By Bishop Jung

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1)

It is painful that we cannot gather together today to celebrate the birthday of the Christian Church. Historically, Pentecost was second only to Easter as the high holy day of the Christian faith – even more important than Christmas. It is a day to be together, and yet this year it is a much greater witness of our faith to celebrate the day apart.

In the days of the early Christian movement, there was no greater witness to the faith than the willingness to make sacrifices for others. To lay down one’s life for another was viewed as the ultimate gift, on par with the death of Jesus on the cross. To do without that others might gain was the essence of the Christian faith. Certainly, we would love to be together on Pentecost, but not if it put anyone else at risk. In the first century, pestilence and illness were taken very seriously. A virus could literally wipe out a village, a town, or decimate a city. When people were sick, they were isolated. When they had contagious disease, they were quarantined. The early church did this because concern and care for others was the most important value defining the early movement.

Care for widows, orphans, the elderly and the infirm were basic expectations of every community. No one would have even considered putting a vulnerable person at risk. The purpose of most Christian households and communities were to care for those most at risk who could not care for themselves.

Today, as we celebrate the birth of the church, let us not celebrate the birth of an institution or a building or a structure. Instead, let us celebrate the meaning of the church – to show our love for God and our commitment to Christ by the way we care for all of God’s children – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and caring for the most vulnerable among us.

Thank you, O God, for teaching us to care. We are so thankful for your church, not as a place to go, but as the identity of who we are. Make us more loving, more giving, less selfish, and less indifferent. Inspire us to do whatever is within our power to show kindness, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to those who need it most. Work the miracle of your Holy Spirit in our lives, that we might be your church for the world. We ask your blessing and strength. Amen.

 

By Dan Dick

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

There are few more compelling and evocative metaphors in scripture than the church as the Body of Christ. It is a clear message that while we are each gifted individuals, it is only in combination that we become the church God needs us to be. We do not stand alone, and no one of us is more important than all of us together. In this day of global pandemic, the metaphor has even more power and impact, because we are painfully aware of what a virus can do to a healthy body.

Paul goes on in the twenty-sixth verse of this Corinthian passage to teach that “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it…” We are experiencing this in stark ways, watching families, communities, nations, and countries mourn the loss of so many lives, and the ongoing suffering of hundreds of thousands. People of faith are making profound sacrifices of individual freedom to protect others and guard the health of others. In recent memory there have been few challenges that remind us we are one greater than this we currently face.

God makes us one. What we do for and to the least of God’s people we do to Jesus Christ. As we care for one another, we care for Christ. Each and every personal sacrifice we make is an outward and visible sign of our love and regard for Jesus.

Wondrous and uniting God help us to care for every person as we care about the Christ. Make us willing to endure minor sacrifices and daily inconveniences that others may benefit. Grant us patience and peace as we await the day we can join together again in public places. We ask this humbly in Jesus’ name. Amen.
             

By Jorge Luis Mayorga

You Are My Witnesses, Even in Difficult Times

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:6-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

After his resurrection Jesus advised his disciples not leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father. We know he was talking about the Holy Spirit of God. In verse 8 of the first chapter of Acts Jesus reaffirms the disciples that the Holy Spirit will empower them to be his witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Can you imagine the disciples living in this expectation all the days before Pentecost, wondering how this will be? Now they are called to be witnesses! A witness is basically someone who sees something amazing or important. If this person begins to share what they have seen, we call this “bearing witness.” It is a simple word, but being a witness carries a lot of responsibility! To be a witness is a call to action. It is to go out from your comfort zone and tell the story. It is to tell what you have seen and experienced with Jesus.
As we approach the celebration of Pentecost in the midst of difficult times, we are invited to reflect that as disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to be witnesses, to tell the story of a God that loves us, that we are not alone. There are lot of good stories from our local congregations and communities that need to be told. Stories of how during these difficult times God has been present in our midst.
As you read these lines, think of something you can share with a family member, a friend, or any other person to witness the love and care of Jesus Christ during the pandemic.
Prayer:
Gracious and Merciful God, it is wonderful to be your disciples. We thank you for the promise of the Holy Spirit. Give us the courage and the strength to be your witnesses wherever we go, so others can have the blessing to know your love and mercy. We praise you, our Rock and our Salvation.
In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!

The peace of Christ be with you,
Pastor Jorge

 

Ustedes son mis testigos, aun en tiempos difíciles

“Entonces los que se habían reunido le preguntaron, diciendo:

—Señor, ¿restaurarás el reino a Israel en este tiempo?
Les dijo: No os toca a vosotros saber los tiempos o las ocasiones que el Padre puso en su sola potestad; pero recibiréis poder cuando haya venido sobre vosotros el Espíritu Santo, y me seréis testigos en Jerusalén, en toda Judea, en Samaria y hasta lo último de la tierra.”
(Hechos 1: 6-8) Reina Valera 1995

Después de su resurrección Jesús aconsejo a sus discípulos que no se fueran de Jerusalén, sino que esperaran la promesa del Padre. Sabemos que el estaba hablando del Espíritu Santo de Dios. En el versículo 8 del capitulo 1 del libro de Hechos Jesús afirma a sus discípulos que el Espíritu Santo les dará poder para ser sus testigos, no solamente en Jerusalén sino en toda Judea y Samaria, y hasta lo ultimo de la tierra.
¿Se pueden imaginar ustedes a los discípulos viviendo en esa expectativa todos los días antes de pentecostés? Pensando ¿cómo será esto? Ahora son llamados a ser testigos! Un testigo es básicamente alguien que ve algo maravilloso o importante. Si esta persona comienza a compartir lo que han visto, llamamos a eso dar testimonio. Es una simple palabra, pero dar testimonio con lleva una gran responsabilidad. Ser un testigo es un llamado a la acción, es salir de nuestra zona de conforte y contar la historia de lo que hemos visto y experimentado con Jesús.

Ahora que nos acercamos a la celebración de Pentecostés en medio de tiempos difíciles, somos llamados a reflexionar que como discípulos de Jesucristo somos también llamados a ser testigos. A contar la historia de un Dios que nos ama, que no estamos solos. Hay muchas buenas historias de nuestras congregaciones locales y comunidades que necesitan ser contadas, de como en estos tiempos difíciles Dios ha estado presente en medio nuestro.

Ahora que usted lee estas líneas, piense en algo que usted pueda compartir con un miembro de su familia, un amigo/a, que testifique acerca del amor y cuidado de nuestro señor Jesucristo durante esta pandemia.

Oración:
Dios lleno de gracia y misericordia, es maravilloso ser uno/a de tus discípulos. Te damos gracias por la promesa del Espíritu Santo. Danos el valor y la fortaleza de ser tus testigos donde quiera que sea. De manera que otros/as puedan tener la bendición de conocer tu amor y misericordia.
Te alabamos, Roca Nuestra y Salvador nuestro.
En Jesucristo nuestro Señor, Amen!

La Paz del Señor sea con ustedes,
Pastor Jorge

 

By Kate Croskery Jones

When I was growing up, I remember that my dad often said, “Give thanks in all things.” This good counsel comes from St. Paul’s first letter to the people of Thessalonica.  I Thessalonians 5:18 reads “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” I did not seem like an easy thing to do. I often think of these surprising words, for there is evil in the world and situations that are indeed seemingly not worthy of our thanks.  Yet it is not FOR such circumstances, but IN these circumstances. The difference is important.  I am not thankful that, yet another black man died this week under the knee of a while police officer.  I am not thankful that the novel corona virus that has claimed 100,000 lives in the USA or wreaked havoc on our economy and shuttered our church buildings. I am not thankful that people are suffering many consequences of this global pandemic: rising suicide and family violence, the toll it has taken on poor people, elderly people and people of color.  I am thankful for our deepening awareness of grave injustices in this land that claims to offer liberty and justice for all. I am thankful that the Church has never been more relevant. I am thankful that God offers us a re-do to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ in the world. I am thankful that in this pandemic God’s Word is proclaimed across the globe over the worldwide web. God’s word is being preached in parking lots and on church lawns. God’s word is being sewn with love into homemade masks and other PPE and that if your look for it, you can see God’s goodness in these selfless acts. God’s fingerprints are all over the possibilities.  The great theologian of children young and old, (Rev) Mr. Fred Rogers is often quoted as saying:

When I was a little boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers, so many caring people in this world.

We can look for the good in people. We can look of the opportunities to make our world a better place. In this way, we can bear the light of Christ and thank God IN all things.

By Barbara Certa-Werner

The theme of our last year’s Annual Conference was “Wandering in the Wilderness,” which was based on the account of the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the wilderness on route to the Promised Land, after being freed from slavery in Egypt. When this theme was chosen, we were mindful of the decisions of the special General Conference 2019, the uncertainty of General Conference 2020, and all the implications of both.

Little did we know that 2020 would bring a very different kind of “wandering.We are wandering – technologically, relationally, work, parenting, and our denominational issues. As I have contemplated our current wandering, I decided to physically wander as well.

As a family, we went to the Twin Falls Park near Port Wing, Wisconsin. The trail had not been cleared, so to get the Twin Falls, we wandered. We crossed the small river three times, climbed over fallen trees, and mountain-goated our way over boulders. There were a couple of times when I thought, and said aloud, I don’t know if I can do this!” Yet, my kids said, “Oh, come on, Mom. We will help you!When we made it to our destination, it was glorious - not because it was the biggest or most beautiful falls, but because the effort behind it. We did it, and it was well worth it!

As we continue to wander, we are equipped for the journey:

Scripture. God promises in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God us with you wherever you go.”

Encouragement. Just like my children reached out to help me, we can do this for one another.

Prayer. Offer up prayers of gratitude for the journey that is leading us down paths that are challenging but enriching.

May we welcome this journey through the wilderness knowing that God walks with us along the way. Amen.

By Sue D’Alessio

 

When the day of Pentecost had come, they [those who had followed Jesus] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)

 

Ruach – Hebrew word translated as breath or wind or Spirit.

Pneuma – Greek word translated as breath or wind or Spirit.

 

God’s presence in scripture is often expressed as wind or breath or spirit (Ruach/Pneuma). In the Genesis story of creation, the breath/spirit of God swept over the face of the waters (Genesis 2). In the Christian story of Pentecost, the followers of Jesus experienced the gift of the Holy Sprit as a rush of a violent wind (Acts 2:2). Have you ever experienced God’s presence as this moving wind of Spirit?

 

Wind is a powerful metaphor for many of our experiences of God. (Of course, every metaphor limits as well as expands our understanding, which is why we use so many metaphors for God: shepherd, creator, shield, fortress, father, savior, mother, rock…. Each metaphor we use expresses a different aspect of our experience of God.)

 

Wind is always in motion and it always moves whatever it touches. Wind can be a gentle breeze which teases and caresses, or a strong gust which blows and pushes, or a whirling tornado which threatens and destroys. There are times when wind is quiet or silent, times when we experience wind as a surprise or relief or delight, and times when wind knocks us off our feet or destabilizes us so completely that we cannot stand. What are your experiences with wind?

 

If you replace the word “wind” in the previous paragraph with the word “Spirit,” might this describe some of how you have experienced God’s presence in your life? When have you experienced the gentle moving Spirit of God? Have there been times it seemed like God has been quiet or silent in your life? When have you been destabilized and knocked over by God?

 

The story in Acts describes the Spirit as “a sound like the rush of a violent wind” which destabilized and changed their lives. They had been sequestered away in fear and uncertainty about what to do next after Jesus had died, and even after their resurrection experiences of Jesus. The Spirit moved them to speak up and speak out – in many languages – to tell the stories of their experiences and understanding of Jesus. How have you experienced God’s presence in the midst of this pandemic, physical distancing and destabilization, even as we search for healthy and safe ways to remain connected as the church? How might God be moving you/us into new ways of being people of faith in our world today?

