The Wednesday Post – 6/3/20

6/3/20

            The wide-spread protests against police brutality remind me, in some ways, of the riots of the middle 1960s, which would include the riots in Watts section of Los Angeles.  That neighborhood never really recovered, even to this day.  Fortunately, many current protests are not as violent, and tend to consist of people of a variety of races and ethnic roots.  A former President of the United States, a Republican and a conservative voiced his dismay concerning the incident and the deeper roots of similar incidents scattered across our nation.  The response has been overwhelming, and focused on one specific action by one specific police officer.  What I have not seen in any of the coverage over this situation is any kind of a sense of sorrow or regret for what happened.

            It seems that in our society today, no matter how much we mess up, no matter how blatant an action is, no one will accept responsibility.  What we seem to do is to create a justification instead of an explanation.

            One of my jobs in the corporate world before I went into the ministry was with a large publishing firm.  The division I worked for built and maintained computer-based programs that enabled another division to put together a huge publication used by travel agents.  The book was big and complex and so was the software designed to publish it.  And my group was in charge of the software.  My client wasn’t happy with some upgrades.  The CEO of that division called my CEO and complained.  So, my CEO called me into his office and proceeded to lambast me for creating such poor software.  Instead of trying to defend myself, I took an approach that agreed with my boss.  I said something like “if I had heard from our client what you heard, I would be as mad as you are.”  He stopped, looked at me and realized that maybe there was another perspective.  After about an hour of explanations about how the client had expected things they never asked for, he had another conversation with his counterpart.

            I didn’t try to defend myself.  There was no point.  My boss was justifiably upset.  But he had only heard one side of the story. 

            When things blow up, and people get defensive and try to justify something that, in the light of day, is truly unjustifiable, we end up hurting not only the small group involved, but the entire group of which the individuals are only a small minority.

            A friend of mine recently retired from the Bergen County Police Department.  He is pretty conservative.  But he lamented the fact that one policeman has sparked such outrage against, what at times seems to be all other policemen. 

            For me, that is the most unfortunate part.  It is pretty clear that this single person was in the wrong.  Yet people seem bent on trying to defend him.  He deserves a fair trial, which may be very difficult to provide.   Then he can defend himself in any way he sees fit. 

            It is when we seek to defend the actions of people who seem to have committed indefensible actions that we need to step back and realize that there may be another perspective. At the moment, we need to focus on insuring justice.  When the path to justice seems to have roadblocks put up by the very people charged with insuring justice, the necessary trust in our legal system breaks down.

            Let us pray for our country, our legal system, for those charged with upholding the legal system, and most of all, let us pray for “justice for all”.   

            I will be writing the Wednesday Post after I leave as the Pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in EHT.  After July, I will no longer post these on the Asbury UMC Facebook Page, but will post them on my blog: https://thewednesdaypost939095248.wordpress.com/

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 5/20/20

5/20/20

            I have a friend who is going through a difficult time in their life and they said to me at one point, “No matter what I do, it seems to always be the wrong thing.  I never know what the best action is for me in any situation.”

            I think we all can share that perspective a bit.   OK we are supposed to wear masks.  It makes sense.  If someone actually has the virus, and doesn’t know it using a mask will definitely cut down transmission.  That is true.  And if we wash our hands (often??) that helps too.

            But how often is “often”?  Do we wear masks as we drive in our car, with the windows shut?  Should we don a mask if we open the windows?

            I normally don’t wear a mask until I arrive at Shoprite or maybe Walgreens, if I need to go inside.  Is that being too “blasé”?

            In the end, we don’t really know, so for most of us, it makes sense to err on the side of caution, and always wear the mask whenever we enter any space where other people might be.  For me, that still doesn’t include walking my dog around the neighborhood.

            Yet, other folks don’t treat the mask issue with the same urgency.  Standing on line to enter Ace Hardware (only 5 customers permitted in the store at a time) one lady ahead of me had her mask on, but not covering either her nose or mouth.  In the end, probably not a real issue, but it made me think.

