Grace News March 17, 2020

From Pastor V: Plans & Resources During the COVID-19 Outbreak

What a difference a week makes!  Last week’s Grace News had not a peep about the virus pandemic bearing down on us…information was just starting to change from denial – “we have this all under control” to acceptance that this virus, while not terribly dangerous for most people will be very dangerous for some, and very difficult to control.

So it is that, following the best advice of experts in the fields of health care and epidemics, our leadership has cancelled all services and meetings of groups, large or small, beginning this past weekend.   In this way we take our part in doing all that can be done to slow down the spread of the virus; we will remain closed until it is safe to resume our normal activities.

This change will present us with both challenges and opportunities.  Regular church life is not exactly “epidemic friendly” but more like throwing gasoline on a fire!  We gather together, we hug and shake hands, we sing with full lungs sitting side by side, and we share a small meal, with some of us even sharing a cup!  It couldn’t be worse, really, except that it is: this virus hits our largest demographic, people middle-aged and older, especially hard!  It will be frustrating and sad not to meet together around word and sacrament in our beautiful and familiar place, and we will miss seeing each other and all the ways in which being together enhances our ability to worship God and proclaim the faith that we share. But this is what must be, for a time.

Yet in such a time we also have opportunities to strengthen the connections that bind us together, finding new ways to express what it means to be Grace Lutheran Church and part of the Body of Christ in the world.  With the help of some key volunteers and staff, I have already made my first try at providing an online church experience for our Grace family using video and other resources to keep us connected.  Maybe you saw it; maybe you even enjoyed it – we will try to keep improving each week!

Here are four specific items that I want you to know, this week:

1.Our website has online worship resources where you will find links to sermons, articles, devotions and videos!      

2. Please call Vicki to share your updated email address if you did not receive emails from us this weekend.

3. We are looking for volunteers to take charge of making a limited number of phone calls to check in on each other and facilitate communication with us about specific needs and concerns, illnesses and emergencies.  If you would be willing to join our staff and council in this ministry, please call Vicki at the office to volunteer, ASAP!

4. Church Offerings – you knew it was coming, right?  Maybe you were even hoping to see a reminder that, even as our patterns of meeting together have been drastically altered, our staff and congregation, our synod, and the larger church are all continuing to work, and this work stands in need of your offerings and support.  Thank you in advance for continuing your personal and family stewardship during the time of the epidemic.

Concert Postponed

N’BÖNYÉ DANCE & DRUM ENSEMBLE
Scheduled for
has been postponed

Please watch the Grace News for information on the new date

Easter Flowers

The cost is $10.00. Flower orders are due in the office Friday April 3, 2020 Plants may be picked up following the Easter Sunday (10:30 a.m.) service. Plants that are not picked up will be taken to our homebound members.

Opportunities to share plants and flowers for the fountain will be available beginning Sunday, April 19th and continuing through May 31st.
Families may buy plants and flowers to decorate the Fountain on the Sunday they choose, delivering them to church on Saturday and following Sunday services, take their plants home.  Please call the church office @ 397-2748 with questions or to sign up.

March 22, 2020 (Fourth Sunday in Lent)
John 9:38 – He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.
Stewarding your soul may mean responding as the blind man in this week’s gospel lesson. Simply open your eyes to the experience of Jesus and his amazing love and mercy.

From the Pastor’s Desk

The Lord’s Prayer and our Enemies

In last week’s Grace News, we noticed the intensity that is building through the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5, interpreting the idea of righteousness – doing God’s will – using scenarios of typical human conflict, and ending with time-honored idea of revenge. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well…”  

This idea of “turning the other cheek” is hard to understand, and we could get distracted here by diving more deeply into what it means to apply this teaching to our daily lives.  Should disciples of Jesus really not defend ourselves if someone means us to do harm?  Can we apply this teaching to our communities, or even our nation?  Is Jesus recommending that we let criminals run amok, or not have a military to defend our nation?  These are reasonable questions!  But for today, let us simply notice the difficulty of living out this “but I say to you” from Jesus.  It seems un-natural, to say the least.  Then comes the final teaching in this series.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you shall be children of your Father who is in heaven…For if you love those who love you…do not even the tax collectors do the same? …You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).  The command to love our enemies and pray for them might sound somewhat easier than turning the other cheek in a fight, or avoiding military conflict where the defense and protection of innocent life is at stake.  Love and prayer seem more like “spiritual exercise” than serving as a punching bag for my enemy!  But they are no more natural or easy to do.  Why waste any of my prayer time on an enemy?  Jesus gives the answer: because you are both children of God, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and his rain fall on the just and on the unjust.”

We are almost back to the Lord’s Prayer itself, but one other series of teachings interrupts this call to pray for our enemies…a teaching about how NOT to pray!  “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”  So begins the sixth chapter.  Jesus offers us teachings about giving alms (offerings to help the poor), praying and fasting.  All of these are spiritual exercises that can be mis-used in a public way, in order to manipulate our reputation in the eyes of others.   Yet right here, we may remember that back in chapter five, Jesus has encouraged his disciples by calling them the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world,” and called them to “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”   What’s with the confusion?  Are good works to be done in public to “give glory” to God? Or in secret, so that God will “reward you?”  Perhaps we can resolve this confusion…in next week’s segment! 
God’s peace, for peacemaking –
Pastor Verkouw

Prayer List

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