 

Spirit of God, blow through us and move us into new and creative ways of being your faithful, compassionate people. Breathe into us your Spirit of life and promise and hope and vitality. Transform us with the winds of your Spirit so we may be your witnesses as your wind-blown disciples and may be empowered by your Spirit serve others throughout this world. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

 

By Forrest R. Wells

Memorial Day Reflection 

Jesus’ command is this: “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13

Memorial Day weekend was always one of my favorites growing up. Family reunions, picnics, softball games, frisbee, water-skiing and of course a morning parade were just some of those fond memories. The weekend was a bridge from spring to summer. The fragrance of grilling, the splashing of the waves and laughter of friends and family are happy memories.

My dad’s birthday almost always fell on Memorial Day Weekend. Forrest Edward Wells would have been 100 years old had he reached his 2020 birthday. Dad was a veteran of World War II and had stories of camaraderie, challenges, heroism, death and God’s grace to tell wrapped in his sense of love and duty of his family and country. Memorial Day as a federal holiday was established to remember and honor those men and women who have given their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Feasting, festivals, parades, speeches and sports all combine to make Memorial Day (formerly called flag day) a unique celebration. We enjoy relaxing with family and friends as we express gratitude for women and men who gave their all to keep us safe and free. Though Dad expressed concern about some of the directions our country had taken, he never regretted nearly losing his life for the people and country he loved.

As we experience this Memorial Day, give thanks to those who have given up their lives for us. Amid the food, parties and sports spend a moment in reflection. We are called to love! How are we offering ourselves, sacrificing ourselves, giving ourselves to others? In this time of pandemic anxiety and chaos may the United Methodist Christian Community be ones whose love for friends, family and community compel us to serve. Thank you to Dad and all men and women who have given their all in the Armed Forces in order to give me the opportunity to freely share the Good News of Jesus love for all.

By Bishop Jung

Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

There is a profound wisdom that spiritual leaders often ignore: simplicity.  Keep the message simple, keep the message clear, keep the message consistent.  We are living in anxious times with great uncertainty about the future.  Cast all your anxiety on God.  Fear-filled messages focus on negativity, and dire predictions elevate our own apprehensions.  Cast all your anxiety on God.  Grief over loss of loved ones, loneliness through physical separation, and extended isolation fuels despair and depression.  Cast all your anxiety on God.

But in what way is it a solution to cast all your anxiety on God?  Because God cares for you.  In your fear, in your worry, in your nervousness about tomorrow – God cares for you.  When you are frightened by the latest news report and you begin to lose hope – God cares for you.  When you grieve, when you feel panic, when you feel desolate and lonely – God cares for you.

We may be looking for some complex and sophisticated formula that will carry us through this pandemic period, but it is time to cut through all the confusion and remember a significant and simple truth: cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.

Blessed Father, Mother, Parent God, receive your children who need the simple reassurance of your loving care.  Wrap us in your love, comfort us by your Spirit, and strengthen us in our faith that we might face tomorrow with courage, conviction, and hope.  We ask this humbly, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

By Dan Dick

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.  (1 Peter 4:12-13)

These words from 1 Peter address persecution of Christians who witness to their faith, but there is an empathetic parallel with what we are facing today as a global community.  Our emotional well-being, our physical relationships, our spiritual grounding are all being tested by the ongoing pandemic and all its challenges.  It is fair to categorize our current reality as a “fiery ordeal,” and indeed it tests our faith, whether this is viewed as God’s intention or not, but the real power and impact of this passage of scripture is verse 13 – rejoice in our sufferings as a sharing in Christ’s suffering that we may be glad and shout for joy.

What would it be like to face the threat, danger, grief, and loss caused by the pandemic without a deep and abiding faith?  Without God, I believe it would be much harder, much darker, and much bleaker to navigate.  God’s Holy Spirit is a wellspring of hope, of comfort, of promise, of healing, and of strength.  Grounded in God’s love, guided by the Christ’s teachings, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I believe our current challenges are a completely different experience than for those without a faith base.  Rejoice that God is with us.  Be glad and shout for joy that no matter how strange things get, we are not left to face this all alone.  We have God in Christ, we have the strength of the Holy Spirit, and we have the blessed community in Christ with each other.  Thanks be to God!

