The Wednesday Post – 3/25/20

3/25/20

            My life changed dramatically 10 days ago.

            It really feels like it was much longer ago than that.  But I checked.  It was only 10 days.

            I talked to my two daughters who both live in Colorado (that’s a long story.)  It was a Sunday.  My wife and I usually go out to lunch after worship, and so we did on 3/15.  We really didn’t think much of it.  But talking to my children changed my mind about what was then the COVID-19 “outbreak”.

            We haven’t been out to eat since. 

            Nor have we worshiped with our community of faith.

            We are staying put, avoiding all social interaction, trying to “stay in place” as best we can.

            Some of the messages we are receiving are mixed in their information.  But one thing is very clear, the less we interact with other people, the lower our individual likelihood is of contracting the virus.  But, more importantly, the less likely we will, in any way, contribute to the spread of the virus.  And that is the most important thing anyone can do.

            It appears that people can be infected and not know it.

            That is one of the most dangerous aspects of this now Pandemic.

            One scientist indicated that the majority of infections come from personal interactions.  Not just passing on the street, or in the grocery store, but more continuous interactions with other people. 

            This is especially difficult for families.  There is a desire to visit and “check-up” on loved ones.  Yet that is exactly what could possibly cause the infection to spread.  Families with loved ones are not permitted in hospitals or nursing homes or any places where care is provided.  Seniors are most at risk. 

            Over-caution, at this point, seems far more reasonable than not being cautious.  It makes it very difficult for people who are relying on the weekly salary to pay the bills and buy food.  Some of us are able to do the work we are being paid for while we stay at home.  Fortunately for me, my office is in the parsonage.  I am actually used to working this way.

            Many are not able to do that, so they are faced with the prospect of interacting with people who may be infected, or stop working.

            I would ask people who may be retired or may be able to work from home and not be financially affected by the stay-at-home order to consider giving some funds to the Asbury UMC Community Fund.  These are funds the church uses to assist people in very difficult financial circumstances.

            We will get through this.  I have hope and faith in our community and in God.  Let us be mindful of those less fortunate than us and think about, and do something about helping them in this “strange new world.”

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 3/18/20

3/18/20

            This morning I posted an announcement about the cancellation of worship at Asbury UMC in EHT.  I mentioned how things have changed in just a few days. 

            I still fell that way.  And I am surprised how this change, severely limiting social interaction is affecting me.

            My normal routine is to start Monday out, after devotions, to find Scripture for the next Sunday.  I do take delight in doing what is called exegesis, looking at the text from a variety of perspectives and seeing if I can find something new, a different way of looking at something.  Most of the time I succeed in finding something like that.  And then I have fun.  I “chew” over the ideas I have read, thing about them, even pray about them, and then arrive at something that I can use as a focus of my message.

            Then I write the message.  Then comes more fun.  I have to find a Psalm that I try to turn into a call to worship that would fit the theme I found in my research.  Then I write an opening prayer based on that same theme.  And eventually I have to pick out up to 6 hymns or songs, or maybe 7 if I am doing some Special Music, that also fit into that over-all theme. 

            Last Monday I did the exegesis.  Yesterday I wrote the sermon. 

            And then I realized that is all I needed to do.

            That is when I realized just how much I enjoy putting the bulletin together.  Not necessarily actually typing it up, but deciding about all the elements.  What will I talk to the kids about?  All that is missing this week, because there is no worship.

            OK, you might think I am a little bit off-the-wall.  Why do I even need a sermon?  The answer is simple; I am preaching on Sunday, yes, to an empty church.  But I will still preach because we can record the audio which will be available, as all of my other sermons are, on our Web site; www.asburyineht.com

            So, I have not lost my mind entirely.  At least yet!

            For me, this is a big change.  Not doing something that I love to do and has been a part of my routine for nearly 10 years. 

            I understand that others of you are experiencing much larger changes.  I think of all the restaurant and bar workers who are now without a job.  No income, and no real or obvious way to supplement that income.  With almost no notice.

            These are the people in need.  These are the people who really do need that check from the Federal Government, whenever it arrives.  Is there something we can do for them?

            Are there other people in need, that weren’t in need last week?

            What are their needs, and what can we do for them?

            It is a challenging time for all of us, but much more challenging for some than others.  As people of the “light”, (listen to the message on Sunday for more on that), what can we do to give aid and comfort to those who suddenly find their lives turned upside down?

Blessings Pastor Peter

The Wednesday Post – 3/12/20

3/12/20

            OK, yes, I know.  It isn’t Wednesday, it’s Thursday.  But the name of the post is Wednesday Post, even if I miss posting on Wednesday and have to post it on Thursday!

            Right now, a day can make a difference.  Between yesterday morning and this morning, the effect of the Corona Virus has affected many gatherings.  I am part of a team that is putting together a week-long retreat called an Academy for Spiritual Formation 5-Day retreat.  It was scheduled for the week of Sunday, April 19th in Charleston, WV.  I say “was” because yesterday afternoon, after consulting with the people who run the Academy, we all decided it was best to postpone the retreat.

