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Coronavirus Blog Day 32

The Restoration!

            Ezekiel 37:7-8 “So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.”  This is such a powerful image for us right now.  Our society is now coming back together again after a long time apart in isolation.  It is dry bone meeting dry bone and flesh, sinew and skin growing anew.  I was driving this week and it seemed strange, but I thanked God for congested traffic.  I have been driving 30 miles to the church 3 times a week and the city has been a ghost town.  The speed(ing) of the traffic has been amazing because of the lack of traffic but that is changing.  (At times I have felt like I was in a drag race.)  The dry bones are coming back together again.  Sinews and flesh are coming on them which I take to be the parking lots at malls and stores are beginning to fill up.  We are still “Not there” as it comes to the end of this, but the dry bones are stirring, and we are waiting for the “Breath”.  I will write about the breath tomorrow!

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 31

The Restoration!

                Ezekiel 37:1-6 “The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus, says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”  The image that kept coming to my mind when the “stay at home” restrictions were lifted was this dramatic passage from Ezekiel.  Life is returning to our communities and to our economy.  God is breathing life into our churches.  Right now, it is just the “rattling of the bones” we read about later in this chapter as we make plans for when and how we worship face-to-face again.   But that day is coming.  Anticipate it.  Look forward to it.  Pray for it! 

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 30

The Restoration!

            The “Stay at Home” restrictions were lifted in Arizona last Friday, so this is the 6th day of “The Restoration.”  Today is also the day we recognize as “The Ascension of the Lord”.  It is 40 days after Easter and 10 days before Pentecost.  It is the day that Jesus the Christ was restored to the “right hand of God the Father”.  It was the definitive event that firmly established in the minds of the believers the reality that Jesus was co-equal with God.  Now that Jesus’ earthly body was translated into Heaven, he gave the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God to be with believers everywhere to reestablish their relationship with God.  Pentecost was Day One of the restoration of our relationship with God through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.  Heavy theology for this Day of Ascension, so tomorrow I will talk about dry bones.  Sorry to be absent for a while, but I was on a retreat last week. 

 
 

Coronavirus Blog Day 29

Easter + 26 the 53 Day of Isolation

            In terms of disconnect, last Friday, the day after my mom fell, I put my truck in for repairs. I picked it up later in the day.  I drove it around, put 30 miles on it, picked up a takeout dinner, and said in my mind “this is the best this old truck has run in years!”   That was 5 seconds before it quit.  I managed to drift into a bus pull-out and then waited 4 hours for the tow truck.  I got to watch the sun set and the stars come out on the corner of Harrison and Broadway.  It turns out during the repair a connector was damaged and decided to disconnect itself, which left me stranded on the side of the road.

            The blessing in all of this was that my son came to wait with me for the tow truck and we got to spend 3 hours talking about life and things while we waited.  Around 9pm the tow truck got there, and Kevin took me home.  One of the things I have noticed during the last 53 days that as the world has become more disconnected, the people in the world, through various means, have become more connected.  Zoom, Facebook, email, phone calls have helped connect us more.  I have had more conversations with my children and wider family in the last 7 weeks than I have had in a long time.  Our God is the God who brings good out of bad situations.  Stay connected.  You’ll see me Sunday on Livestream and I’ll miss seeing you!! In Christ’s love.

 
 
Coronavirus Blog Day 28

Easter + 25 the 52nd Day of Isolation

            I haven’t posted in a while.  I have been disconnected.  It began about 2 weeks ago when my mom broke her remote to her lift chair.  I took an evening and did a temporary repair on a broken “connector” in the remote.  The repair did not last so my brother who is an EE engineer who has all the equipment took it and repaired it right.  So… then there was another disconnect.  When he brought it back it went to the wrong room.  So… I was trying to find out where the remote was and called my mother on the way home from church.  She wasn’t in her lift chair so when she stood up to answer my call, she fell and smashed her face against the bookshelf.  A trip by ambulance to TMC, 6 hours and 15 stitches later she was back in her apartment.  Her lift chair was fixed, but now instead of just being in lock-down in her assisted living home, she is in quarantine.  Now she can’t even leave her room for a walk in the hall and all who come to help her are in full gowns and masks.  She is now more isolated and more disconnected from everyone then before.  In her words, “I am tired of all this”!  I think we all are.  But as disconnected as we all are from each other and the world we must remember, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
 
 

Coronavirus Blog Day 27

Easter + 19 the 46th Day of Isolation – the extension!

