Mid Week Update/Devotion 4/1/2020 “Wait”

Mid Week Update/Devotion 4/1/2020 “Wait”

We will get to the Mid-Week devotion in a moment. I have a few announcements first.

UPDATES:

• The Centenary Administrative Council met March 30 and made the following decisions. All Sunday services in April have all been moved to the online church. This includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Terri Benz, Kevin Hinkle and Pastor Mel will continue to bing a version of online church to Facebook until it is safe to meet again in person. They are planning an online version of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and a smaller Easter recognition. 

Worship Chair, Terri Benz, was excited to announce that the actual full Easter celebration will be the first Sunday the congregation is able to meet safely in person in our Jacksonville Sanctuary.

The Administrative Council also voted unanimously to continue paying all staff their full wages through the end of April. They have demonstrated great faithfulness in this congregation’s ability to move mountains.

• As you may have heard, MacMurray College has decided to close at the end of this school year. Its 174 year history has had a major impact on the community life of Jacksonville at it will be sorely missed. I have been in contact with two alumni of Mac and they are pretty heartbroken. We will offer a prayer in a moment.

• Please remove more dates from your calendar. The United Methodist Women’s Mother’s Day Banquet has been cancelled, as well as the District Spring meeting.

• I encourage you to send your prayer requests to us via email. I will share them with the church, but I will need further permission to share your personal information for the Online Church service since they will be shared beyond our church walls. Please continue to send information to the church by U.S. Postal Service or email. The physical office remains closed until further notice.

• I have one last announcement and it concerns the issue of giving. I first want to thank you for continuing to make your tithes and offerings, your generosity in the past 18 months has moved Centenary into a better position to pay monthly bills without borrowing. In March, however, we have fallen very far behind from where we need to be.

Unfortunately our change of service from ‘in person’ to online has caused our financial giving to fall drastically. I am encouraging you to continue your faithfulness. As I mentioned in the Ad Council report, the 18 members who were present via Zoom, an online meeting place, showed tremendous faith in God and also in all of us to make up this current shortfall.

I remind you again that PayPal has removed the 3% surcharge on giving, so 100% that you give through the website comes directly to Centenary. (Kevin) Even though the office is closed, Centenary staff are still collecting the mail and making deposits, so please don’t wait until we are back in church together, you can send in your gifts anytime.

• Please keep watching these mid-week updates as well as the Sunday Services which are all posted on Facebook. Written transcripts are also available on the website. This is the best way to stay informed with the most current information regarding church life at Centenary.

The church staff has been mailing transcripts of both the midweek updates and the Sunday Services to church members who are not able to access the Internet. If any of you have information about any member who is not receiving this information please contact myself or Kevin Hinkle and we will make sure they are added to our list. We don’t anyone left behind during this crisis.

PRAYER:

Gracious and loving God we thank you for this day. This is a day unlike any other we can recall. So many things have changed, yet we gather together to praise you for being the unchanging God. We are in great need of your sustaining love this day, we thank you that your love is big enough to care for this whole hurting world. Thank you for sending Jesus to be us and teach us and demonstrate true love. Let us live in the love through these days of great challenge.

Lord this morning we continue to pray for the Earp family on the passing of Weldon. We pray for the family of Jan Shelburn who is very ill at this time. We pray for church members who have had surgeries or procedures postponed. We pray for our family and friends who have been further secluded in area nursing homes.

For the sad news of MacMurray College’s decision to close its doors Lord, we pray for the current students who need to find other options; for the students who were planning on attending next year who now need to do the same; for the alumni who hearts are hurting; for faculty and staff who will be adversely effected; for the secondary effects that may ripple throughout Jacksonville.

Prayers for those who are sick or in nursing homes and have been separated from family members. For other families who cannot meet together due to the virus and for those who will not get together for Easter celebrations. We thank you for the creative ways we are all finding to remain connected.

For families that are suffering under the burden of quarantine, and also for families who have found a renewed sense of belonging.

For weddings, baptisms, funerals and other church services that have been rescheduled, postponed or even cancelled. We thank you for the churches that have been stretched to find new ways to hold services, revealing that you are never away from us O’ God.

We pray for all medical professionals who are responding with the gifts You have given them, for the purpose of healing. We pray especially today for those who have been greatly affected in the more dire areas of this out break. We thank you for those who have come out of retirement to provide care for another season. We pray for other healthcare providers who are living with a sense that the worst has yet to reach them. Give them all strength and encouragement to face each new day.

We pray Lord for other workers who need to be on the job, for all those who are risking their health to provide services for us, stand with them Lord and watch over them.

We pray for all elected leaders and their advisors to help them provide the best and most wise guidance.

We pray for our brothers and sisters who have been laid off, furloughed or who have had their pay decreased and those who face an uncertain financial future.

We pray for each other that we may rely on your Holy wisdom to help us understand what our response should be.

Loving God thank you for listening to our prayers, now be with us as we pray the words which you have given to us;

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth

As it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,

For ever. Amen.

DEVOTION:

Let’s begin with two readings from the Gospel of John 11:1-6 & 17-27

1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

Skipping down to verse 17

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

I have often tried to imagine the feelings of Mary and Martha when Jesus delayed his arrival. I imagine that is why this passage popped into my mind as soon as I heard the president say social distancing until the end of April. More waiting! Isn’t that about the last thing we wanted to hear.

