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April Pastor's Note
March 26, 2020, 10:58 AM

Church activity has come to halt. The Centers for Disease Control is advising eight weeks of suspended contact in large gatherings. Red or Blue, the nation is challenged to care for one another.

We are trying to follow the “keep safe” guidelines. At first, the self-isolation was for fifteen days. Now it might go through July and August. Fear is as much in the air as the virus. As Christians, we can have a healthy respect for fear, but we should be careful not to be totally overwhelmed by a fear of death. We need to take necessary steps to protect our health and the health of others, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Avoiding gathering with others may afford us a time to practice spiritual disciplines—reading scripture, praying, and resting. Like a Sabbath of Weeks, this can be a time of deepening our faith and our relationship with God.

I don’t know what to expect or how long the quarantine conditions will continue. I don’t know how long we will have to suspend worship and other church activities. As we practice good advice, we should also remember to trust God above all else. The alternative is anxiety, worry, and stress. That results in hoarding, which is a disregard for our love of neighbor.

The singular reality we have is God. Jesus is the one who counters the fear and power of death. That is the meaning of Easter, and it always bears repeating that the resurrection of Jesus is what gives us hope in the face of this pandemic.

We are entering the difficult time of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Changes of routine occur with each day bringing more cautionary measures that affect every facet of life for all of us. The impact is overwhelming as we try to do and respond to the measures being taken in the state and nation. Globally, other nations are also in crisis as well.

At church, we are trying to follow the cautions that are being advised and hopefully will try something online for the coming Sunday’s worship. It is possible to do some live streaming. I am following the lead suggested by David Schlafer in the Journal for Preachers Volume 42 #2 with 5 sermons from the Gospel of John

I had chosen two texts from the Gospel of John for last week. These were healing miracles. John 4 which a royal official healing for a sick son. He heard about Jesus and sought him out. He would like Jesus to come to heal his son. Jesus responds by saying, your faith has healed your son. This leader returns home to find that in fact, his son recovered at the same time he’d met with Jesus the day before. Many on hearing this believed in Jesus. 

The second incident, John 5: is a healing where Jesus happened to encounter the people seeking the healing waters of the Pool of Siloam. One disabled man lamented that he could not get to the pool when the angels stirred the waters.  Seem like someone always beat him out of healthcare. 

Thirty-eight years with this health impairment and Jesus simply asked him if he wants to be well. A question that may linger in our minds too, considering the cost of health care today. Of course, we can ask about health care for some, but not all, or the cost for serious long term if not lifelong measures for maintenance of a measure of health care.

In the first story, the father exhibits faith in Jesus. He believes the Word spoken to him and obeys Jesus. The second man does take up his mat and walk as Jesus instructs him, but without a word of faith or thanks. He is sent on his way clueless about the one who healed him. He doesn’t know when asked as he is in trouble for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He encounters Jesus again, is now aware of who healed him. He tells the religious leadership that it was Jesus. The religious leaders, scrupulous as they are about Sabbath and purity codes, find Jesus the social justice healing practitioner, and tell him He violated the Sabbath. They want now to kill Jesus.

Questions emerge for us from these encounters. Two weeks ago I mentioned, two incidents to compare, the wedding at Cana of Galilee, followed by Jesus driving out the money changers at the Temple who had lost sight of the purpose of a house of prayer. Then came Nicodemus who makes a no faith step, a religious leader, trained a Pharisee but who seems unwilling to believe. This episode was followed by the Samaritan woman who after her encounter with Jesus who knows all her past disappointing relationships, 5 husbands and then a 6th who was not. Now this 7th encounter with a man so different offering her water that will satisfy her thirst spiritually.

We would have thought the religious trained Pharisee above would believe – but he does not. We would have expected this assertive woman to disbelieve – yet she is changed. Meritocracy is thrown out. Grace is in order for her! Others on hearing her story also believe.

So too in the story of the royal official, not a follower of Jesus, yet believes and obeys, versus the needy recipient by the pool who Jesus heals, despite his lack of faith. The first remains amazed – grateful for the healed son. The second, no faith, no gratitude, turns Jesus in to the religious authorities who want to kill Jesus for violating the Sabbath.

These contrasting scenarios show judgement or discernment, but not condemnation! Yes, Jesus’ stories often show a sense of judgement/discernment – but not condemnation. I find that interesting because given our humanness we are likely to condemn faster than judge or discern. Do our judgements about people always have to mean condemnation?

I am reminded of authors who note these conundrums and point them out. Human beings are people, all with some level of conundrums (according to Brueggeman). So the Bible too is filled with such conundrums. I think that the above stores from the Gospel of John may help us to appreciate that things are not always as they appear.

This is especially the case with Holy Week and the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The Empire thought they were done with this threatening person who countered the Empire's failures to care. The Empire took measures of violence to control all of the rebel rousers. The unexpected surprise was the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection countered the power of death, despair, and the power of sin. The alternative Jesus way was now made available to set people free. Easter is what represents Jesus’ triumph over the grave.  Easter continues to set us free. Free from the fear of death, free from the power of sin, free from the weight of despair, and free from the fear of others who are different. Maybe this Easter we will see once again that we are free, even if we are still confined by the Coronavirus. “Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed.”

May God Easter us all once again!

Pastor Don

 

I shared the sermon briefly on the Church’s website for March 22nd, which was the 4th in the series of five. Suggested by David J. Schlafer.

 

Week 1 of Lent

John 2:1-12    “What concern is that to you and me,” Jesus to Mary.

John 2:13-22  “Take these things out of here” to the money changer.

 

Week 2 of Lent

John 3:1-17 “The wind blows where it chooses” Jesus to Nicodemus.

John 4:4-42 “If you knew the gift of God” to the Samaritan woman.

 

Week 3 of Lent

John 4:46-54 “Go, your son will live” to the Royal official.

John 5:1-18 “Stand up take your bed and walk!” to the paralytic.

 

Week 4 of Lent

John 8:1-11 “Neither do I condemn you” to the woman caught in adultery.

John 9:1-41 “I came into the world for judgment” countering the Religion authority over the man born blind

 

Week 5 of Lent

John 11:1-44 “Unbind him and let him go” raising Lazarus.

John 12:1-11 “Let her alone” the pre-burial anointing of Jesus

 

Easter Sunday

John 20:1-18,

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Acts 10:34-43

Matthew 28:1-10

 


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