            Our leaders on the town, county, state and federal level have many decisions to make that aren’t so easy.  There is a tension.  On one hand, we need to keep people safe, so keeping the social distancing in force, and the stay-at-home order in force makes perfect sense.  Except, for the economic consequences.  Opening some things up would ease the economic downside, but then will likely expose higher numbers of people to the virus, resulting in additional deaths.

            Very tough decisions.  And, in some way, there really isn’t a correct, or right decision.  Any expert will likely admit that all of their expectations involve guesswork.  We really don’t know what will happen if we do something, or if we don’t do something. 

            Our Bishop has stated that even if the Governor of New Jersey lifts the ban on gatherings, he may not lift his recommendation about avoiding gatherings.  He has stated that he doesn’t want any action of any United Methodist Church in our Conference to result in the exposure of any person to the virus. 

            No matter what decisions are made, they will affect people’s lives.  Let us continue to pray for all of our leaders during this very difficult time.  And may they be guided by the love and grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

            I will be writing the Wednesday Post after I leave as the Pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in EHT.  After July, I will no longer post these on the Asbury UMC Facebook Page, but will post them on my blog: https://thewednesdaypost939095248.wordpress.com/

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post

5/13/20

            My wife, Lori Jo, just returned from the Asbury UMC Cemetery where she banded five week-old bluebirds in one of our two bluebird houses.  I think she may put a picture of one banded bird in our weekly newsletter.  The birth of 5 bluebirds reminds me that life seems to be going on all around us.  The bluebirds don’t seem to recognize what is happening to their human neighbors. 

            In the past month, at least three people I know pretty well (most of them pastors) have gotten married.  Their choice was to wait until this whole COVID-19 passed into history, and then put on a big celebration, or get married with only a few people (less than 10!!) present.  All of them chose to get married during the pandemic.  And who can blame them? 

            And, yes, there are people passing on.  Around here, the ones I know of were not related to COVID-19.  They may have been unable to be with their loved ones if they were in a hospital or a nursing home. 

            A couple of people are struggling with their relationships, some are struggling mightily.

            Life goes on.  Even during a Pandemic.

            I think, for the most part, that is the good news.

            Life does go on.

            And our lives go on.  Our Church goes on, and our mission, to be the light of Christ in the world, needs to go on.

            Maybe not in exactly the same way, but it needs to go on.

            We can’t go over to Atlantic City and feed the homeless.  But we can donate to the Food Bank, and we can pray for them.  We can pray for those on the front lines in this “war” with a deadly virus. 

            One thing I miss is praying as a community.

            I miss lifting up those on our hearts, I miss hearing the stories of when we saw God, but mostly I miss communal prayer with all of you.  I have seen some of my colleagues going on line and praying.  For me, that is a little strange because if I post something like that on Facebook, I really don’t know when anyone will see it.

            This Wednesday Post will be available by 5:30 on Wednesday, May 13th.  But, some folks don’t have access to the digital version, and so will get the print version later, sometime towards the end of the week.

            I would like to try and set up a “meeting”, a time when we can connect digitally, or just on the phone, so we can all hear each other and communicate with each other, just to pray.  I will try to start our prayer time this Sunday afternoon.

            Look for the announcement.  I will call everyone who can’t connect digitally

                        And, yes, this thought came to me as I wrote this post.  Thanks God.

Blessings Pastor Peter

The Wednesday Post – 5/6/20

5/6/20

            It is May, but it really doesn’t feel a whole lot different than April, or even March.  I am longing for days in the mid 70’s and nights in the upper 50’s.  Maybe we will have a few before we get into deep Summer!

            This social distancing and staying home hasn’t affected me as much as it has others.  I realize that because I work out of my home, my parsonage, that what I do has changed quite a bit, but where I do it really hasn’t.  I talked to my daughter who has two teenagers.  She and her husband are working out of the house, and the kids are doing “distance learning” out in Colorado.  The school administration just announced that “regular” school will not resume until September (their last day is scheduled for the end of May).  They are struggling because they simply aren’t used to trying to do work individually all in the same house, at the same time.