            Many such gatherings, especially when people from different regions of the country are planning on gathering together, are being cancelled or postponed.  And last evening I heard the news that President Trump has banned all travel from Europe into the U.S. 

            Finally, yesterday, the World Health Organization determined that this virus is now a pandemic, that is, it will affect all continents in the world. 

            A friend of mine’s son was planning on traveling to Germany in a couple of weeks with his fiancée.  When she told her supervisor at her law firm where she was going, and when, the supervisor suggested she think twice.  The firm had just established a guideline that restricted international travel.  Well, now the decision has been made for her.

            Things are getting a bit scary.

            I went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and got some tips.  First, the virus can spread from people to people, but only by “respiratory droplets” that are emitted when the infected person coughs or sneezes.  They suggest some simple measures to help prevent infection.

            Wash your hands!

            That is the primary action we can all take.  And make sure you wash for at least 20 seconds.  Someone said we should sing “Happy Birthday” twice. 

            We should also not touch our faces, eyes or noses with unwashed hands if there was any possibility of touching an area where someone else has sneezed.

            Finally the CDC recommends staying away from people who appear to be sick.

            These are pretty simple actions that we should probably always employ. 

            Finally, if you or any member of your family is sick, especially with any respiratory symptoms, stay home.  Don’t go out at all and get checked by a doctor.

            These are scary times, but we don’t have to act scared.  We can do simple things to make sure we can remain safe, and healthy.

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 3/4/20

3/4/20

            Is it Spring yet???

            Today really doesn’t feel like Winter. 

            Some people would say that it is Spring… almost.  I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised it feels almost like Spring.  After all, Punxsutawney Phil did forecast and early Spring back on Groundhog’s day.

Actually, Spring will be here two weeks from tomorrow, Thursday March 19th.  When I was out walking the dog this afternoon I took two pictures of crocuses blooming is great clusters.  And they are usually a sign of Spring.  So are robins, but they are tending to stay around throughout the entire winter, so they really aren’t such a good forecast of Spring.

Why do we enjoy Spring so much?

Maybe because things seem “dead” in Winter.  In Spring, things come back to life.  Which is why northern Europeans a millennia ago brought greens inside.  They wanted to remember what green trees looked like, and hoped that the Winter would eventually end, and Spring would return.  Maybe some of us have a bit of their DNA in us.

Spring brings new life.  For most of us, we only see it when we are driving around, and probably being thankful that we really dodged a bullet with snow last winter!!  But, maybe it also ought to be a time to sit back and recognize just how blessed we really are.

Life has struggles for nearly all of us, more difficult for some than others.  With new life forming and our hearts rising along with the temperature, shouldn’t we take pause and understand just how blessed we really are?  And then, maybe, even do something about that sense.  If we feel blessed, how can we bless someone else?

Yes, I always seem to return to that idea.  The notion that we really shouldn’t be all out for #1 all the time.  Sometimes it really is wonderful to go for second place, and put someone else ahead of us.

Try it.  You might just get to enjoy it.  And be further blessed when you do.

Asbury UMC is in charge of the weekly Feeding of the Homeless in Atlantic City on Saturday, March 7th.  I want to invite you to join us.  Set-up starts about 9:30 at Asbury UMC in AC, 1213 Pacific Ave.  We feed the folks from 11:00 to 1:00 and then clean-up ‘til about 1:30 or so.

            My e-mail is pastorpeter@asburyineht.com

Blessings Pastor Peter

The Wednesday Post – 2/26/20

2/26/20

            Today is Ash Wednesday.  A day that some people have on their hearts, and most people are a little confused when they hear the name, because it really doesn’t make much sense to them.

            Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the season just before Easter.  That is something most of us have heard about.  And maybe many of us also are familiar with Mardi Gras, you know, the big party in New Orleans around this time.  Mardi Gras means “big” or “fat” Tuesday in French.  Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday.  Usually, people give up something for Lent, they “fast”.  So the idea was to have a big party and stuff yourself the day before.  And the tradition is that Mardi Gras is finished at Midnight.  Why?  Because it isn’t Mardi (or Tuesday) any more.

            So there are traditions behind this season, but most of us really don’t get into the “spirit” of Lent and Ash Wednesday.

            Why ashes??  One thing the Hebrews did for centuries is use ashes as a symbol of repentance, of looking at themselves and thinking about how to maybe do better.  It was also a sign of mourning, serious mourning.  Maybe mourning how we don’t really help each other, how we don’t often care for people who could use a helping hand.

            The prophet Isaiah has some words about how the Hebrews fasted back around the 6th or 5th Century B.C.  He said that they did it more for “show” than truly looking at themselves and realizing they needed to change.

