How many of you are tired of being just at home and with your family? I know I heard that a fair bit from my kids yesterday. They are ready for life to go back to what it was. They miss their friends. They miss their teachers. They miss going to school. And do you know what, I get it. I miss them going to school. I miss getting to gather with our church family. I miss a lot of things. I know that at some point we will be able to do all those things again. But do you know what I would miss more if we were not practicing being apart – I would miss all the people who got really sick because of this virus! We just can’t get new people as easily as we can get other things.
This is hard but we can do hard things. In our Old Testament reading we’re continuing with God using Moses to have Pharaoh let the Israelites leave Egypt. Today’s reading, Exodus 9:1-14 is the preparation for the first Passover. God gives some strange instructions – including putting the blood of a lamb on the door frame of the house. “12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Wow. It’s hard to think about what God is doing in the story against the Egyptians. It is much easier to think about God saving the Israelites.
In our New Testament reading Mark 9:14-29 tells the story of healing a boy who has an unclean spirit. The dad had brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples who had been unable to heal him. Jesus finally takes over and does it but only after the Father asks Jesus to help his unbelief.
It is sometimes hard to believe things we cannot see. We do not know anyone who is sick so why is this happening – why do we have to stay away from people. It’s like when a hurricane is in the gulf and it is sunny outside. Do we really need to bring everything that could blow away inside the garage? Do we really need to make sure that we’ve got food, water, and gas in the car just in case we have to evacuate? The answer is yes, because we know it’s coming. The last 10 days we’ve been asked to stay away from each other but the reality is that not everyone has done it and the virus is spreading. Our doctors are telling us that if do not make drastic changes they will not be able to help everyone who needs help.
Today’s challenge is this – encourage those you know who are tired and do not believe that this will make a difference. Pray – ask God to help those who do not believe to see how this is caring for all of God’s children. Imagine – think about what the first thing you want to do when we can all gather at the church again.
Let’s pray – God we love you and we know you love us. Help our unbelief so that we may prepare and care for all of your people. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Life keeps changing. In just 3 years we’ve been through Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Imelda and now COVID-19. Each time we’ve faced something there have been major changes to our lives. With this current challenge we are now going to school online and it’s a big change. It may feel both a little exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. I know for me this morning I did not feel like it was going very well. In fact it’s midday and I still have not even finished my cup of coffee. That may be part of the problem. I really wish I had Wyatt here to remind me to finish my coffee before the morning was over! I know time feels like it is both going really fast and really slow all at the same time.
The OT reading this morning is continuing the story of God, Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh and the Israelites (Exodus 10:21 – 11:8) . The Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand towards the sky so that darkness spreads over the land of Egypt, a darkness that you can feel….an intense darkness fell on the whole land of Egypt for three days. People couldn’t see each other, and they couldn’t go anywhere for three days.” When I read this I had a sick feeling in my stomach – the one I get when I know it’s true. I hate that we cannot see each other like we normally do. It definitely feels a little dark being a part from our church family. But that is not the end of the story.
Verse 23 – “But the Israelites all had light where they lived.” It is easy, when things feel out of control, to believe that the sky is falling, that there is only bad news. Some of may feel like we are stuck at home or that we are stuck at home WITH ONLY OUR FAMILY! It may feel like all we hear is what we cannot do. But that does not have to be the end of our story if we remember who we are and whose we are. We are God’s children. We are not alone. And Jesus is the light of the world. What happens when we change how we look at the problem? Instead of “I’m stuck at home with my siblings – we think, I get to be safe at home and can play games with my family.”
I’ve heard people say that churches are closed. That is not true. Faith UMC is has simply left our building because we are the church. And we are out in the world. Someone suggested putting our Christmas lights back up so that we may rekindle the joy that comes at Christmas. And I’ve been really thinking about this – what if we start letting Christ’s light shine through us in the world in all different ways. Yes, I think I will have we might feel better if we put some Christmas lights on outside. Yes, I can refocus my own thoughts to it will be ok. I can help reflect love and hope instead of fear and panic in conversations.
The Gospel reading for this morning is Mark 9:2-13 – it’s the story of Jesus’ transfiguration – when he was transformed in front of the disciples amazingly bright and we heard the words – “This is my Son, the whom I love dearly. Listen to him!” It is Jesus shining bright. Let us listen and love. Think of 1 way you can share love & Jesus’ light today. Amen!
Do you like frogs? How about bugs? We’ve had some pretty days and I’ve seen everything turning green and I’ve started hearing more and more frogs outside. A couple of nights ago on my walk the frogs were all talking to each other. And while I like to hear frogs, I even like to see frogs but I do not really like the idea of frogs being EVERYWHERE. In our reading from the Old Testament (Exodus 7:25 – 8:19) we have the story of the 2nd & 3rd plagues afflicting Egypt – frogs & gnats. Imagine for a minute that suddenly there are frogs everywhere – not just outside, they’re inside your house, covering everything. No thank you!