These feelings may be pretty close to what Mary and Martha were feeling. Their words must have sounded like the authors of many of so many Psalms, “How long?” Perhaps we can all recall another time of darkness in our lives, maybe we recall thinking there was no way out of our difficult situation.

We are no different than Mary and Martha, we are troubled by the events in the world around us. When Moses became frustrated with this world, God gave these words, “Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage.” These words became the prayer of Moses life. I think those words hit Moses right in the heart, the same as Jesus’ words “Your brother will rise again” stuck in the heart of Mary and Martha.  Good words are good to remember.

Now may be a good time to write a prayer of your own. I have given the children many options to help them stay connected to church and God, here is one for us older folks. I want you to take time to write a prayer. Not to share or publish but just for you. Some encouraging words that you have heard God speak to you.

I think it’s good that you and I have a prayer while we wait. The Bible is a historical record of human interactions with God all based in prayer. Prayer is our best resource for connecting to God.

It may seem like there is very little to sustain us in the days of quarantine. Connecting with God is what will sustain us. We hear this desperate need for connection in the pleas from Martha, “go get Jesus,” or “Lord, had you been here,” or, “Yes, Jesus I believe in resurrection.”

It’s not like Martha doesn’t get it, she does. Like we all get it. That doesn’t change the reality of today on the outside, but it may dramatically change how we feel on the inside.

This world offers no guarantees concerning purpose, freedom or even identity. The only guarantee we have is that the Teacher knows the cries of our hearts. Our Savior knows how we feel while we wait. Jesus knows the joys of our best moments. The Messiah is in every part of every day.

I think that is one part of this passage that is often most lost is this; life is not just about us waiting upon the Lord its about Jesus telling us that our suffering, waiting and lack of trust is known well by the one who knows us well.

This virus will pass one day, and life will come back to normal. Will we remember the lessons we learned from the seemingly endless moments of waiting? Mary and Martha were changed forever simply by needing to wait upon the Lord and by exhibiting some good courage. I don’t think some grumbling is going to anger God nearly as much as us not learning anything new as we travel through this social distancing challenge.

Jesus was not practicing social distancing from his friends Martha and Mary when he waited for two days. Jesus was not deliberately making the sisters suffer in anguish. Jesus was reaching beyond what is believed to be ‘all there is’ in this world to awaken us to how much more there is for those who will wait upon the Lord and show good courage.

This passage also reveals how Jesus can see the bigger picture that we can’t. What Jesus can see is that we are not dead. It sure seems like we are sleeping, or at least dreaming. I heard someone on the news compare what we are going through like this virus has put us into a medically induced coma so the body has time to heal. I really connected to that analogy. We all need some form of healing.

The healing we all need / / is known to Jesus. For now we need to trust that God has the answer. Think of it like this, while we wait for God’s answer we are building a map of our faith story, and every map needs a key to tell us what everything on the map indicates. That key for us, is a prayer, a prayer I want you to begin writing. It can be five words or in the form of a lengthy Psalm if you like.

I don’t want any of you to feel like you are lost in your own map. This week I needed to remember the story of Mary and Martha and Jesus. Instead of me saying “Where were you on my map Jesus?” I wrote my prayer like this, “Thank you for my map. Yes, this map has included many dead ends, sharp turns, and one ways that seemingly go the wrong way. This map also included some amazing and beautiful stops along the way. Thank you for walking with me on my journey through my map and I pray now that ultimately my it leads to Heaven where you are seated and listening to me right now. Thank you Jesus”

I want you to remember that God is not just in Heaven, God is on your map right now, walking with us on the journey. Jesus is not 2 days or 4 days away. Jesus is not waiting at the end of this long journey, Jesus is right here, right now.

Did Jesus even need to go to Bethany? Couldn’t the Lord have healed Lazarus from where He was? Like He did for the Centurion’s servant, the Capernaum official’s son or the The Syro-phoenician Woman’s Daughter? Did Jesus just want or need to be with them in their agony and their eventual celebration.

Do you believe that one of the reasons God came to earth was to be with us? To be with us when we are crowded into a sanctuary and times when we are secluded at home? To be with us in times of life and times of death? All of this being together and being apart, the times of busyness and the times of quarantine, all of this happens according to God’s perfect and Holy timing.

No disciple can just snap their fingers and make God perform as they wish. How dare we. Instead we draw upon the power of God through our times of challenge and waiting. If you think about it our lives are nothing more than waiting for the glorious revelation of Jesus second coming.

So we wait, as Mary and Martha did. Knowing deep in our hearts that Jesus is coming in some far off day; but, also here, right now with us. So while we wait for our favorite restaurant to reopen, we need to recall what Martha and Mary found out, that while we are waiting, Jesus has control over our lives and our death and our new life.

Don’t forget that life is a gift. A gift given from God, we don’t deserve anything more than to be made aware of this gift and enjoy it all its forms. We will all discover some day as Martha and Mary did, Jesus was never far away.

I want you to take time now to begin writing a prayer to be your anchor as we continue to wait, a simple statement our faith in God will suffice. God will supply the rest. Get to work.

Until we meet gain, God bless you.