Sing For Joy!

A few days back, I was sitting on the front porch of the parsonage and noted the happy singing of several robins, cardinals, and bluebirds (at least they were the ones I could identify). I thought to myself about all those birds, “You have no idea what is going on in the world, do you?” The correct answer is they most likely do not. They’re thinking about one thing – “Let’s eat!” Winter and spring are now in the past, some are keeping their babies fed in their nests, and still others have already sent their babies out into the big bird world. Still they must eat. They must keep up their own strength.

Truthfully, I don’t really know what birds think, otherwise I could reasonably be considered “bird-brained”, but the scripture that immediately came to mind was a reminder of why birds sing so joyfully: “Look at the birds of the air . . .” With those words from Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I was really the clueless one. If the birds don’t worry neither should I. Here is more of what he said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? Matthew 6:25-27 (NKJV)

Here is my point, and what we need to constantly have in mind: no Christ Follower should allow worry and/or anxiety to consume them. Yes, we can be concerned about a terribly contagious virus called Covid-19 that we thought would be subsiding by now, but instead is still sweeping the globe, killing thousands, endangering the more vulnerable members of the population, and making so many hundreds of thousands miserably ill. But, we serve an all-powerful God whose eye is on the sparrow and we know he watches over us too.

Speaking for myself, I’m tired! But you may say, “how can you be tired, Pastor? You’re not doing that much.” Oh, it’s not so much a physical tired as it is mental, emotional, even spiritual. I miss the ways things used to be. Can we all just be honest with ourselves? I want church back like it used to be. I want us all to gather INSIDE God’s house, sing the songs of worship, hug and love one another, and I want to pastor. I want to visit your homes, sit at your tables, drink coffee on your porch! That was my promise to you when we came to HUMC. But, except for a few instances here and there, I can’t keep my promise to you. I can’t do all those pastoring things. Covid-19 has disrupted all of our schedules, all of norms and routines. But as much as all this causes me consternation, I’m reminded that God doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever! And just like His eye is on the sparrow, His eye is also on you and on me- even during this time of change and disruption. Through it all, I just have to look for alternative ways to show that Godly love to others through whatever means possible- even when that means not being physically with the ones I love.

So, in the midst of this pandemic that has caused the world to come to a screeching halt, and has brought so much disruption of every kind, let’s remember whose we are and whom we serve. And as we do, let’s be contagious in our own way by spreading the Good News of the One who causes the birds to sing for joy.

Back to Church?

“We’re in!” “No, we’re out!” “Going back to church!” “No, we’re not going back yet!” Is your mind spinning like a top yet? I have to say, mine certainly is. This thing called coronavirus, or Covid-19 to some, has certainly disrupted our lives, hasn’t it? We thought when it all started back in the month of March that we might be out of church for a few weeks at most. Then we would go back to church, and that would be that! Now, here we are in June! And, we still haven’t gone back to church yet. We thought June 7th. But the bishop advised that, no, we’d best wait a while longer. Now we’re shooting for June 21st. I know we all are hoping AND PRAYING that it really happens this time.

But as pastor of this wonderful church, I have to say I’m very proud of the way we’ve handled this ever-changing situation over these past months. It was definitely difficult for your church leadership, back in March, to say we’re cancelling in-person worship temporarily. But the decision to start back up again is proving even more difficult. Through it all, you, our faithful members and attenders, have been patient and understanding as we try to navigate through this fluid situation that seems to change on a day to day basis. I would ask that you please continue to pray for your church leaders as we continue to “navigate through rough waters” during this unusual time. Pray that we will make the right decision for the welfare and health of our entire congregation.

I want to give a BIG SHOUT-OUT to our faithful givers! You have really proven yourselves faithful. Many of you have given sacrificially over and above your normal giving. For this, we are truly thankful. I was sharing with our district su-perintendent a few days back that I can know when I go to the mailbox each day whose check will be there. Others, I can expect to pull in the driveway with the weekly gift ready to hand out their car window. Truly, this has been a bright spot in a strange situation.

Another thing that has touched me is the explosive growth of our Facebook Live Stream on Wednesday, Friday, and Sun-day mornings. We’ve had excellent “attendance” and participation in our live Bible studies and messages. There have been so many positive and encouraging comments for which I am thankful! Even more encouraging is the many com-ments I have received about continuing our live streams after everything gets back to “normal.” I assure you, we will make every effort to continue as much live streaming as possible. Obviously, we will be tweaking our efforts in order to maximize the benefits of “online” church. But please know we will definitely continue the Sunday morning and Wednes-day morning live streams. Most likely, the Friday morning live stream will be discontinued when we get back to “normal.” Many hundreds of people have “viewed” the live streams. One broadcast a few weeks ago had, at last count, over 1,400 views. That is tremendous! Furthermore, as a direct result of our live streams, we will be blessed when things get back to normal, to baptize a new child of God! That is enough to encourage us to continue. Praise the Lord!

Finally, I want to say a huge thank you, to all who came out Sunday evening, May 24th, to bless our high schools graduates during the Graduation Parade. Lauren Cole and Kelsey Goodwin were blessed with many gifts and well wishes to cele-brate the end of their senior year which was so unceremoniously disrupted back in March. Our hearts went out to both these sweet young ladies as they suffered the loss of so many end-of-school memories. Hopefully, our church’s efforts to honor them with the Graduation parade made it easier. As Lauren heads off to East Tennessee State University in the fall, and Kelsey heads west to Middle Tennessee State University, they will leave with our love and best wishes. We pray they feel our love in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead!