The following is a copy of the message for March 22, 2020. This was a unique Sunday, considering the church was closed to community worship. Knowing how central worship is to the people of God, Ernie and Myra B., Diana and Pete M., Mary Z., Jenny and Tim D., Lynn A., and [was Robert the bass?] worked overtime to develop a service for Webcasting – broadcasting over the internet. They were able to pull together the technical details for a service in two days, no small feat! The service was well received. We have been asked to make the text available. That is my reason for including it here.
Worship continues at UPCC, as does Christian education, and our mission to support the community. However, each of these have changed in the era of COVID-19. Worship will be broadcast over the internet until we can gather again. We will have a dial-up option through Zoom, as well. Christian education has become a hybrid of home mailings of curriculum and web-based videos. Our mission to the community takes on the new purpose, as well. Many of our congregation are in higher risk groups for this illness. We would like them to stay home for their own safety. Many of our more spry congregation members are ready and willing to be of support! So, we have been picking up groceries for these who are quarantined or self-quarantined. God’s church finds a way to bring the message of hope and love with words or actions.
Scripture Text- Psalm 23 and 1 John 4
Faith for our time 101- Lab
Schools all over the country have closed in response to COVID-19, the illness that the novel coronavirus causes. It has largely not impacted Ashland, this town, as spring break has just been this past week. But, come Monday, the whole nation of families will wake up unplanned for homeschoolers.
Anticipating this development, I have challenged my children to set their own planning schedule for math, reading, exercise, housework, quiet time, as well as a lot of fun. It has worked really well, if I do say so myself. They are happy, well informed as to what is happening in the world, and ready to step in should either of their parents become ill.
To be completely honest, I am a little hit excited about taking a more active role in their education. Do you know what classes I liked best when I was a kid? Anything with a lab. That’s right, one day you learned the theory, then the next day you put it into action. You saw it work. It makes the whole world and all of science one great adventure/discovery story. For chemistry we did qualitative analysis-we would be given a test tube solution and had to figure out what mixture was in it. In physics, we would study parabolic motion by shooting nerf gun darts and measuring the distance they went. Then we could calculate the speed and power of a diminutive nerf dart. And in biology, we studied the beauty and symmetry of life. It’s the lab where you apply the knowledge that makes it all worth the work!
The world changed on us this past week. Just two short weeks ago, reading the Bible felt like a study in cross-cultural immersion. We read about fear, famine, and plagues, we just couldn’t relate to the anxiety people in the stories were feeling. In a crazy short time, we can relate to that anxiety, and it’s the “God is my refuge” passages that we now hunger for the most. I sure read “The Lord is my Shepherd” a lot differently now than I did two weeks ago. These passages now address fears we never knew we would have. The idea that God is our shepherd who is providing, tending, protecting, guiding,and always seeking what is best for us sounds really good right now. This week, I think we all needed to hear that. I think it’s amazing that words written 3000 years ago address exactly what we are feeling today.
In a very real way, it’s like all our Sunday school classes have ended and now the lab has begun. We have heard the words, “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Now, we put all that book knowledge into practice believing and trusting what we learned long ago. So, this is “Faith for our time 101- Lab.”
If this is the lab for Sunday school, then the first lesson is God is love. God created you in love and for love. God makes your heart restless until you respond in love. The response is a big part. We may know all the verses. We may sing all the songs. But it is not until we respond to the love of God with love that any of it matters. Do you know how I saw God’s love in action this past week? Do you know how I saw people responding to God in love? Most of my Monday morning was spent on the phone with and returning texts to people offering to help others. They said, “people might get hungry, and I have this kind of food to share or that amount of money to give.” When the world got scary, they didn’t buy 10,000 rolls of TP and 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. Their first impulse was to share!! That is God’s love in action. These are people who have been shepherded. Can I tell you another way? We have a tech team and worship team in the building right now. When we got word that churches could not hold worship due to this outbreak, their answer was, “we will just see about that.” In just two days, they put together the material and technology to webcast worship to you! That is God’s love in action. People giving of their time and initiative so God’s people can worship in the time of greatest need. God’s love in action, and you can be a part.
Do you know what I think the most valuable thing is in the world today? No, it’s not TP. It’s not even hand sanitizer! Do you know what it is? Encouragement. A smile to a stranger. That is way more valuable than hand sanitizer and TP. Because all the world’s people are afraid now. We know in our heads that things are going to be all right, but our hearts have not caught up, yet!
So, smile at the checkout clerks and tell them how much you appreciate the job they are doing. Give ‘em some love. They are unintentional emergency workers. They never signed up for this kind of duty. Same holds for any medical staff.
Also, have extra grace for people in your life. They are afraid. Now is the time to pull together and support each other through this. Now, we work together for the common good.
And, remember to thank God for all that God is doing to heal our world. I believe the God of love now works to make you whole. You get to be a part of God’s work with a smile, some encouragement and some extra grace.
Grace and peace,