From Pastor Verkouw: Updates from the Office
Here we are, in the second week of this gradually increasing quarantine. It is quiet, as if the world is praying for mercy from what we know is coming. Without hospital traffic, it would be even quieter. Hopefully you have had a chance to connect with church through the windows of our web site. Let me share some news from campus:
· Last Thursday, the renovation was still full steam ahead! The excavator managed to demolish the driveway entrance and sidewalk in both directions so that preparations for our new, wider entrance and drop-off area can begin.
· Here’s a picture of what it looks like now—the fence extends from the church front steps to the middle of the office!
· But then…Thursday evening, Governor Wolf announced that construction was no longer an essential industry and the project has been suspended. Our contractor, CH&E, laid off all their employees as of Friday. Some hoped that when we are able to return for worship, the renovations would be complete. But that would not be safe for workers or for the general good. We must all help to flatten the curve!
· One of the results: the expanded safety fence blocks the office door. We must now enter from the basement (Stafford Room) entrance, and the parking lot is only accessible from the Christian Street alley entrance. We are holding mail delivery for pick-up at the PO Annex. If you wish to drop something off, please use the mail slot at the parsonage front door! Better yet, mail it to the parsonage: 21 East James Street, Lancaster, PA 17602. Notice the zip code is not 17603 like the church! Mail to the church address still be received, but probably delayed. Thanks to everyone who has been mailing in offerings!
· Online giving to support our ongoing ministry is easy to use on our website
. I will write more about finances once more is known in a week or so. At this point, we have no idea what to expect from our collective effort to support our expenses. I and our leaders completely understand that everyone’s financial well-being is now being affected in some way, and none of us knows the ultimate duration or outcome of what we are now just beginning. A small team of financial helpers will be in to count and deposit your mailed offerings later this week. Again, THANK YOU! Meanwhile, we are making contingency plans to keep Grace as financially healthy as possible during this time, limiting all possible expenses. The boilers are off! But your Grace staff is continuing to work, full and part time through March. The wider church and other related organizations, the larger church, the Longeneckers, the Wed. community meal, all depend on our gifts, tithes, and offerings.
· We continue to update our database with your email addresses and corrections – if you have not received emails from the church over this past week, please call or email Vicki (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share new information. If you think you SHOULD be receiving emails and you have not, please check your spam or filter settings to allow emails from Grace Lutheran Church.
· New resources are posted on our website all the time. Hit the purple button and explore! We love you all and miss you. When we get back together, we plan to celebrate Easter—whenever that will be!
Reach Out While Staying Home
I hope you are staying home if you are able too. It’s important that we flatten the curve. Many of you are probably looking for ways to fill your days. This is a perfect opportunity to learn a new hobby. Perhaps, you want to take up knitting or crocheting? If you don’t know where to begin there are plenty of video tutorials on YouTube. You might be asking yourself, if I take up one of these hobbies what will I make? I have good news for you – Grace currently has some outreach projects that are in need of handmade items.
- We are collecting baby gear for the Centering Pregnancy Class at Southeast Health Services. We need baby sweaters/vests, blankets, etc. Please note at this time we do not need more individual hats. Hats as part of a set are acceptable.
- We are collecting rectangular dish clothes for our community cookout in September and for the welcome bags that visitors to our congregation receive. Please make sure that you are using 100% cotton for these items.
Email Angie, email@example.com if you have questions or need patterns.
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.
March 29, 2020 (Fifth Sunday in Lent)
Romans 8:6 – To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Sometimes stewarding the soul is as simple as “setting your mind on the Spirit,” leaning into our faith and taking steps toward life and peace.
The Address of the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father in Heaven
In last week’s Grace News segment, we ended by noticing two things. First, early in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches disciples to “Let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) But after teaching disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44), a further instruction begins with a word that in Greek sounds very similar to “pray.” It is the word “Beware.” As in “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.” (Matt. 6:1) He goes on to single out giving offerings for the poor, prayer and fasting as good works that should be done “in secret.” How to understand the apparent contradiction?
Included in the Beattitudes at the beginning of chapter 5, there are three good works that Jesus blesses that seem to apply to situations of human conflict: meekness or gentleness (vs. 5), mercy (vs. 7), and peacemaking (vs. 9). Such good works are not easily manipulated or offered in pretense. They are part of a way of life that seeks to make peace with our enemies, a way of life that sees everyone as included in the family as children of God. When such works are accomplished, everyone benefits, not just the individual doing them. But works of prayer, fasting and giving offerings in a public way might be done simply, “in order to be seen by others,” but not to give glory to God by bringing any real righteousness to light. So we are to share, pray, fast, but also beware -what are our motives?
Let’s pull back now and see the big picture of this extended introduction to the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus has been weaving various strands of righteousness together, including meekness (gentleness), mercy (forgiveness), and peacemaking from the Beattitudes. He then weaves these good works together with several intensifying scenarios of human conflict – disagreement, adultery, divorce, and revenge, including the command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Finally, he weaves a third braid: sharing, prayer and fasting with a warning :“Beware” the temptation of doing these things simply to make yourself look good in the eyes of others.
It is here, then, in the midst of his teaching about prayer, that Jesus introduces the Lord’s Prayer with these words: “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then, like this.” (Matt. 6:7-9) Here is a very interesting thing! Just before offering his exemplary prayer, Jesus very clearly says what it is NOT to be about. Prayer should not be a long list of many words about what we think we need. Why? Because our Father already knows our needs. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew does not seem to be offered as a general prayer that sums up all the possible needs we may have. What is it, then? It is a prayer to “Our Father.” Who, besides the pray-er, is included in the word “Our?”
When the Lord’s prayer is understood as a basic general prayer, such as it is presented in Luke’s gospel, the “Our” might include such groups as: all of us praying together right now, or, all of us who believe in God, or, all Christians in every time and place. But in the Sermon on the Mount, it seems like Jesus is trying to be much more specific. What if the “Our” Father is a prayer to God about just two of us…me…and my enemy? We will take up this startling thought next week!
God’s peace, for peacemaking,
From the Program Director’s Desk
Here’s an article from Living Lutheran that I really enjoyed!