It is a daunting task that will take some time, and it is always before us.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps. 46:10

Brothers and sisters, the summer can be a time of rest for all of us.  And yes, it can be a time to get a lot of things done as well.  It can be a time of change (rather it WILL be a time of change), and a time of growth.  And if we are still, if we recognize God among us, if we allow God to take charge, it can bring us peace.

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 6-15-20

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Genesis 4:9

Another morning, another round of news. Another day of questions regarding the public health versus personal freedoms.  Another day of protests.  Another day of confusion.

Yes, I am confused.  So much information is flooding us that we are never sure what to believe.  Should we continue to practice social distancing?  Is it okay for my daughter to play with a friend closer than six feet?  Is this all just overkill?  Or are the rising numbers a concern?

Honestly, I do not know but I’m not willing to take unnecessary chances that could affect hundreds of people my family comes into contact with in “normal times”, many of which are health compromised.

I thought of this Sunday morning when outside speaking (at a distance) to a neighbor.  Her church resumed in person worship, but she is not going yet.  She has a health issue that concerns her regarding Covid-19.  And it should.

It should concern everyone that many in our population is vulnerable.  That does not mean that everyone has to hide in the basement, but to be concerned, to remember that we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper means we should have an open mind regarding wearing masks in public, or giving people space when we are out, or even what we say and how we say it regarding reopening our communities.

Being our brother’s keeper is aligned with another scriptural thought:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  If we truly love one another, if we love our neighbors, we should be willing to keep them in mind as we go out into our communities.

Basically, we are their keeper.  God said so.

Peace,

 

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 6-8-20

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

The Imago Dei…The Image of God.

If you have listened to me preach, teach or talk, you should have heard me say that term “imago Dei” and talk about being created in the image and likeness of God.

It seems pretty simple to me.  According to Genesis, humanity is created in the image and likeness of God.  Not that God looks like a mid-50’s overweight white-haired Presbyterian pastor (or insert your own likeness here), but that we are created with God’s “Image”, God’s “likeness”.  Perhaps the second account of creation from Genesis 2 says it better:  “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  We are created in God’s image – we have the breath of life (Hebrew ruach) from God in us.  God’s breath or spirit (in Greek, it is the same word pneuma) courses through us.

Why do I speak of this today?  Simple.  Our nation is in turmoil over the ongoing sin of racism.  There is still a belief that one race is better than another, and people are judged according to the color of their skin.  Or as I see it, some continue to deny the image of God in others.

And we have another sin in this nation.  We continue to demonize people of different beliefs, politics even thoughts than ours.  Horrible terms are applied by one political party to the other (and both do it).  Don’t believe as I do?  Then you must be a (insert terrible label here).  Don’t vote as I do? You must be mentally defective.  Yet that kind of thought denies the image of God in the other person.

You see, we can disagree on politics, we can disagree on economics, we can even disagree on the pronunciation of caramel but still care for each other when we recognize the imago Dei in each other.  But when we begin to demonize each other, or hate others according to race, creed, color, gender or even sexuality, we deny God’s image in the other.  And we deny God’s image in ourselves as well.

But when we acknowledge God’s image (and God’s presence), we treat each other better.  We accept our differences with that servant love Jesus spoke of.  And we take steps towards peace.

Brothers and sisters, pray for our nation.  Pray for each other.  Pray for those who deny God’s image in others.  And pray hard.  Our nation needs it.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 6-1-20

Today’s Monday Morning Meditation:

 New International Version
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

New Living Translation
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

English Standard Version
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Berean Study Bible
If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Berean Literal Bible
if possible of you, living at peace with all men;

Contemporary English Version
and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Good News Translation
Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.

Not much more to say than this today.

With thanks to Bible Hub (biblehub.com) so I didn’t have to type each of these.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Tuesday Morning Meditation 5-26-20

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… Hebrews 12:11

One of our members sent this message to me:

“I wanted to thank you for using the prerecorded benediction with our choir the past 2 weeks.  What I find especially satisfying is the chatter and laughter during the postlude.  It feels like home. I think that we are getting a taste of the separation of the family of God of those in Heaven and those still on earth.  What rejoicing there will be when we all get together at HBPC but even more so when it is in Heaven.”

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile as we continue our online worship presence.  We are a part of the Church Militant, the church still on earth.  The Church Triumphant includes all those who have gone before us and worship with the heavenly choirs.  And they worship with us.