            I thought we would be paroled by now?  If this was Lent this would be the last day, but now, after today, we have 14 more.  We can do this!  My last blog was about how everyone is experiencing this time differently.  Some are working themselves to death and others are dealing with boredom and some fear.  Well today I want to talk about money.  Yesterday we got our stimulus checks.  These are desperately needed by some and not nearly enough for others, and yet for others the money doesn’t make any real difference in their lifestyle.  My wife and I are tithers so $240 is going to our church.  I would encourage others to do the same. 

As this lockdown ends the need of those around us will be tremendous.  Our church sent 4,000 from our Easter offering to the Impact Food bank which was added to by our men’s group by 1,000.  2,000 went to our sister church in Mexico to buy food.  The needs of our communities in the next few months for the basics of food, utilities and rent is going to be tremendous.  (30 mil. Lost their jobs)!!  If you don’t need it pass it on.  If you need it all, use it all without guilt.  Tithe if you can.  Tithing has not been canceled by this pandemic.  If you scored a bundle of 30 rolls at Costco, you still owe God 3:).  And yes, we have been helping people out with TP.  But seriously if you don’t have a local church think about: The Salvation Army, Gospel Rescue mission and others, but vet them for there are a lot of scams.  Love Ya you generous people!

 

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 26

Easter + 16 the 43rd Day of Isolation

            This morning on my walk I watch a young father run by me pushing his son in a stroller.  He lapped me going around the neighborhood as I was walking, and he was running.  As he went by the 2nd time, I observed his son kicking back eating Cheerios as his father was sweating, gasping for breath and obviously pretty tired.  I have observed this same type of experience in this present crisis.  Some are running and working themselves literally to death and others are kicking back (like we are supposed too) and watching the world run by.  Some are anxiously sheltering in place and others are bored to death.  I spoke to one man who had only been to a store 3 times in 2 months and was perfectly content.

            Our experiences and remembrances of this time are going to be so different.  There are Drs. and nurses working 18 hours a day taking care of patients, and Drs. and nurses who have been laid off due to cancelation of elective surgeries.  I have seen people in stores with gloves, masks, eye protection and hoodies pulled down over them, and also parents with their kids running around with no protection at all.  Store clerks, delivery people, and other “essential workers” have had to show up risking their health and the health of their family and then there are those of us mostly working at home.

            Every person’s experience of this time is unique.  Some have lost nothing financially and others have lost their life’s work.  So, its not all boring sheltering at home, for some its great fear.  For others they are
 
grateful and unafraid to serve the public and others refuse to go in. 

            Simply I would ask you to be kind and gentle to one another knowing some are suffering deeply.  “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

           

Coronavirus Blog Day 25

Easter + 14 the 41st Day of Isolation

100 Years

            Today is April 26th, the 3rd Sunday of the Easter Season.  It is the 41st day of the stay-at-home orders.  But to me, most importantly of all it is the 100th birthday of my Dad: David F. Baum!!  Yes, 100 years ago he was born.  He died of pneumonia at 98 and 4 months less than 2 years ago.  Will we survive this?  Let’s look at some of the things my dad survived: The Great Depression, served in WWII, 6 months living off the land in the forests of PA after WWII, getting shot thru the chest at point blank range (who knew fishing could be so dangerous), hepatitis,  the polio epidemic, the flu many times, broken hip, broken arm, recessions etc. etc.  I believe if he could have kept walking, he would have been here to celebrate today.  

            I write this in honor of him, and if you like who I am when you get to heaven you can thank him.  Much of my patience, love of God, tenderness of heart, smarts I got from him (this is just a short list).  So thanks God and all my friends.  May you enjoy or honor your dad and our DAD this day!  In Christ’s love.