Loving, guiding, leading God, we thank you.  There is much to shock us, to frighten us, to undermine our “normal” life, but we are a people of faith, so that nothing can keep us down.  We are lifted up by your Spirit, we are encouraged by your grace, and we are awed by your power.  Bless us and constantly remind us who we are, and most importantly who you are, we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

By Tsuker Yang

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason  I do not cease to give thanksfor you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,  so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
(Ephesians 1:15-19)

Do you pray more during in this challenging time? I hope we all do and do it daily, and as Paul said of himself here (v. 16) and for the church in Thessalonica to pray “without ceasing” regardless (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  You probably know that the Cabinet meets once a week for prayer and check-in, and each of our Districts holds prayer time and conversation with all our clergy and laity weekly.  And then we also have these written devotions and prayers for everyone. Of course, I have my own time of prayer for the family once a week (by Zoom or Facebook Live), and then the nightly prayer and other prayers during the day.

We pray for our health and well-being, for members of our congregations, friends and loved ones and our leaders and health professionals, and pray for God to lift the pandemic, the list goes on.  Thank you for all your prayers.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray and so we pray his prayer as our own prayer also.  Paul’s prayer, on the other hand, is distinct from the Lord’s prayer and our prayer.  His prayers for the Ephesian church and others are more focused on the spiritual side than the physical side of need.  His prayer is either a thanksgiving prayer or a prayer for spiritual maturity or both.  He gave thanks for the faith and love of the saints, then he prayed for their maturity as in the underlined Scripture above.

As we pray more, pray not only that God will lift the pandemic and for our health or well-being and the economy but also for our maturity in the faith in this time of challenge.  Our faith is being tested… daily. Pray that we will grow stronger and more mature in each challenge that comes into our lives.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.  Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.  Amen.

 

 

“Tub yog vim le ntawd, txij thaus kuv nov has tas mej muab sab rau ntseeg tug Tswv Yexus hab hlub vaajtswv tsaav tuabneeg txhua tug, mas kuv najnub ua Vaajtswv tsaug tsi tseg tsi tu.  Kuv ncu ntsoov thov Vaajtswv paab mej.  Kuv thov peb tug Tswv Yexus Khetos tug Vaajtswv, hab tug kws yog peb Leej Txiv tug kws muaj fwjchim ci ntsaa ab, pub Vaajtswv Ntsujplig tug Dlawbhuv rua mej.  Tug Ntsujplig ntawd yuav pub tswvyim hab qha Vaajtswv rua mej, kuas mej paub Vaajtswv heev zuj zug ntxiv.  Kuv thov Vaajtswv qheb mej lub sab kuas mej totaub zoo, mej txhaj paub has tas mej cov kws Vaajtswv tub hu lug cuag nwg lawm, mej ca sab le caag rua VaajtswvHab txuj koob moov kws Vaajtswv coglug tseg has tas, “Vaajtswv yuav pub rua Vaajtswv tsaav tuabneeg zoo npaum le caag.  Hab paub has tas Vaajswv lub fwjchim kws ua num huv peb cov ntseeg lub sab, luj npaum le caag.” (Efexus 1:15-19)

Koj puas thov Vaajtswv ntau tshaaj qub lub sijhwam muaj kev txhawbxeeb ntau yaam nuav?  Kuv ca sab tas peb txhua tug thov hab najnub thov tsi tu tsi su, ib yaam le Pauslus has txug nwg tugkheej nuav (nqai 16) hab has rua pawg ntseeg nyob Thexalausnikes kuas puab “thov Vaajtswv tsi tseg tsi tu txhua sijhawm” tsi has yuav muaj kev txhawjxeeb ntxhuv sab dlaabtsi (1 Thex. 5:16-18).  Tej zag koj yuav nov lawm tas cov DS and Bishop puab sibntsib txhua asthiv lug koom uake thov Vaajtswv hab sibntsib saib puab ib leeg twg nyob le caag, hab txhua lub District puab nyag kuj muaj nyag kev ntsib nrug cov xwfwb hab txwjlaug lug thov Vaatjswv hab sibthaam uake.  Hab tsi taag le, peb kuj muab tsaab ntawv sau ntawm nuav ua kev thov Vaajtswv rua txhua txhua tug.  Ntxiv moog, txhua asthiv kuv tseem muaj kev sibntsib uake nrug kuv tsev tuabneeg thov Vaajtswv uake.  Tshaaj le ntawd, kuv kuj tseem muaj kev thov Vaajtswv yaav tsausntuj hab lwm lub sijhawm nyob yaav ntsuab nub.

