Information Overload

April 1, 2020


    At times during this Covid-19 pandemic, I have felt overwhelmed with information. Medical experts share information on how this virus spreads. Church experts share information on how pastors are to respond to social distancing. Counselors share information on how families are to get along while being cooped up together. Business consultants share information on how folks can work at home. It is hard to turn on the TV or open up email without being flooded with lots of information.


                

    I am grateful for all who are sharing their knowledge and opinions, but I am reminded that we are not saved by information. In his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin Friedman criticizes a fallacy in our culture that says that if we just collect enough data and if we consult the rights experts, then we can solve all our problems; we can then be saved. But sometimes, we will never have adequate information. Sometimes, experts will be wrong. Sometimes, the mystery of life can’t be reduced to something we can understand.



    The Christian faith proclaims that we are not saved by information. We are saved by a relationship with the living God who comes to us in Jesus Christ. The early church struggled against a false teaching called Gnosticism. Gnosticism says that people are saved by getting the right information about God. But this is wrong! True Christianity says we are saved by grace through faith. We are saved as a gift from God who loves us, claims us, and redeems us through Jesus Christ. Our main goal is not to get more information in our heads. Our main goal is to connect our hearts to Jesus. We are saved not because we have figured everything out about God. We are saved because God chooses to rescue us.


    Of course, information has its place. God has given us brains to learn. Acquiring proper information helps us live wise and fruitful lives. God wants us to know the right things. But, it is also okay at times to turn off sources of information. It is okay to turn off the TV, disconnect from social media, and put brackets around the advice of so-called experts. It is okay to sit in quiet and trust in God. In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you,” because it is about maintaining a relationship more than it is about getting information.


    What my heart longs for more than information is community. I miss connecting and worshipping with you all in person. I grieve this practice of social distancing. So let’s work together to maintain our connection and to build our relationships with one another, because it is not information that will save us. It’s God’s grace that comes to us through each other.

Overcoming Catastrophe   

March 23, 2020


   As a response to Covid-19 virus, I began reading Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love. Julian was a medieval mystic, living from 1342-1416 in England during a bubonic plague pandemic. Julian herself became sick almost to the point of death, and during her illness, she had a profound series of visions of Christ’s suffering and love.


   One vision was of her soul being a fine city with Christ in the middle of the city. Christ tells her, “You will not be overcome.” Julian reflects on his words and then adds, “You will not be overcome, were said very insistently and strongly, for certainty and strength against every tribulation which may come. He did not say: You will not be assailed, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted, but he said: You will not be overcome.”



   “You will not be overcome” echoes scripture. Jesus said in John 16:30, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart;I have overcome the world.”


   What a word of hope! That we will overcome means that we won’t be defeated. It means that the last word given to us will always be God’s word of life. We live with hope. We have hope even during this time of uncertainty that comes with the Covid-19 pandemic.


   Yesterday, I listened to Krista Tippett interview the writer Rebecca Solnit on the On Being podcast. Solnit said, “People in [our] culture love certainty so much. And they seem to love certainty more than hope.” Even in Bible days, the disciples wanted certainty. They asked Jesus questions, and often, Jesus didn’t answer their questions in the ways that they wanted. For example, the disciples once asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things happen? What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” And Jesus answered, “Nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows.” It is as though Jesus is more concerned with giving us hope than with giving us certainty. Hope is a component of faith, and faith means we live with trust, not certitude. We trust that God will act in God’s good time to make all things well. I can’t give you certitude, but I can point the reason to have hope: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Christ will prove faithful to us, and even now, Christ says, “You will not be overcome.”


   The proper posture for hope is to “watch and wait.” “Stay awake,” Jesus says, “for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Watching and waiting is not a passive activity. We watch and wait by praying. We watch and wait while doing simple acts of grace and compassion, such as calling on our neighbors (especially the elderly and those who are self-isolating) to make sure they are okay and to let them know that we love them. But we don’t do any activity out of a frantic worry. We don’t rush into anything out of a sense of fear. We remain calm, trusting in the faithfulness of Christ, who tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart;I have overcome the world.”   