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 24

Easter + 13 the 40th Day of Isolation

            Did you note that?  This is the 40th day of Isolation!  Shouldn’t this all be over now?  We’ve completed our Biblical 40 days, haven’t we?  Well don’t despair the end draws near.  (Not of the planet and civilization as we know it, but of these stay-at-home orders.)  And most importantly what draws to an end with each and every passing day is this pandemic Coronavirus crisis.  It like every single one like it in the past has ended, and so will this one.  In the meantime, I found a great piece of advice from my reading in Leviticus this morning.   Lev. 19:16b “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.”  If you feel off stay home.  If you go out in close proximity to others wear a mask.  Social distance when you can.  And most of all hang in there!!  “…he who endures to the end will be saved.”  Mt. 24:13

 
 
Coronavirus Blog Day 23

Easter + 11 the 38th day of isolation

 The thought that keeps going through my mind is the same as many minds, “when is this all going to be over?!!”  Waiting is very much a part of faith.  As I said in an earlier blog it was about 700 years from the prophecies of the birth of Jesus until he was born.  He waited then 30 years to begin his mission.  He taught for 3 years how to truly love God and neighbor and now he has been gone around 2000 years and we are still waiting for the fulfillment of the coming of his Kingdom.  That’s a lot of time.  In the meantime, we can wander off as Jesus said into “the cares, the worries and the riches of this world…”  or we can use this time to serve and look for new ways of serving. 

Members of Vista Church have made hundreds and hundreds of masks many with medical grade material for the hospitals in the area.  Some of our women have gone to a virtual Bible study during this time.  My brother-in-law a retired pastor, is offering an online Bible study on Monday nights.  Our worship is lead all online.  God is doing a new thing through all of us to push and pull us into new ways of getting the Word out.  So let’s spend some of this time seeking how to do this with the new gifts God has given us.  Is. 40:30-31 “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Elective surgeries will begin again on May 1st and some of the people (like my friend) will have conditions taken care of that have left them in pain for the last 38 days!!  Pray for it!!!

 

Coronavirus Blog day 22

Easter Season + 9 the 35 day of Isolation

            This morning on my early morning walk I came across an ornery javelina!  It was broad daylight and he was sauntering down the sidewalk on one side of the street and I was on the other.  When he noticed me, he stiffened up and stood all his back hair up.  He was letting me know not to mess with him.  Javelina are not usually out at this time of day and there was something about the way he walked that said there was something wrong with this animal; so I resisted the urge to chase him on foot, which I have done with javelinas in the past. 

            I had been praying while I walked and had just finished the part of the Lord’s prayer, “but deliver us from evil” when I saw the beast.  Almost an instant answer to prayer, but note the prayer is in the plural “deliver US” from evil.  Well I followed this javelina down one side of the street with me on the other as we gave each other the evil eye.  But I looked up and coming up the street towards the Javelina was a woman and her two dogs.  She couldn’t see the javelina because of a bend in the sidewalk, so I started shouting at her to watch out.  Javelinas will tear up dogs and sometimes their owners too. The lady finally saw it and turned around and went the other way.  When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying not only for our safety, but also for those all around us in the world.  We are all God’s children (and beasts too) and at this time a good “social distancing” was good for all.  Hang in there.  This too shall pass.

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 21

Easter Season + 7 the 33rd day of Isolation

             Continuing the theme of things found in the attic, I found my old acceptance letters and scholarship offers to colleges from my senior year in High School.  Among them I also found a rejection letter from Stanford.  It was weird that it still stung as I read the first sentence of that rejection letter from so long ago.  Why in the world did I hold onto something for 40 some years that was still hurtful?  But you know in our spiritual lives we do the same.  We hold onto the shame and pain of long-ago forgiven sin and situations that God has forgiven and forgotten.  He asks us to also forget.  Is. 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  These days of isolation are our wilderness.  In our minds when we dwell on the past, they become our wilderness and the way to escape and embrace the new thing God is doing is to dwell in our minds on something new.  How so?  Phil. 4:8 says,  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Can’t think of 2 things at once, so…

            “See” you in worship shortly!

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 20

Easter Season + 5 the 31st day of Isolation

 One of the things I have been doing since I don’t have the 2 hour a day commute to Vista Church is chores around the house.  I replaced a fluorescent light in my garage with a LED, which is one a project I have put off for about 3 years.  I had to take a lot of stuff out of the attic to do this and pull up floorboards etc.  What started out as a small tedious project has grown and grown.  Almost all the floorboards are being pulled up today and replaced, and most of the rest of the stuff pulled down.  As I looked at this stuff and began opening mystery boxes, I found all my classroom notes from college from all my classes.  I remember I had kept them because I thought, “One day I will need to refer back to something in them.”  Well, here it is, 42 years later and I have never gone back and opened my calculus notebooks nor my structural steel!  Go figure, a pastor never needing calculus and structural steel beam design??

