This week’s essential tool for living through a time of pandemic is ENDURANCE. I put off preaching on this essential tool for living because we naturally prefer that our life be smooth and easy, and this is a tool we need to get through hard times. Endurance is defined as: the power to withstand pain or hardships; the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions. Well we have plenty of adverse conditions in our life now and we need endurance to survive and even thrive. Where does the quality of endurance come from? And how can we get more, for ourselves and for other people who are struggling. I invite you to read and ponder Romans 5:1-5, especially v. 3 “suffering produces ENDURANCE.”
p.s. I am overjoyed to announce the birth of our 4th grandchild, Johanna June Hess, last Sunday in Fresno. She was 7 pounds 2 ounces and 19 ¾ inches. Pray for “endurance” for the parents, Nate and Elaine, and much joy and love.
One of the essential tools we definitely need for living through a time of pandemic and social protest is JOY. For it is joy that lightens our burdens and gives us the strength to keep going even when times are hard. (Endurance which we also need will be the explicit topic of an upcoming message). To hear God’s Word to us today, I invite you to prayerfully read and ponder Philippians 4:4-13, especially v. 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!”
FREEDOM is this week’s essential tool for living in a time of pandemic. We all want to be free from constraints and free to be, but in today’s text from Galatians, chapter 5, the apostle Paul makes it clear that our freedom comes with responsibility and we must always exercise our freedom in love. Remember, “For freedom Christ has set us free. . . you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants of one another.” (Galatians 5:1, 13).
PATIENCE is this week’s Essential Tool for Living in a Time of Pandemic. We are all in a time of anxious waiting and need patience. Impatience leads us to take rash actions and make unwise decisions. Someone rightly said that “Patience is not just the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Our scripture for this week is Psalm 40:1-4 and Ephesians 4:1-3. “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things are passing. God alone never changes. Patience gains all things.”
TRUTH is this week’s Essential Tool for Living in a Time of Pandemic. It is up to all of us to combat the rampant “truth decay” in our culture. You are invited to read and ponder Ephesians 4:14-25, especially v. 15 “speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way” and v. 25 “putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors.”
LOVE is this week’s Essential Tool for Living in a Time of Pandemic, to which we recently have added widespread social protest over racial injustice. In preparation you are invited to read and ponder some of the many scripture passages on the importance of love – Psalm 145:8-9, 1 John 4:7-12, Romans 13:8-10, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Following the example of Jesus, Paul, and Dr. King, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
In Romans chapter 12, vv. 9-21, the apostle Paul gives sound advice about how Christians are to conduct themselves in the world. I invite you to read this whole passage over carefully and prayerfully and then try to integrate these teachings into your current life. In my message this Sunday, I will be focusing in particular on v. 12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”We need hope to keep going in these challenging times. The good news is that we always have reasons for hope, because God in Christ is with us and for us!
This final Sunday in May marks the end of the Easter season and the transition to Ordinary Time with the celebration of Pentecost. On Pentecost we remember the pouring out of God’s Spirit on the first Christians. The Divine Spirit empowered them go out and share Jesus’ Good News with the world. The same Spirit lives in us and empowers and guides us. What more essential “tool” could there be for living in a time of Pandemic and social unrest than the Spirit of God in us and with us?
You can view my Pentecost message and a song, “Spirit” by our choir, recorded during this time of social distancing, by playing the video below.
This week I am beginning a new series called Essential Tools for Living in a Time of Pandemic. We begin with FAITH. The vital importance of faith in the Christian life is highlighted in texts such as Genesis 12:1-4; Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 11:1-16, Matthew 17:20, and Jeremiah 17:7-8. But what is faith? How can we grow in faith? What difference does faith make in our lives? How does faith guide our actions in times such as these? Faith is our living connection to God. Richard Rohr says that “God’s life and love flow into you as soon as you are ready to allow it. That is the core meaning of faith—to dare to trust that God could, will, and does have eternal compassion toward you.” Think about that!
In the coming weeks we will be exploring together other essential tools for living in these challenging and uncertain times: Spirit, hope, love, patience, understanding, and freedom. I have trust that God will grant us what we need for the living of these days.
My text for this Sunday’s message is one of my favorite psalms, Ps. 103. This psalm is overflowing with good news which we desperately need to hear, especially during these hard times. The psalmist powerfully proclaims the steadfast love, mercy, and care of God for all. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all God’s benefits.”