Does it feel like it’s only been a week since we all learned a lot of new things? I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to create a YouTube channel so that we can worship together on Sunday. It won’t be the same at all but it is better than being completely separate. I know your teachers have been learning how to try and be teachers when they are not with you in the classroom. We’ve all learned that we need to keep our physical distance from each other (6 feet). But do you know what else I’ve learned. We are made to be in relationship with each other.
God made us for each other. God made us to life in community. I’ve heard my kids talk about how much they miss their classmates (even the ones they don’t necessarily like all that much). We are not made to live in isolation. We are kind of like Pharaoh – when we can be with each other we won’t take it for granted. Much like the people of Egypt took for granted that there should not be frogs everywhere. But once the frogs went away, do you know what Pharaoh forgot all about it and went back to living the same way (keeping God’s people working for him).
I know you’ve been using your imagination a lot this week looking for ways to show & share God’s love this week. But today – I want you to rest. I want you to find something that you’re thankful for even in the midst of the chaos. Me, I am thankful that I do not have anywhere to go or anything to do today. I’m planning on making some bread and otherwise just enjoying doing whatever it is that I want to do. Let us rest in the promise that God is with us even in when things are out of control.
Let's pray - God we love you and we know you love us. Help us to rest and remember who you made us to be. Help us be creative and share your love. Amen.
How many of you know the story of Moses getting Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people leave Egypt? You may especially remember the parting of the Red Sea and the people walk on dry land? You might even remember this song: Pharaoh, Pharaoh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PkMC7O1lq0 It tells of some of Moses’ story. But before Pharaoh actually lets God’s people go – well, God has to show Pharaoh who is God with 10 different plagues. The first one begins in Exodus 7:8-24 where Moses turns the water to blood (YUCK!).
However, just before Moses does that, he tells Pharaoh what God said: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” My friends, we’re in the wilderness. And sometimes the wilderness is exciting. And sometimes the wilderness is scary and sometimes, well sometimes it’s just too much. Can I share with you that I started crying today? I was crying because I did not know when we would get to see each other again. And that hurt – because I love and miss you.
But God reminded me in our Gospel reading for today, Mark 8:1-10 it’s the feeding of the 4000. Jesus said to the disciples: “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” Jesus has compassion for us. When the disciples didn’t know how to feed them, Jesus had them sit down and see what they had and before too long everyone had been fed and there were leftovers!
Here is the Good News – God can transform all sorts of things. So here is your challenge – I need you to come up with some ways you can participate in worship in the coming weeks. Maybe one of you would like to read scripture and your parent’s would be willing to record you with their phone. Perhaps you play an instrument and would be willing to share that as our special music one Sunday. I can not even think of all the different ways we could lead worship together. So here is your challenge. Think about how you can help me lead worship. I think we all need to see each other and God can do amazing things – even in the wilderness and physical distancing!
Here is our prayer for today: “God we love you and we know you love us. Help us to worship you in the wilderness and find ways to lead your people wherever we are. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
There was a move that came out when I was a child called Ground Hog Day. Some of you may have seen it. I’ll confess I never did but I knew the premise. It was February 2 (Ground Hog Day) and for the main character he kept waking up on February 2 and had to repeat the day. Each day he would wake up and instead of it being February 3 it was still February 2. He quickly figured out that he could do different things but it was still February 2. Perhaps you feel that no matter what you do today, you know tomorrow will bring much more of the same.
In my Bible reading for this morning (Exodus 5:1-6:1), Moses and Aaron had gone to Pharaoh to tell him to let God’s people go. Pharaoh basically laughed and said nope. And to make sure that the people don’t like you, they have to do the same task – making bricks but instead of being given the ingredients they have to go and get that too. Basically, more work. Have your parents been given you more chores since you’re home. I know that my kids have done more cleaning than they usually have to do and someone gave me the idea to add wiping down the door knobs, light switches and faucets daily.
In my reading in the Gospel of Mark 7:24-37 we have 2 healing stories. Do you know what, there may be more work but we also have great flexibility and creativity that we can use. Do you remember yesterday how I asked you to imagine ways we can reach out to others and show love – we have time together to brainstorm. We don’t usually get to all be at home together for so long. This is a gift if we think about it.
So here is our challenge for today – how can we share hope & healing with each other. Perhaps if you see one of your parents looking frustrated – giving them a hug or telling them a joke. Perhaps your brother or sister is upset they can spend time with their friends – offer to give them some space or invite them to play a game. It is in caring for each other that we can experience healing too.
