Thursday, March 19, 2020

How to Respond to a Crisis

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a change in me. At first, as I thought about the situation with the coronavirus, I didn't think it would affect me very much. Even when we were all told to limit contact with others, I wasn't fazed much. I already have tendencies toward being a hermit. However, as things progressed, my thinking has changed. Actually, how I'm feeling about things has changed. I was noticing that something was feeling wrong. And as I reflected on that I decided that it wasn't anxiety (worry, fear), but it was a feeling of being unsettled. I realized that I was feeling unsettled because we are in the midst of a very large change. Life for us as a society is being altered in some very significant ways. Once we are given the 'all clear' and the virus is no longer the problem that it currently is - at least for now - life will not go back to the way that it was. We will all be faced with some very large differences.

So, how can we, as Christians, respond to the prospect of having to face these changes? Here are my thoughts.

1. Submission. An essential element of being a disciple of Jesus is the heart attitude of submission to the Father. A large part of that is captured by what Mary said to Gabriel. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1.38) We are to submit to whatever it is that our God calls us to be or to do. We are His servants. He calls the shots. This is critical. For one thing, this is what it means to be a creature.  He is God, and we are not. This is also critical for our own sake. How else will we be able to live well if not by submitting to our Father? But this is also critical for the sake of those who are watching us. Submission honors our God, leads us into a greater experience of life and provides the kind of evangelistic message that is so desperately needed these days.

2. Trust. Another essential element of being a disciple of Jesus is the heart attitude of trust. We can trust our Father. We can trust Him to do what is good and right. And He will do that for the sake of His own glory. That is always first. But we also know that what He does will also result in great blessings for us. We will enjoy some of those blessings now, in this life, and others later, in the life to come. We know that can trust Him because He has assured us of His loving care for us. He has made too many promises about this for us to miss it. We can trust Him also because He has proven Himself to us in other situations. We have experienced His loving care in the past. So, we know that we will experience it in the future.

3. Prayer. Sadly, we are not as submissive as we have been called to be. And we are not as trusting to the extent that we have been called to be. So, we need to come to the Father, first confessing our failures, our sins, asking for His forgiveness. And then, we need to come to the Father asking for the ability to do better at submission and trust. He will grant our requests. And it will show in how we respond to the changes that are coming, especially since we aren't quite sure what they will be. This is a situation where we can be tempted to fear. But this is also a situation filled with opportunities for the spread of the Gospel. Let's pray for ourselves and each other when it comes to these things.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Reminders: The Bible

Well, here it is. My last sermon as your pastor. And as I said last week, there are some things that I would like you to remember, things that I’ve taught you in the past. Last week, it was all about the question, ‘Who is God, and what is He like?’ This week I want to remind you about God’s Word, the Bible.

There are several reasons why I want to do this, but here is just one. If you lose the Bible, everything falls apart. Sad to say, there are churches that are in the process of losing the Bible. That doesn’t mean that they have rejected it outright, though some have. But what it does mean is that the final appeal is made to something other than the Bible and what it teaches. That might be some tradition or the opinion of some noteworthy person or what everybody ‘just knows is right’. It might even be simply whatever is the opinion of the person preaching. The Bible as the final authority is being set aside, sometimes very quietly. And once you start down that path things begin to fall apart. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Remember Jesus’ words.

Friday, August 23, 2019

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4.1-2

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we admit that, all too often, we do not walk worthy of the Gospel. All too often, we are proud and not humble, harsh and not gentle. We so easily become impatient, refusing to bear with the weaknesses and sins of others. We sin in these ways even as we expect others not to treat us similarly. We have no excuse and admit that we deserve Your justice. But we believe the Gospel of Jesus. And so, we would ask for forgiveness. We would also ask for change. Make us more like Jesus, through whom we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1.18

The Lord enrich you with his grace, and nourish you with his blessing; the Lord defend you in trouble and keep you from all evil; the Lord accept your prayers, and absolve you from your offences, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
 The Book of Common Prayer

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Scripture to Meditate On

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25.6–9

This passage of Scripture is a good reminder of what our future holds. There will be a feast. And feasts are things you do to celebrate happy times: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays. On that day we will certainly have reason to celebrate something happy: God will swallow up death. It will be gone in all its ugly, evil forms.

We will need to wait for Him to save us, but He will. And when He does, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. And we will do that every day forever.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Reminders: God

We are down to my last two sermons as your pastor. And I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking and praying about what I should talk to you about during these last two weeks. Actually, I was just considering a last sermon, but the list of things that I was eager to talk about with you grew quite large. And that’s why my last sermon became my last two sermons.

As I considered what to do, there was something Peter wrote that was prominent in my thinking.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 2 Peter 1:12–15

Peter was soon to leave those saints, just as I will be leaving you. And just like Peter, I want to do what I can to make sure that you will remember some important things so that you can understand life. And I do that because, just like Peter, I know that how you understand life will define the kind of life that you will lead. I want you to be able to live well.

So, this week and next, I will remind you of some biblical themes that I have taught you, and I do that so that, just as Peter said,

after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

A Prayer

Father,
We live in a world that can, at times, be harsh. Sometimes, it's other people who complicate our lives. But then, at other times, it's just how the events of each day unfold. And while much of the time, it's just a matter of a bit of inconvenience, there are those times when we wished it was only a matter of inconvenience.

And yet, we know, Father, that You are near to us as we make our way through this world. And You are near to do us good. In fact, even in the harsh events of this life, You are near to use those events to bring about much good, good for Your kingdom as well as good for us.

So, Father, we would simply ask that You would build up our faith so that when we hit those hard spots, whether merely some inconvenience or something much worse, we would trust You to act. Grant us the ability to turn to You, to make clear our needs to You, so that, by Your grace, instead of being overwhelmed by what is going on, we would be at peace.

Father, we are asking for this not merely for our own sakes. We know that we live in a place and a time where people are increasingly uninterested in listening to a presentation of the Gospel. However, as their lives fall apart - and that is increasingly the case for more and more people - if they could see our lives, lives that aren't falling apart, they would come to us and ask how we do that. That's when they will be willing to listen. So, for the sake of the spread of the Gospel, for the sake of the honor of Your name, we ask that You would grant our request. Grant us the grace to believe this part of the Gospel, especially when we are tempted not to believe it. Grant us the ability to trust You in every situation of life and thus to live well. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.