Pastor John's Daily Briefing-5/26 and 5/27/2020

Pastor John's Daily Briefing-5/26 and 5/27/2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,


As we continue through the COVID-19 viral pandemic, and with the relaxing of some of the stay-at-home measures of safety precautions, it might be a good time to reflect upon our calling to be the church and followers of Jesus. That is, how are we to engage in discipleship in times of heightened anxiety and uncertainty? Certainly, we should not be throwing all caution into the wind, acting carelessly and, maybe, foolishly, for the life we have been given is cherished by God and is to be lived faithfully and in accordance with God's promised will. In such times, we have come to know that life is sacred and fragile. As the Bible instructs, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.


Jesus counsels in Matthew 6:33- "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." In Christ Jesus, God's eternal reign and purpose comes to us full of promise and hope in the direction of peace and love. But Jesus warns that the "striving" we are called to will be challenging and, at times, quite difficult. Jesus indicates that we are to "enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).


The way of Christian discipleship is paved with both promise and warning; we are to keep our focus on the promise as we are to be aware of possible pitfalls. The kingdom of God has come to us in Christ Jesus and we are invited to experience this with Jesus in our walk with him; yet there will always be those worldly offerings that may tempt us to get off his path: storing up earthly treasures (Mt. 6:19); acting hypocritically (Mt. 6:5, 16); engaging in false judgments of others (Mt. 7:1).


The challenges we face as disciples of Jesus will come from within and from outside of us. We are to always engage others in our discipleship with the assurance that "the kingdom of God has come near.' That said, we are also to understand that Jesus sends us out as "sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Mt. 10:16).Promise and warning travel together, but always in Jesus' presence and his relationship with the Father: "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven..." (Mt. 10:32).


As difficult and challenging as we find some times and situations, in Jesus we always have One who is with us step-by-step, empowering us with faith and hope. In him we become a welcoming presence of love and forgiveness, of childlike humility and the power to seek the lost. prepared for a future of God's eternal promise. Disciples caring for and helping "the least of these" as if we were do this to Jesus himself (Mt. 25:34-40).


Share God's peace, love one another as Jesus loves, and be safe.   Pastor John




Grace and peace to all our Sisters and Brothers in Christ,


Assurances aren't always easy things to come by. Definite outcomes aren't always a sure thing. Assurances regarding a future of good health, adequate provisions, a sound economy, strong relational systems of support often are undetermined in the present. It is somewhat natural for us to seek assurances through the cycle of life, but as we have experienced months into this viral pandemic, assurances are few and come with a cost amidst much uncertainty. It is also commonplace to want to return to the "old" normal with predictive assurances in place, for it offers a relative amount of security and a way of routine. Disruptions flare with anxiety and unease, and not a few of us desperately seek relief from such disruptions, sometimes finding "comfort" in the blaming of others or even engaging in more disruptive practices; truth be told, none of us really likes to be in situations of unease and uncertainty. Thus, we sometimes seek immediate solutions rather than preparing for a "good" path to a "good" outcome.


As Christians we are called to call upon the guidance and direction of God in and through Christ Jesus, crucified and risen, particularly in times which we are now experiencing. We look to the crucified Jesus who himself has experienced "life" in the shadows of disturbance, disruption, and disease, staying obedient to the faith and mission given to him by our Holy Father. And we look to the risen Christ who overcame death on the cross, and "assures" us of his continuing presence with us, through thick and thin.


In Galatians 2:19-20, the Apostle Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me." Here, Paul is not only referring to himself but for all of us in the assurance that the crucified and risen Christ is with us, and that we, too, have been crucified to the disruptive and destructive ways that are alien to God's will and contrary to the gift of faith. Paul added in 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." We do this by not relying on ourselves apart from God which can further discord and disruption but by being guided by the Spirit of the risen Christ. As such, Paul stated that we will therefore not be "competing against each other, envying one another" (5:26).


Now more than ever, may we become aware of Christ's continuing presence with us; that in all the challenges we face and the uncertainties before us, we are "assured" that God's will proceeds and is actualized in the presence of the crucified and risen Jesus today into all the tomorrows. God's assurance in Christ, the way above all earthly discord, disruption, and desire, the way of life and life everlasting.


Keep the faith and stay safe.  Pastor John