           Got me thinking about how I and many other people drag things through life that we don’t need any longer.  Times like this of 45 days in isolation can give us the time and the opportunity to sort out what needs to go forward with us in life and what needs to be thrown in the recycle bin.  The Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness and Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness were times to sort out what and Who was most important.  I pray you can take the time to do the same in this “Second Lenten Season”.

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 19

Easter + 2 the 29th day of isolation

My experience of Easter this year was so odd compared to previous years I literally did not know what to say until today. Almost everything I have grown to expect and participate in for Easter was missing. The early morning rising, the last-minute details, the crowds, the choirs, the trumpet player, the family gathering in the afternoon after all the celebration was done. All the pomp and circumstance were gone, and my wife and I joined in the worship from our couch. We sang all the hymns, prayed all the prayers and I watched myself preach and then we joined together quietly in Holy Communion. (We had prerecorded the service because we were not sure we would have the people to put it on and out to the world on Easter morning.)

It was, as many described to me from their own Easter worship experience, an intimate time with God and each other. When everything was stripped away the essentials were there:  God, worship and us. It was the worship that the early Church was built on, that of small family gatherings. Maybe that is part of what God wants us to relearn in this time apart that when it comes down to the basics of worship all we need are God, and us.

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 18

Holy Saturday the Silence of the Grave

 At the beginning of the year as I contemplated finishing our building project, denominational issues, preaching schedule etc. and feeling very pressured by it all a simple word came to me from God, “Wait on the Lord.” Is. 40:31. I knew I had to wait, and our church had to wait, but what exactly for I did not know, but I didn’t think it was going to be this long.  Today is “Holy Saturday” the last day of the 40 days of Lent (actually 46 days, but by this point who is counting?) and the 26th day of quarantine.  We must wait at home until we get the all clear.

            Waiting is such a part of faith.  I reread parts of Isaiah today and realized the prophecies of Jesus birth, life and death in that book were made 700 years before their fulfilment.  That is a lot of waiting!!  Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday that Saturday was a day of endless painful waiting.  A day without hope.  The disciples faced the same emptiness when they went home as many people, I have known, face the emptiness of their homes after the memorial service.  The human heart and mind at those times can feel as empty, dark and hopeless as the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

            In these times of waiting we must practice faith, hope, trust and patience with the advantage of knowing that there was an Easter Resurrection and at the end of this “stay at home time” we will emerge again.  We will be resurrected to new life.  When will that be?  In the “Kairos” moment, which is the moment God has determined is right for all concerned.  Let us look forward to it as Jesus looked forward to heaven, in fact, “look to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2

 
 
 

Coronavirus Blog Day 17

“Good Friday”

            As I was thinking of today’s blog I was once again reminded of how fast life can change and even end.  Last night we celebrated “The Last Supper”, and no one but Jesus even imagined it was “the last”.  Within 24 hours Jesus was tortured and murdered on a cross after being betrayed and abandoned by all.  It went from the close intimate fellowship of the last supper to the stark abandonment of “Golgotha” the place of the skull.  All hope, happiness, and joy were gone.  All the hopes and desires of the disciples to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands were dead, along with his body.  Truly the disciples must have been utterly dejected and hopeless.

            We today can be shocked again by the depravity of human beings that lead to Jesus crucifixion, but we view it with more hope for it is Friday, but we know Sunday is coming!  In the midst of this crisis we are in so many hopes and dreams have died, not just of graduations, and vacations but of jobs and homes and people.  It is truly Friday, but we know Sunday is coming.  For Jesus it was on the 3rd day he was raised.  We do not know when we as the nation and world will emerge from this pandemic, but we do know that one day we will.  It is Friday, Good Friday and Sunday is coming!!!  We know the good Jesus’ suffering bought, which was the salvation of our souls.  So, in that sense it is “Good Friday” and the validation of that is “Resurrection Sunday”!!!  Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and by his stripes we are healed.”

 
Coronavirus Blog Day 16
 
Dear Vista Family & Friends,
 

Today is “Maundy Thursday”!  It is the day we remember Jesus’ Last Supper.  It is the day we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion together in remembrance of all that Jesus did for us and does for us today!  In a real sense Jesus’ Last Supper was the first Communion and as we share in Communion with each other we share with Him and all who have ever received Communion and all who ever will.  In a real sense it is a taste of the Heavenly Banquet we will have in heaven with all believers at the end of time.