            Lori Jo is still going over to Zion to work in the office, so our routine really hasn’t changed.  But I do miss interacting with the people of Asbury UMC, both Sunday worship and even the meetings that occasionally happened, with Trustees, Council and PPR. 

            I realize I do miss the interaction, especially when I preach.  Jim Baker who gave the message on 4/26 said it was strange for him to stand in the pulpit and look out and only see three people.  It is very different.  But what I think I miss most is the greeting.  I normally walk around and interact with just about everyone.  There is the “Larry hand-bump”, a few hugs, interrupting EJ’s gaming, saying good morning to everyone and the importance of passing the peace.  Wishing peace and grace to each person there is a wonderful gift that God gives me.  And I miss that gift of fellowship and the exchange of well wishes.

            Many years ago I was in sales, I sold items to libraries.  At the end of the quarter, and especially the end of the year, when I was living alone, I would go for an entire week working out of my home office, never interacting with another human being.  Towards the end of one of those weeks, I actually went out to a convenience store and bought a cup of coffee.  I didn’t need the coffee, I had some at home.  I went to the store just to experience a brief interaction with another person.

            We will get back to than more “normal” kind of life, but there is the continuing tension between needing to stay safe and healthy, and getting the economy moving, at least a little more than it is.  I continue to remain on the side of safety, but am very concerned about people who have been out of work for 6 or 7 weeks, and counting!

            If you are someone who has been severely impacted by the stay-at-home order, let us know.  We can help, to some extent.  If you haven’t been seriously impacted, I want to encourage you to consider taking a portion of the stimulus money you have, or will, receive and donate some of it, or maybe all of it, to people in need.  Asbury has a Community Needs Fund and we continue to provide funds to the local Food Bank. 

            Caring for others, especially in a time of uncertainty, is what Jesus calls us to do.

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 4/29/20

4/29/20

            This week I am on vacation.  I wasn’t going to take a vacation because of what is going on in the country, and the need to keep up with “virtual” worship.  But my Spiritual Director urged me to take the time off.  I realized that I am working just as hard, but just in different ways.  So Lori Jo and I put together a newsletter for this week, and we pre-recorded the worship service, and got Jim Baker to deliver the message.  Didn’t he do a great job??!!

            So… even taking a week off during this Pandemic is different.

            Of course, you may ask, where would we go on “vacation”!  For us, it is a kind of “stay-cation”, but we did have to drive nearly three hours to “stay” at our other home.  We are in Harmony, Warren County, NJ.  We had planned on doing some “fun” things this week.  But all State Parks are closed.  So is a recreational facility connected to the Merrill Creek Reservoir.  So, there was no place for us to go for a hike.  And the weather…. Let me tell you about the pretty lousy weather we had this week.  Lots of rain, and lots of cooler, or even cold, temperatures.  Not very inviting.  So, we ended up working on our house.  And there is, unfortunately, still lots of stuff to do.  Plus, the “regular” stuff, like mowing the acre of grass we have.  I have never been so cold mowing the lawn!!

            In between all that, we took a drive across the river, (the Delaware River is the western border of our township up here.)  What beautiful country.  There aren’t a whole lot of towns, or even hamlets.  Couple of bigger towns, but otherwise the countryside is pretty much farmland.  But it really is beautiful.  We went out on a rather gray day, but even then the grass was a deep green, some of the flowering trees were just coming out, and we drove and we drove. 

            We ended up having a pretty late lunch back in NJ.  We know a place, a very small place that sells hamburgers and ice cream with maybe 6 small tables inside.  I remembered the name of the place, and found it on the Web.  I ordered a couple of cheeseburgers and fries.  We picked them up on our way home.  (They now have a Pick-up window, that I don’t remember before.)  By the time we god home, I was starved.  A bit of confession – I eat maybe one hamburger a year.  Too much saturated fat.  But that cheeseburger (even more saturated fat) was soooo good.  Yes, and so were the fries (yeh, even more fat.)