Peb thov Vaatjswv paab kev noj qaab nyob zoo, rua peb cov ntseeg, phoojywg hab tsev tuabneeg, rua peb cov thawjcoj hab tej kws khumob, hab tseem thov Vaajtswv kuas tshem tug kaabmob coronavirus, hab ntau yaam kws tsi sau rua nuav.  Ua tsaug rua mej kev thov Vaajtswv paab txhua yaam.  Tswv Yexus qha nwg cov thwjtim txug kev thov Vaajtswv hab peb siv nwg zaaj lug thov lug ua peb kev thov Vaajtswv.  Tabsi Pauslus nwg kev thov Vaajtswv txawv tsi zoo le Yexus zaaj lug thov hab peb tej kev thov.  Nwg tej lug thov rua pawg ntseeg Efexus hab lwm pawg yog thov rua kev lujhlub saab ntsujplig ntau dlua le saab kev noj qaab nyob zoo.  Nwg tej lug thov muaj ob yaam, kev ua tsaug rua cov ntseeg kev mob sab rau ntseeg hab kev sibhlub, hab kev lujhlub saab ntsujplig, lossis ob yaam uake, kws zoo le cov lug khij txuj kaab huv qaab ntawv qhov Vaajlugkub nyob sau nuav.

Yog le thaum peb thov Vaajtswv, peb tsi xob thov kuas tshem tub kaab mob coronavirus hab thov txug kev noj qaab nyob zoo hab kev noj kev haus xwb, tabsi yuav tsu thov rau saab kev lujhlub saab kev ntseeg ib yaam nkaus, tshwjxeeb nyob rua lub sijhawm muaj kev txhawjxeeb nuav.  Peb txuj kev ntseeg yuav raug siv… najnub.  Thov Vaajtswv kuas peb yuav lujhlub zujzug hab kev ntseeg ruaj khov txhua zag kws muaj kev txhawjxeeb ntxuvsab lug raug pe blub neej.

Thov Tswv Yexus Zaaj lug Thov: Peb Leejtxiv tug nyob sau ntuj, thov kuas koj tau koobmeej.  Thov koj lug kaav tuabneeg lub sab; thov koj paab kuas peb ua tau le koj lub sab nyam ib yaam le cov kws nyob sau ntuj.  Thov koj pub mov rua peb muaj noj nub nua.  Thov koj zaam xim rua peb ib yaam le peb tub tau zaam txim rua cov kws ua txhum rua peb lawm.  Thov koj  tsi xob ca tej kev sim sab ntxag tau peb, tabsis thov koj paab kuas peb dlim ntawm Dlaab Ntxwgnyog txhais teg.  Vim koj le yog Ntuj Ceebtsheej, lub Fwjchim hab kev Ci Ntsaa Ab moog ib txhab ib txhis.  Amees.

 

By Jorge Luis Mayorga

Trust and Joy during Difficult Times

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;
  though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food;
  though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls,
  yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.
  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
  and makes me tread upon the heights”

(Habakkuk 3: 17-19) NRSV

In my devotion time of one of these days, I reflected in this passage that has brought me confidence and trust in God so many times in my life when difficult situations have come.  

These verses in the conclusion of Habakkuk could be a mourner’s litany: “No figs, no fruit, no food, no flocks-of all the prophet and his people have lost or fear to lose.” Instead, Habakkuk’s list of potential or real catastrophes is turned on its head with one simply word: Yet. That one word becomes the turning point and Habakkuk anxiety becomes triumph; what could have been a mourning song has become a song of joy.