Let’s pray – God we love you and we know you love us. Help us to experience your healing today and encourage us to reach out in love to others as well. Watch over us until tomorrow. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
There was an old TV show on re-runs when I was a kid called Gilligan’s Island. Here is a link to the opening & closing credits to give you a little taste. https://youtu.be/Q8jhb5NnADM
I remember watching this show and thinking – wow – that’s kinda cool – an extra long vacation. They get to live on an island and figure stuff out and don’t have to go to school or work. They just get to be together. Does this sound a little familiar? This is kind of how we are going to be living and working for awhile. All together. But we haven’t crashed on a desert island. We’re at home. But it’s different. We’ve all had changes to our schedules before – between Hurricane Harvey & Tropical Storm Imelda – we’ve been out of school and in a little bit we go back to a new normal – even if our homes are mucked out – we start getting back to what life was like before just a little different. But this time it’s different. We all have power, internet, water. No damage has happened in our homes. We’re just being asked to stay away from each other – social distance. When we look outside nothing seems wrong so why can’t we go do things? Well, in short answer we don’t want to get sick or accidently get anyone else sick.
In the Gospel of Mark chapter 7, Jesus & his disciples are not doing the things that the Scribes and Pharisees are and they are having a disagreement. The rule was that you had to wash your hands (sound familiar) before you ate because if you didn’t you would be unclean. Except it wasn’t about physical health. We know how important it is right now to wash our hands and stay away from each other for physical health. The Pharisees were taking issue with the actions of Jesus & disciples about spiritual or ritual health. Jesus goes on to say that what matters most is what & why we do it. For example, if you decide to be helpful to your parents because you really want to have something – is that what we are being called to do a disciples of Jesus? Jesus calls us to help our parents because we are to honor our parents. Does that make sense?
How many of you have watched Phineas & Ferb? You know, “There's 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it. So the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it.” Our “problem” is finding ways to spend this new time – let’s use our imaginations to live as Jesus calls us to – so that our hearts & actions show God’s love.
Here is our challenge for today. How might we share God’s love without getting sick? We have people in our church who live alone. Could you make a card for them so that we could mail it to them? Can you brainstorm ideas for reaching out while still keeping distance? We are really all on our own desert islands – the biggest limitations we have is our imagination for how might share love.
Today is St. Patrick's Day. For many of us what we know about this day stems from wearing green to protect from getting pinched or eating something different, maybe Corned Beef & Cabbage. Some of you may have participated in a Leprechaun Hunt become a part of the celebration for younger children. But there is so much more to this day. Did you know that St. Patrick was kidnapped at age 16, taken from his home and sold as a slave to a chieftain in Ireland. Can you imagine how scary that was? Are any of you scared right now? It’s ok to be scared. Did you know all of us – even grown ups get scared.
Do you know what even big people in the Bible got scared. Do you remember the story of Moses and the Pharaoh? If you don’t that’s ok – here’s a quick reminder or you can read it in the bible (Exodus 3:16 – 4:12). The Israelites (God’s people) were slaves in Egypt. God was ready to rescue his people and he asked Moses to do. And Moses said you can’t mean me. I’m nobody I can’t do this. And God said yes you can and I’ll be there with you. Even after God showed Moses how he could help – he still wanted God to send someone else.
Jesus’ disciples also got scared. In Mark 6:47-56 Jesus had just feed the 5000 people with 5 loaves & 2 fish and there was 12 basketfuls left over, Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and he would meet them on the other side. Jesus went up on a mountain to pray by himself. While he was doing that a storm rose up on the lake where the disciples were and they got scared. Jesus went down the mountain and walked on the water to get to them. Instead of being comforted – they got more scared. So he got into the boat told spoke to them that it was Jesus and to not be afraid and things got easier.
Our lives don’t feel the same. We are being asked to stay home and not go and do the things we’re used to – whether that is school, sports or church. It may feel scary, or overwhelming or not make any sense. You’re not alone. Even us grown-ups are feeling the same things. But here is the good news – we are not alone – God is with us and we get to do something new. I will send a story every day for you. My cell number is 832.792.4951 and with your parent’s permission you can call or text me any questions or suggestions you have.
Before I close, remember it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Here is the rest of his story. After 6 years of being a slave he got free and went home back to Britain. While there he heard God calling him to be a priest and go back to Ireland. And so he studied and went back to Ireland as a priest (pastor). He wanted the people who did not know God, the people who had him as a slave, to know that God loved them. He wanted them to understand that there was a way to make it better – through reconciliation (understanding & forgiveness of each other).
Beginning today – it is our challenge to practice making things better – to be kind and patient with each other as we all try to do something new.
Here is our prayer for today: God, we love you and know you love us. Help us to be kind and patient with each other. Remind us all day that we are not alone that you are always with us. In Jesus name. Amen.