Pastor's Blog

March 17, 2020

Dear Friends,


    We are still in the season of Lent.


    We began Lent on Ash Wednesday, just four weeks ago. At our Ash Wednesday service, we talked about the prophet Joel’s defining moment. The people of Israel had been hit by a plague of locusts. They were an agriculture based society, and their farms and fields had been stripped bare by swarming locusts. As you can imagine, this was a national catastrophe. And the prophet Joel responded to this time of chaos by calling the people of Israel to repent. That is, the people of Israel were called to change their hearts and lives, to turn from wrong ways of living and embrace God’s way of living.


    Now, let me be clear. Joel did not say that the Israelites caused the plague of locusts. Sometimes natural disasters happen that are nobody’s fault, and sometimes, even the best people have a hard time figuring out what to do when disasters happen. Yet, when they faced this disaster of the locust, the prophet Joel called the people of Israel to repent. When the prophet Joel and the Israelites faced a defining moment, they chose to turn to God and to recommit themselves to God. In the face of disaster, they were not without choice. And they chose to humble themselves before God and to seek God’s will and follow God’s teachings.


    This encourages me, even as we as a nation and church discern how we are to respond to the Covid-19 virus.  We are people who still have a choice. We can choose to turn to God. We can choose to trust in God. We can choose to recommit our lives to God. This is a defining moment for us.


    This past Sunday, our president called for a National Day of Prayer. We are to pray for God’s protection and strength for ourselves and for our country. But prayer is more than just asking God for help. Prayer also involves our repentance, our acknowledging to God where we have fallen short of being the people we are meant to be. It also involves our asking God for forgiveness and asking God for grace to live more faithfully.


    We are still in Lent, and in a way, our whole nation is now observing Lent. We are being called to give things up and to make sacrifices. In the past, God proved faithful to the people of Israel, and God will continue prove faithful to us in the future. Now, we are given a time to reflect on our priorities and refocus on God.


    Our goal as a church is to continue to provide you with resources to help you connect with God. Today, I ask you, “How is God calling you to refocus on God through your prayers? How is God calling you to change your priorities?


    The ashes we placed on our foreheads at the beginning of Lent were to remind us of our mortality. The news of the Corona virus also reminds us of our mortality. The awareness of our mortality is nothing new. It is a part of being human. Genesis 3:19 says that we are from dust and from dust we shall return. The church throughout its history had to deal with plagues and illness, and throughout its history, the church used these times to step forward in ministry with the sick and the vulnerable.


    We still hope, because death is never God’s last word to us, because “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us and will give life to our mortal bodies also even after we die” (Romans 8:11). One of our affirmations of faith is “Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restored our life. Christ will come again in glory.” Even in the face of death, we remain Easter people, people who are confident in God’s power to give life.


    So even as we struggle with this pandemic, we are still heading towards Easter, the wonderful celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the celebration that God gives life. Especially now, during this Lent—during this time of uncertainty—we are still called to affirm the power of Christ’s resurrection and the power of God to give life.


    So how can we share that life with others, even now? Even when we can’t see them in person?


    Perhaps there is a neighbor, a friend that you can reach out to with a phone call to share hope and life. Perhaps, if you are young and able, you can run errands at the supermarket for someone who has to self-quarantine.


    We don’t yet know what will happen in the next few weeks. We know that we are still in Lent. We know we are in a season when we give up things, and we know we are in a season of repentance. And best of all, we know the promise of Psalm 34:17, “When the righteous cry out, the Lord listens: he delivers them from all their troubles.”


    So even though won’t be having onsite worship here at Trinity through the end of March, we will still be able to worship through online communication and through other resources that we will provide for you. We will keep you informed of our plans. Keep checking our Facebook page and our emails to find out what will happen. I will post weekly messages on our website under “Pastor’s Blog.”


    Keep remembering what Jesus said, “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” (John 14:27).


In Christ,

Scott