Hearing the Music

Living Well

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My guess is that you are feeling the pinch of another 3 weeks in this stay at home mode!! I know in the VM household the introverts have had just about enough of the extroverts and the extroverts are acting more like dogs than humans.

One of the things that I have heard is that we are living in unprecedented times.Of course that is not exactly true.As hard as this curtailing of freedom has been, I have been encouraged by folks like Richard Baxter, who, when he was asked in the mid 1600’s whether it was right for a magistrate to restrict worship, replied like this, "If the magistrate for a greater good, (as the common safety,) forbid church-assemblies in a time of pestilence, assault of enemies, or fire, or the like necessity, it is a duty to obey him.” They too faced pestilence and closure. What encourages me is that our world has been through this before, the church has been through this before, God knows and he will deliver us in His time!

In the meantime how shall we live? Once again I turn to church history, this time to Augustine. He was asked directly how shall we live in hard times? He replied thus, “People speak of hard times. Let us live well and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times.” What he is saying is that we are not determined by what is outside of us, but rather what is inside. Surely something like Psalm 1 must be in his heart and mind. In Christ we are like trees planted by streams of water so that both in season and out of season we draw strength from Him. Let us draw strength from Him and times shall be good.

And what declares Augustine right more than Easter? The blessed day on which all of history turns. The day in which when we celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave. Tetelestai. It is finished!We know that neither COVID-19, social distancing, loneliness, economic hardship, nor another day in the house with that annoying extrovert can ever separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus.

 

Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

A Journey Through My Mind

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How are you doing 3 weeks or so into these strange times? In my own reflection it is still a bit surreal, but enough time has passed that I am seeing some things emerge that I thought I would share in a series of random observations. So welcome to the way my mind works!

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It is great to be able to connect with folks via websites, Facebook, InstaLive, Zoom, Slack chats, etc… It is awesome to see and hear folks, study, pray, laugh, cry, all of it. I really am so grateful for these platforms and will continue to use them. On the other hand I am struggling with feeling the inadequacy of these digital connections. I miss the handshakes and the hugs (wait, did I just say that ?!). I hate the way the device keeps alerting me that I have something else to check or do; something waiting. I feel like I can’t disconnect from this virtual world. Help!

I am learning a lot. Will I remember? I am learning a lot during this forced quarantine. As I alluded to above I am learning the inadequacies of virtual communication versus the real thing. I am again appreciating the joy of playing a live game with my kids and having unhurried time (oh yeah, we’ve got time!) to do it. I have been reminded that though the markets fall and entertainment options fade, though I am social distanced from my neighbor and we can’t gather for worship; God is ever present. He is my rock and refuge. All these other things that have been so important can never be a substitute for the real thing. I am sure you could add your own “learnings” to this list. The question is, will I remember when the quarantine is over? Will I remember these lessons or go running right back to the distractions and substitutes that I leaned on prior to COVID? God please help me remember!

I love God’s people! I have been so encouraged by the ways that people have shown out to help one another, reach out to others, continue to support ministries, etc… It has been a great reminder that the people are the church! The church does not consist of its programs or buildings. The church is not the staff or its officers. All of these things are good, but ultimately the church is the people of God, following Jesus the best that they can. Let us keep our eyes on the Savior while we worship in our homes or over Zoom, encourage one another with cards and calls, and continue to be the church during these troubled times.

It is going to be a weird Holy Week. Finally, it is going to be a weird Holy Week. For Sunday we have provided a Home Worship Guide that takes us to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19). You are going to need to provide the palms! Our Maundy Thursday/Good Friday reflections will be less communal than normal. Once again we will provide a Home Worship Guide complete with teaching. Ordinarily we would look forward to celebrating the Lord’s Supper together but obviously that is out. Some have asked about doing the Lord’s Supper virtually. While I am not overly judgmental with those who have chosen to go that route, I do believe that our physical presence together is intrinsic to the celebration, and as one person put it there are times in our life that we are called to “fast and not feast”. Also don’t forget that you can tune in to the community Good Friday service that I will be participating from 12-3 over the radio WFUR 102.9, or via live stream at 12:15.

What about Easter you ask? We are still working on fine tuning some plans, So stay tuned. But be assured Covid or no Covid, gathering or not gathering; Easter will come! He is Risen!

 

Photo by USGS on Unsplash

in trials

Time to Buy?

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This Sunday will mark our third Sunday since humanitarian measures have been put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect our fellow humans, particularly the most vulnerable. We have seen many, unprecedented changes in the world since then. Some of you have experienced temporary (permanent?) job loss. Thankfully, no one that I know has experienced the loss of someone close due to COVID-19. On the other hand many of us have experienced loss in our stock portfolios and our retirement accounts. Mindful of this fact, I was a bit surprised talking to a financial advisor friend about how work was going. I was expecting tales of woe, despair and anxiety; however, what he said was that most of his clients were asking if this was a good time to buy!

Without minimizing the real loss that is occurring in our world, there is an important principle at work simultaneously, namely, that with loss also comes opportunity. While I am no expert on financial matters, I do see this principle at work as a principle of the Kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate. We are familiar with such statements as “the least will be the greatest” (cf. Mt. 23:11, Lk. 9:48). Even more pointedly Jesus says plainly that to gain insight into the heart of God we must lose everything. It's the path to gain the kingdom (cf. Mk. 8:35). So an appropriate question during this time of loss is what are we gaining?

While I cannot answer that for each individual, I can say that I am so encouraged by the way that I have seen the body of Christ exercise its muscle during these COVID-19 days. Around the world Christians are finding creative ways to love neighbors well and to offer hope and encouragement like here and here. Closer to home, the body of Christ at Christ Church has leapt into motion with calls, cards and other forms of creative connecting. In a time when the market on public meetings has crashed, we have been buying stock in alternate ways to declare the love that our Father has for us!

As many of you know tomorrow has been declared a day of fasting and prayer by the Great Lakes Presbytery. Sticking with our analogy, in addition to praying for the health and well being of the world, this is also a time to analyze the market of our own hearts and in an era of loss make some strategic buys! It is time to buy into such truths as simpler lives can lead to different joys or our hope really is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness; not our stocks, our entertainment experiences or even our freedom to move about freely. I strongly encourage you to receive the gift of this day of prayer and fasting. Let us not waste our COVID lay off! There is treasure to be gained.

 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

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