As we go through these difficult times of uncertainty and fear caused by the pandemic, may we make our own the words of the prophet Habakkuk when he says:

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation”

Prayer:

Gracious and Merciful God, we give you thanks because despite of the difficult times that the whole world is experiencing, we can look up to you and praise you, knowing that our lives are in your hands.   

In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!

 

The peace of Christ be with you,

Pastor Jorge,              

 

Confianza y Gozo en Tiempos Difíciles,

Aunque la higuera no florezca ni en las vides haya frutos,
 aunque falte el producto del olivo y los labrados no den mantenimiento,
 aunque las ovejas sean quitadas de la majada y no haya vacas en los corrales,
 
con todo, yo me alegraré en Jehová, me gozaré en el Dios de mi salvación.
 Jehová, el Señor, es mi fortaleza; él me da pies como de ciervas
 y me hace caminar por las alturas”

(Habacuc 3: 17-19) Reina Valera 1995

En uno de mis devocionales de estos días, me encontré reflexionando en este pasaje de las escrituras el cual me ha dado confianza en las situaciones difíciles de mi vida cuando estas han llegado a mí.

Estos versículos de la conclusión del libro de Habacuc bien podrían ser de una letanía de lamento y luto: “No hay higuera, no frutos, no productos de olivo, no hay vacas en los corrales-ni de todo aquello que el profeta y su gente han perdido o tienen miedo de perder” En lugar de esto, la lista del potencial y las catástrofes reales de Habacuc cambia su cabeza o manera de pensar con una simple expresión: Con todo, esta simple frase “con todo” llega a ser el punto decisivo para Habacuc y su ansiedad se convierte en triunfo. Lo que podría haber sido una canción de lamento se convierte en una canción de gozo.  

A medida que atravesamos por estos tiempos difíciles de incertidumbre y temor causado por la pandemia, que nosotros podamos hacer propias las palabras del profeta Habacuc cuando dice:

“Con todo, yo me alegraré en Jehová, me gozaré en el Dios de mi salvación.”

Oración:

Dios lleno de gracia y misericordia, te damos gracias porque a pesar de los tiempos difíciles que todo el mundo está experimentando, podemos verte hacia ti y alabarte sabiendo que nuestras vidas están en tus manos. En Jesucristo nuestro Señor, Amen!   

La Paz del Señor sea con ustedes,

Pastor Jorge

 

.

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Oración:
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7:A medida que atravesamos por estos empos di-ciles de incerdumbre y temor causado por la
 
pandemia, que nosotros podamos hacer propias las palabras del profeta Habacuc cuando dice:
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Oración:
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By Barbara Certa-Werner

photo of vegetation Last Monday had been a long and exhausting day, so I went for a walk with my daughter and our three dogs along the Osaugie (pronounced O-soggy) Trail in Superior, which featured interesting sites of ships at port, businesses, railways, and wooded areas. As we walked and talked, I noticed that there were buds on all the vegetation – as they were not quite yet with foliage. We needed more rain and warmer weather before we would see leaves and flowers.

My surroundings caused me to take a mental pause and consider our current situation of the “not quite yet” of this pandemic. We are expectant, unsure, excited, anxious, perhaps apathetic, but mostly hopeful as to what will be the next stage.

As we begin making transitions, there is a promise in Habakkuk 2:3 that gives us a framework for our ministry, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” This is the time to embrace “what could be, what might be, what is about to bloom” mentality as we vision and plan.

This “not quite yet” time is an invitation to each of us, as Christians, to be intentional about how we live and work in this world. May you fully embrace the “not quite yet” as it blooms and grows.

Prayer: God of Possibility, we ask that You open our eyes, hearts, and souls to the “not quite yet.” Help us to vision “as if” not “as is.” Show us the path. Amen.

 
 
 
 
 

By Bishop Jung

Bless our God, O peoples,
   let the sound of his praise be heard,
 who has kept us among the living,
   and has not let our feet slip.
 For you, O God, have tested us;
   you have tried us as silver is tried.
 You brought us into the net;
   you laid burdens on our backs;
 you let people ride over our heads;
   we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
(Psalm 66:8-12)

My growing concern as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches out is for people’s mental health. Most people are dealing with a higher level of stress than at any other time of their lives, and for a much longer sustained period. We have not been prepared with adequate coping mechanisms for the current situation. For many, the default way to deal with stress is to talk with others about it. At the very least, one remedy for stress is to socialize and have a good time with friends. Personal isolation and even too much time with the same few people escalates the stress instead of relieving it. We are social creatures, and we are members of a connectional and relational faith. This is a true test of all our faith and feelings.

