Give Us This Bread Always!
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus!
Christ is in our midst; He is and ever shall be!
As I write this, it is now the fourth week of Lent, and we are looking towards the end of our Lenten journey, and on into Holy Week. Needless to say, this has been a season unlike anything most of us have known. Every day this month seems to have presented us with new data, new directives from national, state and local authorities, new challenges and new anxieties. If you are feeling unsettled, uncertain, and even at times a bit panicked, you are in good company!
What are the pastors doing during this crisis? For starters, we’ve been putting all our services on YouTube. If you haven’t done so already, you can access our services, along with bulletins and information, through Facebook, or you can go through our church’s website, phone app, or directly onto our YouTube channel. The videos may seem very “low tech,” a bit stark and sterile at first. But believe it or not, it’s very time-consuming to present the services in this format. In addition to setup, multiple takes and scheduling, it takes hours to edit, format and upload the material- most of which has fallen upon Pastor Joe, Rachel and others. In addition to this, we continue to give pastoral care by phone, and in very isolated instances, in person. We’ve been using Zoom to conduct some of our meetings, and phone calls to handle other matters. We’ve used Facetime to make pastoral visits. It’s not the same as being there in person, but it’s the next best thing!
How are we doing as a church? Based on the response, we are doing well. The outpouring of notes, emails, texts, phone calls and likes tells me that you, the congregation, are being encouraged and blessed! I am struck repeatedly by the strength of bonds in our fellowship. I have been personally blessed by so many of you. At the same time, Pastor Joe and I are concerned that no one is left behind. We are constantly thinking of people who may fall into this category, and have tried to reach out to people as much as possible. Please- if you need or desire a call, contact us.
St. Peter’s is going to get through this. Someday, this outbreak will end. And we will be stronger, not weaker! We can rejoice, because in Christ, our trials will always produce character, and character will produce hope- hope which will not be disappointed, because God’s love has been poured out upon us in the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5.)
This brings me to my most important point. I pray that we can all view this extraordinary crisis as more than a time of privation, dislocation and inconvenience. It is also, and remains, the Season of Lent. Jesus said, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:2).” During this Season, we give God the opportunity to “prune” us of our excesses: excessive doing, excessive consumption, excessive words, excessive emotion. It seems that, for Christians, God may be using this crisis to accomplish just those things that make for a Lenten discipline.
Here are some things I’m noticing:
People are nicer, more considerate overall. Or maybe I’m just more appreciative.
There is less hurry these days, because there are fewer places to go. Or maybe I’m in less of a hurry.
Home-cooked meals taste better than ever. Or maybe I’m more appreciative of my wife.
Some people are praying, reading the Bible, walking and repenting more. Or maybe it’s just me.
Is this not how Lent should feel? In a word, God is providing us, in this crisis, an extraordinary opportunity to observe a Lenten discipline. In consigning our sinful excesses to the ashes, we gave God a chance to prune away at our lives. This is how He may be accomplishing that work. I do not mean to minimize our present crisis, and the suffering, heartache and grief some people must endure. But there are some tremendous blessings to be received in these present trials. Let us not think lightly of those blessings.
The Lenten season, of course, is a season of fasting. This year, circumstances have imposed a fast of sorts upon us. We fast from normal contact with others- and the benefits and joys that come to us through that interaction. But Lent and Holy Week always culminate with Easter. The fast ends, and the feast begins.
When we are finally able to come together- it may be much later than April 12- it will be an Easter feast, however you may call it. “Christ is Risen!” will ring more clearly in our ears. Our Lord’s resurrection will be more precious to us, and our fellowship will be sweeter than before. But for now- may this time continue to be as rich and rewarding as the future feast we may imagine! May the Lord sustain and keep you in the true faith during this Lenten Journey.
Blessings and Love in our Lord,