Both the books of Isaiah and Revelation speak of heavenly worship, where the angels gather around God and offer their praise.  Revelation speaks of the worship of angels, creatures and elders.  Worship in heaven sounds lively – and I’m reminded of the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King” written by Francis of Assisi.  All of creation worships God.

I am also reminded of a scene from the 1984 movie “Places in the Heart”.

–SPOILER ALERT–

The closing scene of the movie shows a Communion scene.  As the Elders pass the bread and cup, seated in the sanctuary are church members who died during the movie.  They sit together with the living members.  The church, whether gathered or scattered is surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses.

Brothers and sisters, we are not yet able to enter the sanctuary together.  We might be watching the worship services at different times.  But we are still worshipping together!

And one day, hopefully soon, we will joyfully be reunited in our sanctuary.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 5-18-20

Colossians 1:9-14

9For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We are on a journey.  Each of us has been on this journey since birth and throughout we have grown.  We learned to walk, talk and eat.  Our food has changed from milk to puree to solid food (hopefully balanced with protein, vegetables and grains!).  Our knowledge has expanded through academic study and “street smarts”.  We change.  We grow.

Our spiritual lives should also be growing.  Paul prays that the church “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.”  This is not a stagnant faith, rather a growing process.

Motivational speaker and college football player “Inky” Johnson says; “We can’t be who we used to be and who we’re going to be at the same time!”  To become who God calls us to become, we must change, adapt, pray and grow.

As you start out this new week, take a close look around you – examine your surroundings and look for signs of God’s presence.  Notice how God creates and sustains the universe.  Look for changes as the weather changes.  Then examine yourselves.  Are you growing in the knowledge of God?  If not, are you trying to be who you used to be even though God is calling you to move forward?

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 5-11-20

A new church was formed and, as often happened, it was persecuted.  The beliefs of Christians were different from the Pagan world.  Many felt the Christian beliefs angered the gods of Rome, which caused the downfall of the Roman Empire.

Paul, after forming the church and moving on with his missionary journey, wrote to the church to remind them of hope in Christ – and to remind the individual church that they are not alone – that in fact the entire church is with them.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 Paul writes:  As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you – in person, not in heart – we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again – but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!

We are in one of those situations when the church is separated physically, but not spiritually.  We may not gather together in person, but we continue to gather, we continue to reach out, we continue to proclaim our hope in Christ.

We can learn from Paul’s journeys.  He was shipwrecked, arrested multiple times, beaten and driven out of cities.  Yet he always kept his hope in Christ.  His faith was challenged and probably shaken at times, but it remained in Jesus.  He may not have been able to gather together with the various churches he started – but he remained in contact with them through his letters.  And we gain by those very letters, for they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us.

Our “stay at home” orders may have been extended for a little while longer, and opening the building is still “down the road”, but the church continues.  We remain separated only in person but not in heart.  And we must stand firm in our joy – Jesus and each other.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Mother’s Day 2020

Normally on Mother’s Day I include a litany for us all to say, giving God thanks for all the mothers and the mother like figures in our lives.  But we cannot join together to say that litany this year.

Normally on Mother’s Day I do a Children’s Sermon talking about women I know who were mother like figures, but not mothers themselves, and how all women of faith are mothers to us.  But we cannot join with the children this year.

And I recently lost my mother to Covid-19.  This dread disease has disrupted lives and made simple things, like celebrating our mothers difficult.

IMG_0305

But here is something I’ve learned.  Moms are tough.

Guys, admit it, they might just be tougher than us.

My wife went through a very difficult pregnancy.  We walked hand in hand every day with the fear of losing our unborn child – but she had the harder part.  She experienced morning sickness the entire pregnancy.  She could only eat certain foods.  And I could go on but that is not the point.  I’m trying to say that our mothers experience so much – in bringing forth life and raising that life.  Moms are pretty incredible.  And tough.

And so are the women out there who have never had children but treat all kids like their own.  The mother-like figures who brought us up in the faith, the mother-like figures who watched over us when we were playing, the mother-like figures in our schools and so on.

So today, on Mother’s Day, I offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for:

Mom who brought me life, taught me so much and dedicated me to the church

Aunt Marie, who taught me how to serve the church

Manisha who is such an incredible mother to Kiran (and so many others)

And all the other mothers and mother-like figures.

Let us pray:

Thank you, God, for our mothers and the women in our lives who have guided us.  For those who have departed, help us to remember all the good.  For those still with us, bless and guide them.  Help us to live in ways that honor them and You.  In Christ, Amen.