It can be very difficult to hold fast to the core tenets of our Christian faith. We echo the Psalmist who cries out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” When will this end? When can we reconnect? How can we let off steam in non-harmful and healing ways?

I only want to say to you again, God is with us. God cares deeply for us, and it breaks the heart of God when the children suffer. God will see us through coronavirus. God will see us through social and physical distancing. God will see us through economic upheaval and personal distress and challenge. God will do these things. And even though we are physically separated, remember to reach out. Call each other. Email each other. Touch base by social media. Send a text to a friend or loved one. Remember that in the hardest times, we can be a lifeline to each other.

God of redemption and holiness help us to remember who we are. We are your people, now and forever. When we are threatened, you are with us. When we are frightened, you are there. When we are despondent and sad, you hold us. When we see only trouble, you carry us through. Restore our faith and give us the strength we need to emerge in the “spacious place” that you promise. We claim this in our faith and confidence. Amen.

 

By Dan Dick

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. (John 14:27-29)

I find that I need to read this passage of scripture each and every day as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Of all the gifts given by God, of all the teachings offered by Jesus, of all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace is the most needed and appreciated. Originally, Jesus made this offer to a community in crisis, a Christian fellowship concerned about survival. I cannot help but reflect on the obvious parallel. In the face of physical separation from the person of Jesus, this reassurance was offered to calm, comfort, and strengthen those left behind. The earlier portion of John 14 contains Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit. While Jesus himself would be gone, the power and presence of God would remain through the Holy Spirit.

I take time every day to center and focus on God’s Holy Spirit, present in my heart and mind. Following hours of television, internet, radio, and social media messages of doom and gloom, I need to tune out the worldly messages and tune into the spiritual messages. Miraculously, focusing on this passage of scripture calms my heart and soul, settles my mind and spirit, and for a brief time each day, I know peace. It is my hope and prayer for all that we might know this peace together, for it is this sense of peace and the blessed assurance of God’s continued guidance that I believe will carry us through.

Loving and caring God hear our prayer. Break through the crusts of anxiety, worry, fear and despair to comfort us and bless us with your peace – a peace that surpasses our human understanding. We ask this humbly in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

By Kate Croskery Jones

Remember the Sabbath Day

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Many of us memorized or at least learned The Ten Commandments, including the fourth one, to keep the Sabbath Holy as part of our early Christian education.  My Fourth-grade understanding was that this meant going to church and that Kresge’s was closed.  Much later in life I came to understand a deeper meaning, sabbath is an expression of God’s love toward us. It is the gift of a day of rest and that we are commanded to enable a day of rest for our families and those who work for us.  Jesus acknowledged sabbath is a gift when he said, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).  Much less quoted, and hence less familiar is: “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people.” (Exodus 31:14).  We do not put people to death for breaking Sabbath these days.  If we did, it would surely be more deadly than COVID 19.   I find if far harder to keep sabbath these days than I once did.  My cell phone, laptop and home office enable me to work all of the time.  Safer at Home is not safer for the soul if we allow ourselves to work 24/7.  I find myself deeply fatigued when I am unable to take to my sabbath rest. I wonder if the death comes minute by minute and hour by hour when I allow the pressure to do more and do better to take precedence over God’s sabbath commandment.  It is so very hard to accept this gift of rest.  I do know that we are more likely to make career-killing errors when we violate this commandment. In addition to a full day of rest each week, I am trying to take “sabbath snippets” between Zoom calls and other appointments.  A sabbath snippet could be a walk around the block, a quick nap or a little recreational reading—anything that can refresh mind, body and spirit.  Sabbath is a commandment. Sabbath is gift. Sabbath is a means of sanctification.

“You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.  (Exodus 31:13)