It’s only the end of March and we have another month to stay at home. How will we survive? These are very tough times for millions, especially those out of work and anxious about meeting routine expenses, let alone the big expenses. But, it’s not only a money issue. We are used to being active and interacting with people. It’s so different and so difficult and at times so depressing – especially when the days are cloudy.
Ann Voskamp has written a contemplative “guide to living” she calls One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Voskamp may be too poetic for many, but she has attempted to reclaim a life lived with joy and thankfulness, so she began to keep a list-—a list of simple things, of one thousand things, that filled her days and her spirit with gratitude and joy.
Voskamp doesn’t gloss over the losses and grief that have been a part of her life. Despair is a daily occurrence. But so are the daily graces that she takes the time and effort to record.
Regina Brett’s books God Never Blinks and Be the Miracle and Diana Butler Bass’ Grateful are just two other authors who encourage us to be positive.
Take time today to reflect on what we are thankful for. And say a prayer for those who continue to work and provide for our safety … health care workers, police, fire fighters, military, grocery workers, postal workers, online companies, ….on and on it goes of those who are helping to protect and keep us well and risking their own health.
An evening song which speaks to all of life, but is special at this time in our lives.
Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2020
Abide with Me
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me!
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes,
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Text: Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847 Reprinted under public domain
Lessons: Ezekiel 37:1-4, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-46.
Thomas called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "let us also go, that we may die with him."
Thomas, the one we often call Doubting Thomas
, sensed the increasing opposition to Jesus was so extreme that Jesus and his followers could be killed. That’s one reason why after Jesus is crucified the disciples hide. The women go to the tomb. When Jesus appears to the disciples’ we learn that the room has been locked for fear of being arrested. If the opposition was growing against Jesus before Lazarus, it certainly was solidified after Lazarus. Giving a blind person sight was incredible, but raising a person who had been dead for days – already in the tomb – that is totally off the charts! The disciples feared for their lives and the Jewish leaders feared for their lives too. The leaders feared that if the people following Jesus continued to grow (and why not with such miracles & teaching?), Rome would be displeased and fearful that an uprising was brewing. And if Roman soldiers got involved the Jewish leaders would be lucky if all they lost were their positions and not their lives. Whether legitimate or over reacting, everyone had their reasons for being fearful!
The 11th Commandment: don't be afraid
is the opening chapter for Harold Kushner’s book “Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World”
. Kushner observes that a small dose of fear keeps us alert and alive, but an overdose can leave us perpetually tense, emotionally closed, and paralyzed to the point of inaction. More than 80 times in the Bible, God tells people not to be afraid – usually translated as “fear not.” God says it to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, to Joshua and tells the prophets not to be afraid. Jesus repeatedly admonishes his disciples not to be afraid, and the angel’s first words to Mary are “do not be afraid.”
God commands us not to be afraid, not because there is nothing to fear, but precisely because the world can be a frightening place, and God does not want us to be paralyzed by fear
. God does not want us to live lives dominated by fear. Fearful people cannot be happy. Fearful people cannot be generous, charitable, or forgiving. Fear constricts the soul
and keeps us from being as fully human as God would like us to be.
Yes, there are situations, possible problems, illnesses to fear. Life can be risky, can be tough and always is sometimes. Bad things can and do happen to good people. We work to master, control, keep fears in perspective. And, precisely because life is uncertain - we hope, we trust finally in the abiding, steadfast love of God. “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.…"
Martha said to Jesus, "yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God
, the one coming into the world."
God who made us all,
Our healers are exhausted, God. Give rest to those who care for the sick.
Our children are bored, God. Grant extra creativity to their caregivers.
Our friends are lonely, God. Help us to reach out.
Our pastors are doing the best they can, God. Help them to know it is enough.
Our workers are jobless, God. Grant us the collective will to take care of them.
Our fellow parents are losing their minds, God. Bring unexpected play and joy and dance parties to all in need.
Our grocery workers are absorbing everyone's anxiety, God. Protect them from us.
Our elderly are even more isolated, God. Comfort them.
We haven’t done this before and we are scared, God.
I don’t even know what else to pray for.
Amen. - A prayer shared by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Lord Christ, you came into the world as one of us, and suffered as we do. As we go through the trials of life, help us to realize that you are with us at all times and in all things; that we have no secrets from you; and that your loving grace enfolds us for eternity. In the security of your embrace we pray. (ELW, pg 85)
Let us keep many in our prayers ...
Hospitals, nursing homes, other health care facilities The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The World Health Organization
Medical researchers and scientists
Calm to children who are fearful from all they hear and see around them Patience in times of school closures
Guidance for school administrators as they make decisions
Workers who are anxious about the safety of their workplaces Uncertainty in how work will be accomplished in the days ahead Calm and guidance amid financial uncertainties
Government institutions and municipal agencies:
Guidance when making decisions for our communities
Harry Ironside was a much appreciated Bible teacher. It is said he devoted the first hour of every day to Bible study and prayer. On one occasion a student commented: “Dr. Ironside, I understand you get up early every morning to read and study your Bible.” “Oh, I’ve been doing it ever since I became a Christian,” he answered. “Well, how do you manage to do it?” the student asked. “Do you pray about it?” “No,” Ironside replied, “I get up.”
The teacher knew his spiritual life depended on a regular and disciplined time for reading and reflecting on the Word of God. May we find our spirit sustained as we make time for reading and meditating on God’s Word.
1I lift up my eyes to the hills —
from where will my help come?
2My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore. – Psalm 121
Health, happiness, peace of mind, faith, love, … money can’t buy. The fact you are viewing this picture and have your eyesight to enjoy the array of natural beauty each day can’t be purchased. You have in your possession some of life’s greatest treasures. Let’s not take the gifts we have for granted.
“All praise to thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light.
Keep me, oh, keep me, King of kings,
Beneath thine own almighty wings.”
And, though we lose physical abilities; though life be near its end – the gift and power and wonder of faith, joy, peace, and the merciful everlasting love of God can sustain us.
1 – Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 – I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
6- The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
7 – I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 – I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 – Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure….
11 – You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
The Gospel Reading for Sunday, March 22, Lent 4: John 9:1-41
She died. The two men were washing the blood from their hands. The man who had picked her up, with tears in his eyes, said, "I don't know how I am going to tell her father that she is dead."
Wallis' friend was astonished. He said, "I thought she was your child?" He said, "Aren't they all."
Today, as we pray for the many ill in our congregation we add all those helping to protect us from the coronavirus, especially the healthcare workers. – Be responsible – take care – God’s blessings. Pastor Heintzelman