            And, in some ways, that is what has happened with Ash Wednesday, and Lent.  People give something up.  But often times it is something they like, maybe chocolate or ice cream.  So, they give it up for 40 days, or try to.  But that really doesn’t make them look at themselves, look at how they live and make them wonder if they couldn’t maybe do a better job.  Giving up something for Lent like that really misses the point.

            Maybe, instead of giving up something, we can re-orient ourselves, and give some of our time to something worthwhile.  Something that just might actually help someone else.

            Asbury UMC is leading the Feeding of the Homeless in Atlantic City on Saturday, March 7th.  Maybe you would like to give up a little of your time to help someone else.  We are also involved in the “Yes We Can!” effort to pack up 500,000 meals in one day.  That will take some of your time too.

            Think about it.  Giving up something that is precious, but can be given to help others is really the idea behind Lent and “giving something up”.

            Want more info, go to www.asburyineht.com

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 2/19/20

2/19/20

            I’m on vacation.  We went out to the Denver area where two of my daughters and their families live.  I got to visit with most of my grandchildren, two granddaughters and one grandson.  My other grandson lives in the St Louis, MO area.

            The visit was great.  But we spent most of the time watching hockey.  No, not on TV, live.

            My granddaughter is on what is called a “16U” girls ice hockey team.  The 16U means that team members are age 16 or under.  She was playing in a tournament with other girl’s hockey teams in different age groups.  The teams came from all over the western US; Southern California, Wyoming, New Mexico.  The great thing was that the tournament was being played about 5 minutes from my daughter’s house.  So we watched games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  She actually played in 5 games.  Missed one on Sunday morning, because we were in church!

            In the first game, my granddaughter got a “Hat-Trick”, which in hockey parlance means she scored 3 goals in one game.  They eventually won two games and tied a third, and made the play-offs to determine the best team in each category.  Unfortunately, there aren’t very many 16U teams in the west, so they ended up playing mostly 19U teams.  And, yes, they were much bigger.  They ended up in the final game, which was tied, went into overtime and eventually the other team won the championship.

            From Friday to Monday, hockey ruled the days.

            And that has become an issue for some of the extended family living in the area.  A friend told me that some of his friends have grandchildren in this kind of a hockey group.  The grandparents only see the kids at hockey games.  I can see how that happens.  I know that if I lived in the Denver area, I wouldn’t make every game they would play in the area.  And most of the time they are out of town; Chicago, Southern California, and other spots in the West. 

            Because I was there, and attended games, the extended family joined us.  And we all realized that while the kids are so involved in hockey that they literally have no time for anything else, the alternative – to pull the kids out of hockey – makes no sense either.  Their mom realizes just how tied up they are, but also realizes there isn’t anything that can be done about it now.

            So, some of the family are just going to have to become hockey fanatics.  Honestly, that is something that I could easily get hooked into. 

            Sometimes when we see something from someone else’s perspective, we get a whole different picture.  It may not change how we see things, but maybe, in some ways, it could.  And maybe it should.

Blessings

Pastor Peter  

The Wednesday Post – 2/12/20

2/12/20

            Funny how some things hit you in unexpected ways!

            Last year we were going through some old family pictures and my wife pulled out a framed picture of my parents as they were walking down the isle of the church just after they were married.  For some reason, I decided to put it on my night stand.  Now I get to see my parents with my mother on my father’s arm.  Dad beaming with joy and Mom looking down, I guess trying to make sure she didn’t trip!

            It made me think of a similar picture of Lori Jo and I getting to the end of the church as we exited after our wedding.  We were dancing out, because we started dancing at the bottom of the chancel stairs.  That was out plan.

            Of course, my parents would never have danced out of the church.  They were married in 1940.  Dancing out of the church would have been considered gauche!  People just didn’t do that kind of thing back then.

            The picture reminds me of my mother.  I must admit, I don’t think about her every day.  I know that in most months I don’t think about her, and possibly some years where I didn’t think about her.  She passed away a little over 48 years ago.

            I was 22.

            I know friends and people in the churches I serve or served have to face issues with their parents.  Sometimes those issues can be very emotionally draining.  Can Mom or Dad really take care of themselves?  What happens if they end up living alone?  What should we do?

            Serious questions.  Yet, for someone like me, I think those people are blessed because their parent, or parents, are still around.  They can still talk to Mom or Dad.  Maybe even find out something interesting about the family.  Something that when we were in our 20s we could have cared less about.

            We are blessed in so many ways.  Sometimes it takes some effort just to see some of those simple blessings!

            Asbury UMC is in charge of the weekly Feeding of the Homeless in Atlantic City on Saturday, March 7th.  I want to invite you to join us.  Set-up starts about 9:30 at Asbury UMC in AC, 1213 Pacific Ave.  We feed the folks from 11:00 to 1:00 and then clean-up ‘til about 1:30 or so.

            My e-mail is pastorpeter@asburyineht.com

Blessings and Thanks!!

Pastor Peter