We move from elementary to middle school, or from our hometown to a new community. We lose a job, or gain a child, or accomplish a goal, or relinquish a dream. Through it all, we learn to give thanks to God in all circumstances.
1Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits —
3who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
13As a father has compassion for his children,
so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.
14For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
15As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
18to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
12But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.
23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
22He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you — you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Friends in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
When we decided on our theme “Making Change” for our Lenten series, we certainly had no way of knowing how timely it would be. And the theme for this week is “Change of Circumstances.” Wow! Almost prophetic, isn’t it? It seems like our world as we know it, has turned upside down overnight. We now find ourselves adjusting to a “new normal.”
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us. At all times, but especially at times like these, we need to keep our trust in God, and put faith over fear. We are called to be the light of the world, and need to face life with confidence and joy. We are reminded of the words of Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." Change is a constant in our lives, but this is a very big change, the type of change that marks a certain period of time, and we’ll find ourselves thinking in terms of “before” and “after” the pandemic.
Yes, much has changed. The economy has been severely impacted, our routines are radically changed, and schools are closed. Restaurants are closed to eat-in dining, affecting employees and customers. One of the saddest things for me is that, for good reason, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are on lockdown and families are not allowed to physically visit their loved ones. Some of these residents have a difficult time understanding, or don’t understand at all. And it’s especially tough on the family members who were accustomed to visiting every day. And here at church, it’s the first time ever, in over 90 years, that we had to make a decision to suspend in-person worship. We’ve never even closed for major snowstorms, and we’ve had some pretty bad ones. But this was different. And last Thursday evening, as we started seeing things change by the hour, we knew we had to take immediate action. Out of love and concern for our church family, as well as the community, by Friday morning, the decision was made to suspend in-person worship and programming for two weeks. And so, we too, are adjusting to a new normal as a congregation and staff.
In some ways it seems like we’ve taken a step back in time, when things were simpler. And yet, we are blessed with the advancement of technology, which allows us to stay in touch in ways we never dreamt possible 50 years ago. A friend sent this text to me today, and I’m sharing with her permission: “These are truly unique and trying times. I personally find it kind of spiritual that it fell during Lent. It shows us how we take so much for granted and wakes us up to what we can truly give up or live without. And how to think outside of ourselves and worry about our greater community. It's sad that it takes something like this, similar to what happened after 9/11, for people to take pause.”
And through it all, we learn to give thanks to God in all circumstances. In spite of the restrictions that we need to follow, there are still many things we can do. We can be grateful for clean air to breath, and the ability to go for a walk, or open a window to get some fresh air. We can be grateful for clean water, and availability of food and supplies. We have the blessings of a home, with electricity and heat. We have phones to keep in contact with family and friends, some have smart phones and computers, and access to the Internet. We have TV and radio to keep us informed. And we can simply enjoy God’s creation. We can install a bird feeder and teach our children about the varieties of birds it attracts. We can plant a garden and teach our children about God’s gift of flowers and vegetables. Or maybe even plant a tree and watch it grow, marking events in our lives with each passing year.
So yes, our lives have certainly changed. But God is still on the throne and he will never leave us or forsake us.
In the weeks ahead, I hope you’ll find strength and peace in these words from scripture:
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Please pray with me:
O God our rock and salvation, you walk with us through all the ups and downs of life. Whatever our circumstances, bring us closer to you. Teach us to rejoice in the good times, find hope through the bad times, and always place our trust in you.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
And now may the Lord of peace give you peace at all times and in all ways.
In the name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.