September 1, 2020
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
Over the past 2 months, I have been binge watching tv. I have been escaping into my own world of planning for travel in hopes that 2021 will bring me back to the ocean where I find peace and tranquility. I have found an escape in the very busy work that I do for LaFrontera.
Everyone needs an escape - something to draw our attention to different things that bring us joy. However, these escapes in this time and space are from the real story that continues to unfold in our country and our world, taking us from the things which give us strength - seeing our friends, in-person worship, eating out, and traveling just to name a few.
This pandemic has significantly affected every aspect of our lives. There are many of you who have not seen each other in person in several months. There are folks who have lost their jobs. There are folks who have lost loved ones due to Covid, or have lost loved ones who, because of Covid, have not been able to say their goodbyes in a way that meets the needs of the dying and those who are left behind.
In my primary ministry, I have lost employees due to layoffs and furloughs, have had employees exposed to Covid, and have had clients and families who are suffering because the way that we normally provide care is not meeting the needs of their lives, resulting in significant behavioral challenges. There are families who have lost loved ones who, living on the margins of poverty, do not have healthy resources for recovery. There is a significant loss of available beds because foster parents have either suspended or closed their licenses
In Arizona, over 201,000 of our friends and neighbors have been diagnosed with Covid, with over 5,000 succumbing to the disease. Worldwide, we are approaching the mark of 850,000 people dying from CV. Our hospitals are nearing capacity and there are worn out staff who are barely hanging on with their emotions in check as they are constantly dealing with death.
In addition to the Covid crisis, we are living in a time and space where we have been confronted by our systems of injustice and lives of apathy towards our sisters and brothers in different races. We have seen our racist ideals and lack of attention to our black sisters and brothers on display. And, as a result, our attitudes towards the black community and other communities on the margins has adversely impacted society’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in diverse communities including communities of O’Connor.
And yet, there are things that continue in the narrative of our lives as individuals and the life of the church. There are things that bring us a little sense of hope in the future. We see the joy in returning to some level of in person worship, seeing it successfully developed in other churches throughout our connection. We have welcomed new children into our Faith family. We have built relationships or evolved relationships in our desire to remain connected. We continue to experience the love and joy of our pets.
As I peruse this and other texts in scripture that call us to “not fear”, my fear of getting Covid and sheer frustration about the way that it has disrupted our everyday lives, I really want to call onto God and be honest with about my feelings of anger that God seems to be asleep at the wheel.
I think this scripture however shows that God remains active, even when we don’t perceive it.
In spite of church closures, God is active as clergy throughout our connection are working with each other to look for a healthy return to in person worship.
In spite of the death and destruction we see from Covid, God is active working through various scientists and teams throughout the world to evolve faster and more accurate ways of testing and entering phase 3 trials of vaccines, perhaps making one available this year.
In spite of the racism we have seen on display, God is active through leaders in our conference and connection who are shepherding us into new and different ways of understanding race relations.
In spite of the loss we are experiencing, we are welcoming life into this world and building relationships.
I honestly do not know when the problems we are experiencing will end. I do not know when we will be able to return fully to in person worship. I am not sure when the problems that our schools are experiencing will be resolved and children will be safely returning to full-time school.
What I am trusting through faith is that God is still present and working on things to a peaceful resolution to the crises we find ourselves in.
Thomas Hanks, in his commentary about Hebrews 11 emphasizes that faith is captured in invisible spheres including the yet unseen future and the invisible present realities including things which we can easily overlook including freedom justice truth and love which are at work. Fred Craddock shares that faith includes “assurance” “endurance” and a “firm hope in the things from which we do not shrink back”
I believe that God is calling us to strengthen our faith, to endure what we are experiencing and trust that, even though it does not seem to be the case, God is still in control and guiding us out of this spirit and time of darkness and uncertainty.
Prayers this week....
Prayers for Sean and Stefanie Mullen in Florida, cruise vloggers. Sean was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and has had to skip chemotherapy the past 2 weeks. Prayers for healing an endurance.
Continued prayers for Meg who remains in long term care. There have been 8 folks diagnosed with Covid 19, so prayers for safety and staff.
Prayers for Shane’s aunt Jane
Continued prayers for Susie’s dad who is awaiting a dental plate
Prayers for those who are experiencing fires in California and those impacted by hurricanes this weekend.
August 10 ,2020
25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed. 27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” 28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”
29 And Jesus said, “Come.” Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?”
Jesus walking on water is one of several miracles that Jesus demonstrates throughout the Gospels. In this passage, His walking on water shows the Disciples (and us) God’s power over the seas and all of creation. When the Disciples see Him, they are afraid because they believe Jesus is a Ghost. In verse 27, Jesus says “Do not fear” (one of the most frequent commands and encouragement throughout the Bible). He says “It’s me” (some versions say “I am” - one of the man names of God).
Peter challenges Jesus, saying “If it’s you order me to come to you on the water” So Peter goes out to walk on water towards Jesus - Peter performing the same miracle that they see in Jesus. When Peter “saw a strong wind”, he starts sinking. Jesus keeps him from sinking, calling Peter a “man of weak faith” who begins to doubt himself.
In light of this passage, we need to consider the many storms that we are in - the Covid crisis with continued challenges in timely testing and a vaccine not expected until late this year or next year, the election and attempts to deny those on the margins the ability to vote, the tension in our communities over wearing masks, those who have had their livelihood impacted by all that is going on, the violence towards the black community by law enforcement, and the tension even in our own denomination over human sexuality.
In times like these, it is so easy to lose our faith and hope. We lose focus on Jesus Christ and what He continues to do in our lives even the most difficult of times. As a result our personal and collective ministries suffer.
However, Jesus sometimes calls us to do the impossible, things we may not think we can do or have time to do. He calls us to have faith and move forward. This may mean taking on the important task of reaching out to others in our Faith community to stay connected as a church.
This may mean taking a look at some of our habits and reconsidering what God would have us do to maintain our physical and mental health. For me, I decided that in spite of gyms being closed, I started doing Yoga to make sure that I am taking care of my body.
This may also mean growing in our faith. This could be through prayer and meditation, or joining us for fellowship or Bible study.
May it be so.
And so, let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, our ears opened for His encouragement, and our hands & feet in ministry.