Thoughts of Hope
Each Sunday morning, I begin worship by speaking these words from Psalm 118:24. It feels odd to be proclaiming the Lord’s day via email. But on Friday, Bishop Sharma Lewis directed all United Methodist Churches of the Virginia Conference to cancel worship for today and for next Sunday, March 22. With so much still unknown about the COIVD-19 and the way it spreads, her decision is prudent and made out of love for God’s people. But whether we are sitting in the beauty of the Harmony sanctuary or around our kitchen table, we can, with confidence, proclaim that this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Since Ash Wednesday on February 26, I have built our worship services around Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5-7. Interestingly, today’s scripture reading would have been from Matthew 6:25-34 which begins with these words, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…”
Wow! How’s this for God’s timing?
Why? Because these last couple of weeks, I have been quite worried and anxious. As COVID-19 spread from person to person and country to country, I knew it was only a matter of time before our lives here in Hamilton, Virginia, would be affected. Now, we experience the disruption of our daily lives just like our brothers and sisters in China and Europe. People are sick. Schools, businesses and churches are closed. Jobs are threatened and the economy struggles. For some, the basic need of food is a challenge. What’s not to worry about?
Yet, this morning, I hear Jesus’ words, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?”
Did Jesus just tell me not to worry or be anxious? Really?
Yes, Jesus tells us not to worry. His words bring me comfort and underpin my hope. In this scripture from Matthew, it is as if Jesus is saying to me, “COVID-19 might be robbing you of your day-to-day activities, but it doesn’t have to rob you of your faith.” Regardless of what happens in the days and weeks ahead, Jesus tells us that God loves us, watches over us, and will take care of us. We must choose faith and not fear. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me, right? Believe this, because it is true.
Jesus may coach us not to worry, but he does want us to be smart, I believe. Continue to be vigilant with your health. Avoid gatherings, thoroughly wash your hands, stay home if you are sick or if you are one of those who would be at a higher risk should you contract the virus. If you additional questions, here a CDC link to check out: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/index.html
If you or anyone you know need assistance in any way, and you think that I or we at the church could help, please call me at 804-517-9730.
I am praying for you in my daily prayers. At some time during this day, I invite you to join me in praying the prayer I’ve included below.
Almighty God, who watches over each of us, we pray for the whole of the human family, your children, our brothers and sisters throughout the world; for the nations of the world and their leaders; and all who have authority and influence; that there may be peace, freedom, healing and justice among all peoples everywhere.
We pray for peace in your Church; for the healing of divisions; that in faith and unity we may be constantly renewed by your Holy Spirit for mission and service.
We pray for all who suffer; for the victims of war and violence; of persecution and aggression; of disaster and accident; we pray for the homeless and the hungry; for the destitute and the oppressed; for the lonely and unloved; and for those who mourn; that they may find strength and hope.
We pray for the sick in our world, our nation, our state and our community, those in the hospital or at home, for those whose minds are beset with anxiety and fear, for those oppressed or broken in spirit; for those who turn to us for hope, healing and comfort that, together in you, we may find wholeness and peace. Lord Jesus, embrace them in your loving grace and healing power.
We pray for one another and for ourselves, that we may be instruments of your peace and joy. May we know for ourselves, and mediate to others, our hope in you and in your healing and salvation. Gracious God, we ask these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, the Healer, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen
For today’s worship service, I had included the wonderful hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” Even though we will be in our homes, if each one of us clicks on and sings along with one of the videos I’ve linked below, today, we will be singing together as a community of faith! Awesome! Let’s do it!
In Christian Love,
Below are three YouTube links to arrangements of His Eye Is on the Sparrow.
There are many versions of the beloved hymn on YouTube, but I liked these.
Performed by the contemporary Christian group, Newsboys: https://youtu.be/Z31sK8ifEhI
Performed by The Statler Brothers: https://youtu.be/Gh89tsBnr6I
Maybe performed by Dolly Parton: https://youtu.be/0_nrj3NDFBU?t=32
Interested in Church Membership…
Anyone interested in becoming a member of Harmony UMC is encouraged to let the pastor know and select a date for being received into church membership.
Membership in local congregations of The United Methodist Church comes with four different labels:
Baptized members are people who have been baptized by water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and who wish to be (or in the case of infants and children — are sponsored to be) members of a local congregation of the United Methodist Church.
Professing members are those who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ and desire to become a member of the United Methodist Church and unite with a particular congregation.
Affiliate members are professing members of another United Methodist Church who may be temporarily far from their home congregation and wish to connect with the life, ministry, and watch-care of a congregation nearer to where currently live.
Associate members are people who have been baptized by water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in another Christian denomination, wish to connect with a local United Methodist Church, but wish to retain their current denominational affiliation rather than become professing members of The United Methodist Church.