            “Maundy Thursday” comes from the Latin “Mandatum Novum”, or in English “the new commandment”.  At that last supper Jesus gave us a new commandment to ‘love one another to the same degree that he loved us.’  That is a deep sacrificial love that in the age of “the virus” we have seen so many people live out in the sacrifice they have made for others.  Some in fear have hoarded, others in love have given so much of themselves and in fact even risked and sacrificed themselves for others.  Truly as we celebrate Communion tonight “separate but together” we can also celebrate those who have followed Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you!”

            If you don’t have a church family livestreaming a service tonight, I invite you to join us at 7pm at www.vistaumc.org. on Facebook, or Vista Church Online at Boxcast on Roku, or Fire.tv.  Have your elements of bread, juice, communion wine or water ready.

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 15

The emphasis on washing hands reminded me of the story of Naaman in the 2 Kings 5.  He had leprosy and the prophet Elisha told him to be healed he needed to wash himself 7 times in the Jordan river.  Naaman did not like that prescription and stormed off in a rage.  His servant said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”  Naaman repented, washed himself 7 times and was cleansed.  It so simple “Wash your hands”.  Don’t resist it and you might not have to be cleansed!

            On a lighter note from Mikey’s Funnies.  He ends his daily joke with a one liner.  I loved one from last week, “First time in history we can save the human race by laying in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s NOT mess this up!”

Blessings,

Pastor Fred

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 14

Today is actually the 22nd day of “social distancing” in America.  We have 23 more days to go.  Having said that I want to finish up my series on the Lord’s prayer by writing it out in the way I pray the Lord’s Prayer in terms of what I have shared with you.

Our Father in Heaven (I take a deep breath to remember God is as close as my breath and then I look up the mountains and remember he is so powerful he created them.)

Let your name be held holy today (Let what I do and say help people hold you to be a Holy God today)

Let your Kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Here is where I petition God that the same health that is in heaven becomes present here on earth and other concerns.)

Give us this day our daily bread, (here is where I pray for the things I and others need and in this current crisis it is a job, income, housing, food, etc.)

Forgive us our sins to the same degree as we forgive those who have sinned against us (and dear God be much more merciful than we are.)

Lead us not into a time of testing, or hard trial, or temptation,

But deliver us from evil or the evil one. (when we go through the tests and trials let us not fall into evil by turning from you.  Protect us in this time of trial from the virus etc.)

For yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever (a doxology of praise to end the prayer.  PS.  This doxology is not in any of the early manuscripts which is why Mt. 6:13b is not in modern versions)

Pray on my friends for this virus to soon end!!

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 13

            Today is Palm/Passion Sunday.  Every year we take either a praise or a passion (suffering of Jesus) approach to the day.  Most of the time though we concentrate on the praise.  This year is a time to reflect on the sufferings of Christ as so many suffer from disease and financial loss.  Very simply, Jesus suffered and died for us to be our Savior.  This disease that ravages the world is a stark reminder that we need a Savior.  Most of us will survive this pandemic, but all of us will one day die, and all of us at that point will need the Savior who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:25-26     Jesus ended his statement to Martha with, “Do you believe this?”  Indeed, that is the question that we personally need to answer this and every day.

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 12

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

            In one form or another this is a desperate prayer on the hearts and minds of many people.  It is a prayer to God that the necessities of our lives be met.  It is a prayer that this day we may have the food, the shelter, the money that we need for one more day!  Several of my friends and family have been laid off in the response to this coronavirus crisis and I know that many of you reading this have either been laid off or know others who have been.  It is a prayer that we all may soon get back to work and be able to once again provide for our families and ourselves.  But as we pray this prayer it is an acknowledgement that the ultimate source of our well being is God.

            If you have gone to the grocery store lately and seen the shelves that have been emptied by panic you know what Jesus was getting at when he asked us to pray for our needs to be met one day at a time, “this day”.  If everyone just shopped for what they regularly needed than there would be enough for everyone who came into the store.  It’s the panic of a perceived shortage that causes us to hoard.  Last week I was in Walgreens for “Senior Hour”.  There were two cartoons of eggs left stuffed way in the back of the display case.  I was sorely tempted to take both but left the last one for someone else.  It is this type of action that God calls us to in this time when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  The prayer is in the plural, so we are praying not only for our personal needs be met, but those of others.  When we act on this, we make the name of God holy, “Hallowed be thy name.” 

