Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Shepastor: “When I Am Afraid…”

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
Psalm 56:3, NIV

“Looking back across the landscape of my lifetime, I realize that something unexpected and larger than life seems to happen every once in a while, that acts as a corrective measure...” These are the words shared by Dr. Ken Druck in his article, “The 'One Planet, One People' coronavirus corrective.” In this article, Dr. Druck suggests that life has a way of reminding us about what really matters.

Right now, the world is facing a pandemic in the form of the Coronavirus. Many are gripped by fear. Many are hoarding hand sanitizer, toilet paper and water, depriving others of what is needed to try and stay healthy. Churches are struggling with real decisions regarding meeting the needs of their congregation, pastoral care and finances. Some are in a panic.

However, as the people of God, we must remember that “we are not as those who have no hope.” Even in the midst of this modern-day plague, God is still in control. Even though many painful and sad things are happening including death, isolation, fear and struggle, several positive things are happening. We are being reminded of our humanity, our frailty, our need for compassion and our need for one another.

Community members are reaching out to one another…calling one another…going grocery shopping for the elderly, working together to ensure that school children, home due to the virus are getting meals. Teachers and administrators are working tirelessly to be sure that youth get their lessons. People all over the world are praying together in various ways. The government is looking at ways to provide financial relief to its struggling citizens.

Every now and then, God allows the “reset button” to get pushed. Times like these remind us of what really matters in life…relationships, compassion, love and the common good. COVID-19 is scary. But God remains in control. When you are afraid, trust in Him!
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shepastor: “Fasting from Injustice”

Amos 5:21-24
21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.
23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

This was a time of great wealth, economic growth and national strength in Israel. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms (Israel and Judah) were working together, trading, building and forming political alliances. Because of their great wealth they were able to expand their boarders. Their buildings were made of the finest materials such as marble, ivory and gold.

It was easy for them to equate their wealth and prosperity with the favor of God. Their prophets were in the pockets of those with power and prestige. Therefore, all of their proclamations pronounced favor, grace and peace flowing from the throne of the Almighty.

But there was a problem in this man-made paradise. Contrary to what they believed, God was not pleased. There was a complete lack of social consciousness or concern. The wealthy were super wealthy, but the poor were super poor. The legal system was corrupt, the poor had no recourse, not even in the courts. The rich enjoyed every convenience possible while the poor were made to scrounge about and serve those in high positions – and God was not pleased.

There were no words of condemnation, confrontation or accountability – and God was not pleased. Therefore, God called for himself a prophet – a real prophet, a man of God who neither desired their approval or feared their reprisals. God chose Amos, who was neither a prophet or the son of a prophet but a herdsman, a shepherd, a country boy if you will – a farmer to stand boldly and proclaim what thus saith the Lord to a wicked and sinful people. Amos spoke in righteous anger, calling God’s people to look hard and long at what they had become.

We are currently in the season of the Christian Calendar called, “Lent.” For many, this is a season of fasting from sweets, delectable, goodies. The purpose is to sacrifice something that we enjoy in order to focus upon getting closer to the Lord. The practice is admirable. Its intent is beautiful. But could the Lord be concerned about more than us giving up the chocolate bunnies, cakes, pies, etc.? It’s easy to give up those things, but what does the Lord really want us to give up? What would truly be a “sacrifice?”

In Amos’ day, people were fasting, attending religious gatherings and even paying their tithes. But their hearts were far from the Lord. They were checking a proverbial box of religious behaviors. Today we must ask ourselves, “Are we any different?”

America is the wealthiest or at least one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Yet in our land of plenty, there are millions of people living in poverty, unable to meet their own basic needs. Poverty exists in every state across the country—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—and its reach crosses every barrier—age, race, gender, and family situation. Poverty can be situational (people experiencing a crisis such as illness, divorce, or unemployment), generational (families living in poverty for two or more generations), or relational (isolated people without a support network to turn to).

People in poverty experience not only a lack of income or material possessions, but a lack of such things as life choices, physical and
emotional security, stable relationships, social participation, and self-esteem. Poverty is teaching millions of Americans that they are not
valued, that failure is to be expected, and that hope is futile.

Our approach to poverty has to change. Meeting immediate needs are wonderful, but if we don’t challenge the systems that perpetuate poverty, our gifts are but band aids on devastating wounds that require major surgery. We must fast from more than candy and other sweets, we need to fast from injustice! Crazy wealth for some and crazy poverty for many is unjust. We ought to have righteous anger, righteous indignation that shakes us from our spiritual lethargy and asks the question, “What can we do, what can I do to help make a difference?”

As the Church, we need to begin to prayerfully ask God in 2020 what new things can we do to help bring about relief and support to our surrounding communities and the world. We need to ask ourselves the question, “Are we simply bringing before the Lord meaningless fasts, burnt offerings and sacrifices of tradition and that which does not require us to leave our comfort zones?” How can we come together with other churches to collaborate to meet some needs right in our back yard? God desires more than us meeting together on Sunday morning to sing and pray. The Lord wants to use us to help break some chains, open some blinded eyes, bring some relief, to show His love and compassion to a dying world…to “do justice!”

Let us prayerfully consider what we can do to help serve this present age. As we fast and pray during this Lenten season, may our fasting cleanse us from lethargic and selfish ways. May our fasting convict us of empty practices. May our fasting pull us towards actions that give God’s heart joy. May we fast from injustice!

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris