Odds & Ends

It has been a tough and challenging time for humanity, hasn’t it? It’s hard to know what to say or where to begin. Today, I’ll refer you to the words of others who have helped me think about and process the hurt, pain, confusion, and sadness so many are feeling.

  • In Reaping the Whirlwind, Eric Crawford (WDRB) works through his feelings after being asked to comment on the recent shootings and protests in Louisville. Take your time with this one and pour over what he has to say. His writing is well worth it.
  • Esau McCaulley, a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, has written A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit for Christianity Today online. Based on his most recent sermon, this essay discusses how Pentecost can help the church find its voice during times of racial strife.
  • I’ve been blessed to be invited to join my best friend’s Sunday School class that meets over Zoom every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening from North Carolina. We are currently reading and discussing Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, which offers “a way to find spirituality in those times when we don’t have all the answers.” It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. I highly recommend it.
  • And, let’s not forget (how could we, really) that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. If you’ve never looked at Kentucky’s COVID-19 website, I think you’ll be surprised by the wealth of information you can find there, including testing sites, numbers of cases by county, in-depth explanations of contact tracing, and what to expect if you’re contacted. Good stuff to know.

Last, but most definitely not least, I found the text of the prayer given by Rev. C.B. Atkins, pastor of First Baptist Church Bracktown in Lexington, during one of Governor Beshear’s recent press conferences. It was so moving to listen to Rev. Atkins’ words; I pray you find as much in the printed version:

“Let us pray together. Eternal God, the God of all people, because you are omniscient, there is nothing we can tell you that you don’t already know. So let me start by thanking you for clearing up busy schedules, for allowing us to pause to collectively acknowledge you today. We are aware that not all storms come to disrupt our life, some come to clear our path. Your ways are not our ways and your thoughts are not our thoughts. Isaiah reminds us that there is no searching of your understanding. So we did not come today to call you on the carpet to explain, we came to thank you for your power and willingness to sustain. 

“Worldwide COVID-19 has claimed 350,000 reported deaths, 100,000 in the United States, and 400 in Kentucky. These are staggering numbers of the arresting reality of this horrific pandemic. Still I refuse to be guilty either as a messenger of God or a man of color.

“I’m mentioning the racial pandemic that has been devastating a segment of your people in this country for over 400 years, emboldened now afresh by people in powerful positions in public places. It is not that the minority population has been silent, but rather that the majority population has been deaf. The high number of deaths from coronavirus has been needless, and the continuous deaths of innocent black men and women in this country is senseless.

“Frantic searches are underway in laboratories around the world for a vaccine for COVID-19. But even if one is discovered, and I pray it will be, but if we ignore the cure for that pandemic as we have ignored the cure for the racial pandemic, having done so for political, economic, and aristocratic expediency, then all efforts will ultimately be in vain.

“I pray God that you strip us of the false assurance that grows from pride in our powers and ignorance of our ignorance. After you strip us, then bathe us in compassion so our shared pain will generate a powerful passion that will eventuate in reaching a divine purpose.

“As dark as this day may be, I am assured you did not bring us this far to leave us now. Hatred, divisiveness, and even death are but finite happenings. We cling to an infinite hope. You’ve already given us the panacea for this and all pandemics. You have told us what is good and what you require, that is to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God. You have not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.

“If your people who are called by your name would humble themselves and pray, turn from our wicked ways and seek your face, you promise that you will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land. Comfort us, oh God. Guide, guard, and govern us. God of all nations. Known by many names. Do it through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.”

-Reverend C. B. Atkins 5/28/2020

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).  

Odds & Ends

Happy Saturday, everyone! Hope you’ve had a good week, are feeling well, and staying connected.

Just a few items to mention:

  • Missions, outreach, and everyday expenses don’t stop for COVID-19. Donations to NCUMC may be mailed to P.O. Box 194, New Castle KY 40050.
  • Bible Study on Philippians, Wednesday nights @ 6:30 with Cory on Facebook.
  • Recommended reading this week is from Scot McKnight at his blog, Jesus Creed. His essay, “Wasting the Crisis” is a call for us to think about how the COVID pandemic has provided many of us with moments of clarity and learning — things we shouldn’t let go to waste as we emerge from the crisis.
  • I’ve been doing some independent study of the Letter of James and will be sharing a little of what I learn here on our class site. Just a little personal Bible study… nothing formal by any means, but I certainly welcome discussion!

Calling All NCUMC Guest Bloggers! If there’s a spiritual, scriptural, or general Christian topic you’re interested in writing about (or something you’ve read that you’d like to share) send me a note via Facebook Messenger. I would love to post your contribution here on Sunday Morning, Continued. Be brave and add to our online conversation!

Closing today with a bit of humor…

Artistic Devotion

If you’re searching for a short devotion/meditation, I highly recommend taking a look at The Hallway Through the Sea, an online series written by Timothy Dalrymple, president and CEO of Christianity Today.

Described as “specifically for those struggling through the coronavirus pandemic,” the entries “address our sense of fear and isolation and also the ways we find beauty and truth and hope—and Christ himself—in the midst of suffering.”

Additionally, each message is paired with a work of art or music “to inspire and bring beauty through the darkness of this season.”

From a recent entry:

We become what we attend to. The more we devote our attention to worldly diversions, the more worldly and divided we become. The more we harness all of our attention into attentiveness to Jesus Christ, the more we are united with Christ and conformed to his image. In this season, countless anxieties and agitations clamor for our attention. Help us, O Lord, to discipline our powers of attention. Help us to lift our eyes away from our passing troubles and to fix our eyes on the one who was lifted up for us.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

An Intercessory Prayer

From churchofengland.org

Let us pray to the Lord,

who is our refuge and stronghold.

For the health and well-being of our nation,

that all who are fearful and anxious

may be at peace and free from worry:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

For the isolated and housebound,

that we may be alert to their needs,

and care for them in their vulnerability:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

For our homes and families,

our schools and young people,

and all in any kind of need or distress:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

For a blessing on our local community,

that our neighbourhoods may be places

of trust and friendship,

where all are known and cared for:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves,

and all for whom we pray,

to the mercy and protection of God.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Self Care

We will get through this. Be sure to take a prayer break whenever you need one… maybe even while social distancing in a patch of dandelions! May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

Just Name The Place

Chapter 5 of Longing to Pray is all about the places, schedules, and body language that provide the scaffolding from which we hang our friendships. We may meet a group of friends each month at a specific restaurant at a time certain, knowing that when we meet, everyone will lounge comfortably in his or her chair, slowly enjoying good food and even better friendships. We look forward to it, we aren’t in a hurry to leave, and we certainly aren’t thinking of other places or people. We settle in and enjoy the time we have together.

Right now, we aren’t able to make that lunch date. None of us. We’re trying as hard as we can to protect everyone we know (and even those we don’t) from contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Just a couple of months ago, we had no idea that our usual get-togethers – be they lunches, church, or even boring work meetings – would be our last for a good long while.

And because we never really thought about them ending… well… we sort of took them for granted, didn’t we?  Once all this “social distancing” is over, I bet we don’t do that again for a very long time. But… we’ll still have to be on the lookout because we’re apt to forget how blessed we are all over again. We are human after all, eh?

Dr. Kalas asks us to think about all those places and times that we share with friends, and how those things add to our friendships – especially our friendship with God. Do we have a favorite place where we meet with God regularly? Do we “hang out” and pray leisurely? Or, are we checking our watch, making our grocery list, daydreaming between sporadic scripture reading?

Are we giving God the same considerations we would give to our dearest friend? When was the last time we had a leisurely lunch with God rather than merely firing off a quick “text-message prayer” to check in?

Dr. Kalas writes, “Since you and I are human creatures, our human circumstances affect even our spiritual moments—including especially the moments of friendship, both human and divine.” (p.48)

Think about the elements of places, punctuality, and posture as you read Chapter 5 this week and how those elements are reflected in the time you spend nurturing your friendship with God. They’ve most definitely given me a few things to think about!

Remember: God is always available. It’s up to us to set the place, the time, and the pace.

Psalm 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.