            A drive in the country and a cheeseburger with fries.  Maybe not the most exciting part of what we used to think of as a vacation.  But for us, this vacation, something very special.  Maybe, when all of this Pandemic is history, just maybe we may all have a better appreciation of the small things in life.

            I do.

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 4/22/20

4/22/20

            I was supposed to be in West Virginia doing what is called a 5-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation this week.  Then Lori Jo and I were going to take a week off, and spend time in West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.  I would have a vacation.  Of course, all of that is now canceled.  And I thought that I would need to be here every Sunday to make sure there is some sort of worship up on Facebook and Youtube. 

            Then I talked with my Spiritual Director and he urged me to take the time off anyway.  It is true, there is actually now more for me to do.  We are doing a newsletter that started after the Social Distancing began.  So, I will be taking a week off beginning the end of this week.  Which means I won’t be here on Sunday! 

            Jim Baker is filling in for me as the Preacher.  I am really happy to have Jim able to deliver a message.  It really isn’t much of a step beyond what he already does nearly every Sunday introducing the Old Testament lesson.  This gives Jim an opportunity to grow a little, and deliver a sermon for Sunday worship.  For me, it is a joy to see growth in leadership within Asbury.

            And that is what I want to concentrate on now.  Amid the anxiety, the mounting death toll in our state from the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is still joy. 

            I experienced joy when my family got together via computer to wish my 5-year-old granddaughter a Happy Birthday.  I got to see my 2-year-old grandson jumping around and rolling on the rug.  I also saw my much more “mature” almost 16-year-old granddaughter and 13-year-old grandson.  Oh, yeh, all my kids were there too!  What joy!  We should have done this years ago, but we didn’t.  It took this kind of social “lock-down” to enable us to realize what a gift we can get just by being able to see each other in real time.

            Other people seem to be finding relaxation in walking.  I have been walking my dog around my neighborhood for nearly 6 years.  Most of the time I might wave to a couple of people, and I have met the three other people who regularly walk their dogs.  In the last month I have met a bunch more people.  I am doing what I have always done, but they are out walking, either because they now work from home, or because they are no longer working.  There is always a down side.  But the up side is that I see more of my neighbors, and get to at least say “Hi” from a distance.

            Even when the clouds seem deep and dark, we can still find joy.  Maybe just in the little things.  There is joy to be found!  Go and look!

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 4/15/20

4/15/20

            People are now talking about something called the “new normal”.  That describes how our lives will probably be changed by this Pandemic. 

            There may be some businesses that do not re-open.  Some of them may not survive being closed for so many weeks.  Our social interactions may still be limited for a while.  We really don’t know what the extend of the changes will be for us. 

            There are already some things changing, and some actually for the good.  Putting our Sunday services on Facebook and Youtube have brought people to our worship who would never have been able to join us.  One of my daughters texted me from Colorado last Sunday telling me that she and her daughter were sitting down to breakfast, and were watching our worship service.

            I have been encouraging them to seek out churches, but there were always reasons that it didn’t work out.  But now, they seem to be able to join in worship and feel comfortable.  Praise God!

            We are receiving at least 120 or more “views” on Facebook and maybe another 40 or more on Youtube.  It is difficult to determine exactly how much of the video people have watched, but even if it was only for a couple of minutes, we are engaging people in worship on Sunday in a way we never have before.  And that is a good thing!!

            There is still a great deal of uncertainty.  That sense of unease will not go away very quickly, even after we see we are on the down-hill portion of the curve about new cases and deaths.  As we spend time in the uncertainty, we can be assured of something that is certain.  God is with us.

            I see God’s spirit at work when I read about churches banding together to provide pizza for hospital staff, just to tell them we really appreciate what they are doing to help with this Pandemic.  I see God at work with the desire of so many people to help in any way they can.  Difficult times often times brings out the best in people.  And I thank God for that Spirit of cooperation and support.

            Let’s keep up the good work!

Blessings

Pastor Peter