            Could you share on my Facebook page and at my email address the times during this crisis where you have seen people putting others before themselves and being perfectly satisfied that “God would provide their daily bread.”  vistaspastorfred@aol.com

 

Coronavirus Blog Day 11

            And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

            This forth petition of the Lord’s prayer can be extremely frightening if we truly understand what we are asking for and don’t see our Father as a gracious and loving God.  The key word is the word in the middle “as”.  Without a doubt we all want God to forgive our “trespasses”, our “debts” our “sins”.   But do we really want to forgive those who sin against us?  That word “as” right in the middle means we are asking God, “to forgive our sins (as=to the same degree) we forgive those who sin against us.  In other words, we are asking God not to forgive our sins if we don’t forgive those who sin against us.  This is a frightening prayer if you understand that, and have an unforgiving heart.  To pray this 4th petition is a challenge to exam our hearts and lives.  Do I or a group of people I am involved with hold a grudge against another person or group.  If so to pray this prayer is to ask God to hold us responsible for our own hearts and the heart of whatever group of which we are a part.  The Lord’s prayer is indeed a challenging prayer if we understand it!  See Matthew 6:14-15

 

Coronavirus Day 10

            There is nothing like going through Lent twice in one year.  The total days in the season of Lent are 46 because Sundays are not included in the “40 days of Lent”.  But here we enter another 30 days of Social Isolation on top of the first 15.  None of us have given up so much for Lent and done it twice in one year!!  I pray this time of trial we use it to bring us closer to Christ.  Sorry for the gap in blogs.  I had 2 memorial services as well as worship this weekend and had to finish 2 sermons for Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday yesterday.  Anyway…

“Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

            This is the spot in the Prayer where we ask God to have the perfection of his kingdom in heaven come to earth and our circumstances.  This is where we pray: Lord let this pandemic end, let it be your will treatments and vaccines are rapidly developed, let it be your will my financial resources last until I can leave the house again and work.  And Lord let it be your will I and all my loved ones stay healthy!  We have the confidence to ask because we know he loves us like a good Father (Our Father).  He is (in heaven) outside our circumstances and as God can change them.

            And in terms of the other petitions’ connection to this 2nd petition we pray that in this time of testing as we wait on the Lord, we stay faithful, bring holiness to his name because of it and be delivered from evil.  The whole prayer is interconnected.  The more you pray it and think about it as you pray the more God will bless you!!

 
March 28, 2020
Coronavirus Blog Day 9
 

“Our Father in Heaven”

            The first phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is not like all the “asks” or “petitions” that follow.  It is a statement of faith.  It is a claim that God is not just “my personal God” but God is the God of all humanity.  The entire prayer is in the plural, though, as we pray it, we most often use it to bring our own prayers and requests to God.  But it is vitally important at to recognize the plural, so that the God we pray to in our minds is not just some little figure we can put on the shelf and pull out to address when we have a need.  Our God is the God of everyone.

            Now to address God as “Father”, though, reassures us that the Creator of the universe is not just some impersonal power out beyond time and space.  He is “our Father” who knows our name and even has a new name for us when we get to heaven.  “Our Father” let’s us come before God as his children.  We come to a good Father who is more eager to help us than we are to ask.  When I pray this prayer in the morning for the first time I am usually walking outdoors.  As I say “Our Father” I take a deep breath and then look up at the mountains.  I am reminded that as big and far away as God is in heaven, he is as close as my next breath.  “Our Father in Heaven” is also big enough to meet any of our needs that soon pour from our hearts as we proceed through the 7 petitions of the prayer.  The relationship of Father to child encourages us to ask and then act on God’s answers.  In this time of the Coronavirus we need to ask for it to end, which is tomorrow’s blog on “thy kingdom come thy will be done…”

 

March 27th, 2020

Coronavirus Day 8

            My friends I am sorry I skipped a day.  I had more duties than day yesterday, so here it is Friday.  Saturday and Sunday, I have 2 memorials as well as worship Livestream and this has all been a challenge for me to get ready even working in the solitude of home.

