Friends, as of this writing every person in the world is caught up in the evolving story of the novel coronavirus and its impacts on towns, cities, states, and nations all over the globe. We are encountering a global pandemic, something we've never experienced before, and something we hope will never occur again. In the last two weeks, local businesses, schools and churches have had to learn new ways of living, cope with the economic, social and mental stresses of day-to-day life in the age of this virus, and find ways to remain connected while assisting the most weak, frail and vulnerable among us. As the number of cases of COVID-19 rise in our state and in the U.S., it is easy to become concerned. Additionally, it goes without saying that we have questions about the duration of this disease and how it will be contained and eradicated. Above all, the plan and hope is to keep people safe and healthy and to return people back to work in order to provide for their families and loved ones when the appropriate times become available.
But in Christ, regardless of the bad news, there is always a "yes" in Jesus, a "yes" for good news:
"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' (yes) is spoken by us to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 1:20, NIV).
Since Christ is our hope, our faith and our definite "Yes," I can wholeheartedly say that our church and its leadership desire to continue our focus over the several weeks on the following three areas:
- 1) FAMILIES--> It is incumbent upon us all to stay healthy and safe, and listen to the directives we are receiving from civic leaders and other leaders in our communities. The goal is to celebrate the image of God in one another and practice hand washing, social distancing and provide environments for people to remain well. As a result your deacons will be staying in touch with you, determining needs as they arise and providing spiritual support in the days ahead. Our goal is to remind you that you are thought of, cared for, and loved. That will always be a main priority at UBC!;
- 2) FINANCES--> We are still operating as a church, paying bills and meeting expenses as best we can; remember, 10% of the money we receive goes to assist local missions and missionaries! It is important for you to honor God with your giving and you can read more about how to give in another article contained within this newsletter. Thank you for giving to God's church and for sustaining its ministries through your faithful financial support; God bless you!;
- 3) FORMATION--> I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the Phone Tree Devotionals (PTDs) over these last two weeks; it is vital that we continue to be spiritually formed through the reading of God's scriptures and participate in corporate prayer. We are built up in the Lord when we learn about God through his Word--and God, in turn, provides us with "...Christ, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27)! I will continue to offer these phone tree devotionals as well as share some new ways that we can worship together through means of video streaming. By the time you receive this newsletter, you will have heard a phone tree about this new way for us to connect as the church, gathered to worship together in the weeks to come (remember, Holy Week is nearly upon us, April 5-12, so God is opening new avenues for creating community among our church family--amen!)
Friends, those three areas will be the focus of our church in the days ahead. We don't know how long we will away from one another physically during this unusual time in our history, but we must remember that we are connected, spiritually, through the Spirit of the living God who calls us children, for that is what we are--his children (1 John 3:1)! I am so proud of our ad hoc leadership team of Eddie (Properties), Dan (Safety), and John and Denise (Deacon Co-Chairs). Together as a team of five we will continue to meet via conference call every so often in order to talk about how best to serve God and one another at UBC in the coming days and weeks. We do know that while we are unsure about timing, and when all of this coronavirus will move behind us, we will trust in God day by day, listen to the voice of the Master, and remember the words of the sage writer of Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6).
Lastly, we mustn't worry, we mustn't let darkness be the only thing we see. Remember God is our light in the midst of the darkness! He is working out our best for his glory, and he is using all of this to draw humanity back to God and to one another. In the meantime, we need to care for the suffering, understand and be sensitive to the fact that things are indeed difficult for numerous people but nothing is impossible with God--we are still called to find ways to love one another, taking it one day at a time. That is wisdom we can embody with each passing day.
The Jews knew what it was like to experience exile. They knew what it felt like to be away from "home" (sanctuary, Temple, neighbors). They were saddened and hurt and missed their homeland. Did God abandon them? No. Did he send messengers/prophets to give them good news? Yes! And just like Ezekiel was told to prophesy to dead bones, we too will be inspired by the Spirit to experience new life, trust in God's promises and hope for the day when we will join one another again in the sanctuary, lifting our voices to God in praise and praying and celebrating God's victorious word of renewal and power through the person of Jesus Christ. Remember the scriptures, friends:
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
One day at a time we will realize that, while we are socially distanced from one another, we are still, and always will be, spiritually close forever and ever through the power of God's Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. We are one in the bond of love, and that love can never be separated (Rom. 8:37-39). Don't forget God's promises in Christ are always yes (2 Cor. 1)!
May God hold your hearts and minds and keep them in Christ alone,
><> Pastor Will <><