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.

Monday Morning Meditation 5/4/20

Mark 10:46-52

46They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Philadelphia sports fans can be a contentious lot.  We have the reputation for being passionate, knowledgeable and, in some cases, loud and obnoxious.  We boo poor performance.  But one thing Philadelphia sports fans do not boo is heart.  If a player makes a mistake but is giving his all, he gets a pass – we say he has “heart”.  Look at the Philadelphia Flyers.  Their last championship was 1975 but fans love them – because they play with heart.

Heart is important.  Having heart is about bravery in the face of turmoil, giving your all, doing your best and the like.  It is not about being the best or having all the talents.  It is more a state of mind than of physicality.

In our gospel text Bartimaeus is told to “take heart, get up, he is calling you.”  Yet Bartimaeus already has heart.  Even when told to be quiet, he continues to shout, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Bartimaeus may be blind, he may be a poor beggar, but he does not lack heart.  And what does that heart get him?  The attention of Jesus and the healing of his blindness.

Take heart today.  Yes, things are still a mess.  Yes, we are not sure when we will gather together again, but we still do our best.  We still gather to worship and pray in the ways we can.  We still support each other; we still care for each other.  We still have heart.

And heart will lead us to mercy and healing.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 4-27-20

1 Peter 5:6-11

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

This is part of today’s lectionary passage and I decided to use it in the morning prayer service.  It struck me deeply, especially where Peter says that, after we have suffered a little while, Christ will restore us.

That, my friends, is good news.  That is what we need to remember.  This situation will end, and God will restore us.  Maybe things will never be the same, maybe things need to change in a different way, but we will be restored.  By God. 

Please keep that in mind as we begin this new week of social distancing.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

 

 

Monday Morning Meditation 4-20-2020

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  Isaiah 43:1 

It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican

It’s not about an evil socialist plot to take over the world

It’s not about an evil capitalist plot to take over the world

It’s not the fulfillment of misinterpreted prophecy

It is a virus

A very deadly virus

And it matters

On Friday April 17th, 49 people in Pennsylvania died of Covid-19.

On Friday April 17th, 8 people in Montgomery County died of Covid-19.

One of them was my mother.

Yes, she was elderly.  She just turned 88 on Monday the 13th

Yes, she was in a nursing home.

Yes, she had dementia.

But she mattered.  To us, and to God.

Every one of those 8 deaths in Montgomery County mattered to God.

Every one of those 49 deaths in Pennsylvania mattered to God.

Every person who has died of Covid-19 matters to God.

Every person on this planet matters to God and therefore every person on this planet should matter to us – the followers of the Risen Christ.

Please stop the political arguing.  Please stop unsafe protesting.  Please stop jumping on each other online because you disagree.

Use the wisdom God has given you.  Be safe.  Disagree but do so in a civil and godly manner.

Remember you matter to God.  And so does the other person.  Even if they disagree with you.

May God quickly end this virus,

Pastor Bill