 “Hallowed be thy name”

            This first petition is directly connected to the 5th and 6th petitions which are “Lead us not into hard testing (temptation) but deliver us from evil,” in this manner.  When I pray this prayer, I translate “Hallowed be thy name” as “Let your name be held holy.”  The “name” of God is a substitute for saying “God”, so more simply, “Let you be held holy God.”  The only way I see God’s name to be held holy by those both within the faith, and those without, is by the way we live our lives as “holy”.  The witness to God’s holiness within the faith is by holding onto God in the times of “hard testing”.  It is recognizing his holiness, strength and power is beyond and above all of our present circumstances.  If we look up at night, we see the moon, the stars and 1000s of galaxies that from the distance look like single stars and God is above and beyond all these.  God is holy.

             In terms of “but deliver us from evil” we are asking God to help us live “holy lives”, so that those who look at our lives can see beyond them and through them to our holy God.  So, to pray to God, to ask God, “Hallowed be thy name” is to ask God, “Let You (God) be held holy as people see me living a holy life free from evil.”  The challenge is how do we do this in the age of the Coronavirus where hoarding and fear are rampant?  How do we lead faithful, holy lives, to bring holiness to the name of God?  Share with me your thoughts.  Tomorrow I will address the beginning of the prayer “Our Father” and where He is presently located.

 
 
March 25, 2020
Coronavirus Blog Day 7
 
This petition (ask of God) comes on 3 main levels of understanding.  The first level is “God please don’t let any evil befall me.”  I believe this is how most interpret this petition for I did the same for many years.  The next level is that this phrase can legitimately be translated, “But deliver me from the Evil One.”  Again, it is a petition that evil or the evil one not come upon a person or group because I can’t emphasis enough that this prayer is in the plural.
              The deepest and most profound level of understanding this petition hinges on the word “but”.  This directly connects it to the previous petition.  The word “and” would give it a whole other understanding in other words we could pray “we do not have a hard time of testing and no evil befall us”.
              The deeper level is that it is a prayer that if God says “no” and we go through the time of trial and testing that during that time of testing we don’t abandon our faith and trust in God.  In other words, these two petitions become a prayer of faith, “lead us not through a time of hard trial and testing, but if you do then let us have the strength to hold onto our faith and not sin.”  The evil that we are asking to be delivered from is the evil of abandoning our faith in times of trial.  We can do this directly by turning our back on God, or more subtly by trying to take matters into our own hands and leaving God out.
              As we pray this prayer the prayer asks us, “Will you hold onto to God in this time of hardship or will you turn away?”  Tomorrow we look at how these two petitions are directly tied to “Hallowed by thy name.”
 

March 24th, 2020

Coronavirus Blog Day 6

            I want to spend a few days guided by the Lord’s Prayer in this time of the virus.  The King James version of the Lord’s Prayer obscures the layers of meaning and the depth and interrelationship of the petitions in this prayer.  So, today, I will begin bringing it into the present situation starting with the 5th petition, “Lead us not into temptation.”  The word “temptation” can be translated “hard testing” or “trial”.  In other words, I often pray this phrase “Lord lead us not into a hard trial or time of hard testing.”  Well apparently, God said, “No” and let us come to this place in which our churches, nation and even the entire world are in a time of “hard trial and testing.” 

            This then can bring us to the point we shake our fist at God and say, “You’re unfair, you’ve abandoned us, and I am turning my back on you!”  Or we can turn to God in faith, which is actually part of the meaning of the next petition “but deliver us from evil.”  But more on that tomorrow.

            In circumstances of trial and testing the most inspiring scripture to me for maintaining the hope of my faith is James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  I must admit when I first read this verse as a young Christian, I did not believe it at all and thought the author must be crazy, but time has proved the truth of this verse.  When coupled with Mark 13:13 “He who endures to the end will be saved.”  It gives us the courage to hang on in the face of at times huge fear and suffering.  Which brings us tomorrow to, “but deliver us from evil.”

 
March 23 
Coronavirus Blog Day 5
I am sorry I missed day 4 but I believe Day 5 will make up for it!!  After seeing this I decided we needed some JOY in our lives at this a most serious time so here is a Youtube version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” that is done in a very creative “together and yet apart” mode in this time of the virus.  Feel free to weep with joy!  I did.  
 Pastor Fred
 
 
March 21  

Coronavirus Blog Day 3

 The following is from the book “How to Pray” The Best of John Wesley on Prayer (Barbour Publishing).  A while back I had what I would call a ‘word of knowledge’ from the Lord concerning our ongoing denominational problems.  It was a simple word, “Wait on the Lord”.  This word certainly applies in this situation as we wait for the Coronavirus Pandemic to pass.  And as we wait we must pray!

“Ask, and it will be given to you.” Luke 11:9 NASB

“All who desire the grace of God are to wait for it, first, in the way of prayer.  This is the express direction of our Lord Himself.  In His Sermon on the Mount, after explaining at length wherein religion consists and describing the main branches of it, He adds, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened’”  (Matthew 7:7-8 and Luke 11:9-10).  In the plainest manner, we are here directed to ask in order to receive, or as a means of receiving; to seek, in order to find the grace of God, the pearl of great price; and to knock, to continue asking and seeking, if we would enter into His kingdom.

            That no doubt might remain, our Lord gives a peculiar parable of a father who desires to give good gifts to his children, concluding with these words, “’How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?’”  (Luke 11:13 NASB)

            Jesus gives a direction to pray, with a positive promise that by this means we shall obtain our request: “’Go into your room, and…pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and …(He)… will reward you openly’” (Matthew 6:6).”

 
March 20  Day 2
 
Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
 
The Arizona judicatory leaders of the Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Church in America, The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and The Episcopal Church teleconferenced together and engaged in lively dialogue about the COVID-19 pandemic. We have jointly released the following statement that I would like to share with you. Here is our pastoral statement:
Church is not cancelled!!!
 
But in-person worship is. As leaders of our respective Christian denominations, we have all had to instruct our congregations to cease in person worship and meetings.
 
And yet, church is not cancelled. How is that so?
 
Church is not a building, and church is not just worship. Church is the gathering of faithful people through prayer, through love, and through caring for the vulnerable. Church is taking on new forms in light of COVID-19. Many congregations are worshiping via live-stream, or by other electronic means. They are using old fashioned phone calls to talk to members, meetings and Bible study are taking place over Zoom. Food pantries are distributing food as cars drive by, homeless dinner programs are offering meals to go, and the prayers of the faithful ascend to a loving God whose arms bind us together even when we cannot be face to face. Since we cannot be WITH one another, let us nonetheless be FOR each other.
 
These are faithful decisions, made out of our understanding of the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. In this present moment, among other things, loving our neighbor means not being physically present with our neighbors, to protect them and us from potential infection.
 
It is more challenging to be church in a time such as this. Our pastors and leaders are having to develop new skills, and our members are having to extend more effort to stay connected. There are financial implications of not gathering in person, and as long as this continues it will grow ever harder to continue our basic outreach ministries caring to the poor, the sick, migrants, and the elderly.
The word “quarantine” comes from quaresima, the Italian word for Lent. Ships were “quarantined” for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this present season of Lent is very appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord—though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to in-person congregational life, proclaiming “Alleluia” with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.
 
We, the leaders of our respective Christian denominations, hold you in prayer just as we ask you to hold us in prayer in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
 
Rev. Jay R. Hartley
Regional Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona
 
The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod
Evangelical Church in America
 
The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Hoshibata
Resident Bishop
The Desert Southwest Conference 
The United Methodist Church
 
Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, Conference Minister
Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ
 
Rev. Dr. Brad Munroe
Presbytery Pastor for the Presbyteries of Grand Canyon and de Cristo
Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)
 
The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
Sixth Bishop of Arizona
The Episcopal Church
 
 
 
March 19  Day 1

                 In my reading from the Moravian Texts this week I once again read of the last plague on the Egyptians when the angel of death took their first born and “passed over” the Hebrews.  I wondered how scary it would have been to hear the wailing in the night of those who lost loved ones.  And though the promise was there to the Hebrews of being “passed over” and they were doing everything they were told to do (lamb’s blood on the doorposts and lintel) it still must have been a terrifying night.

                It was a long night of waiting—waiting on the Lord.  Today as the Coronavirus spreads throughout the world bringing sickness and death to people and sickening the stock market and economy, we too wait for it to “pass over us” (as we wash our hands, stay home and practice social distance.)  And pass over it will.  But in the meantime, there is a lot of worry out there and even in our own hearts and minds.  So, in faith and trust in God that whatever happens we are his.  Wait on the Lord.  Hear the promise for those who do from Isaiah 40:29-31:

29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

In Christ’s love and service, Pastor Fred