Laura Sullivan is a contemporary musician whose original compositions and renditions on the piano accompanied by various instrumentalists are a joy to listen to.
I almost always have music going on in the background while at home. Besides Laura Sullivan, I also put on You.Tube videos like this one: Water of Life – Peaceful Instrumental Hymns. Maybe, listening to this You.Tube hour and a half of music while you go about your business, you will embrace pianists, too.
Enjoy listening and watching –
Do you have a favorite pianist? (Roger Williams is one of mine. I ask Alexa to shuffle songs by him frequently).
Is there some other instrument you enjoy listening to?
Do you play an instrument?
We couldn’t afford a piano when I was a kid growing up, but we bought a little accordion from my “sorta cousin” who lived next door. That accordion only had 8 bass keys, so it was limited to songs in the key of F, C, G or A.
Eventually my parents bought me a bigger one – with 120 bass keys – and that has been my instrument for at least 70 years of my life. The left hand buttons do not translate well to the left hand on a piano, but it is a fun instrument to play.
Embrace the Piano Accordion! When you play it, it’s like carrying a party on your back!
Isn’t that a beautiful accordion in that video? And the scenes of Italy are enchanting. But, at the University of the Pacific where I was a student in the early 60s, I was told the accordion is not a “real instrument.” The professors and students made fun of my instrumental choice.
It’s true, the accordion does not have the capability of the piano.
I wish I had access to a piano as a kid growing up!
The piano is an instrument that provides a lifetime of ecstasy! Even with arthritic fingers, a good pianist can still make it talk. Notice how Roger Williams’ little finger curls up a lot of the time. Interesting how he uses it sometimes, but not others. My fingers do that, too…
My other instrument is the clarinet. I can’t play it anymore. My fingers won’t cover all the holes! You don’t have to worry about that with a piano!
You can share a lot of love, joy and peace if you can sit down at the piano and make it talk. Know someone who can do that? Embrace that pianist!!
What instrument brings love, joy and peace into your life?
I just discovered this morning that my dear friend, Leena’s son, Vince, died suddenly on Friday. No warning! He was about the age of my son, Ty. Vince worked at our local grocery store. I saw him there often … always a smile, always a cheerful greeting. He was at work Friday. Friday night after dinner, he was sitting in his chair at home with his parents, and he just stopped breathing. Can you imagine the shock??
Prayers for All Grieving
My heart is broken for Leena and Bob and their family. My prayers go out to all of you who have lost a loved one this year.
Your hearts are grieving, too, as you face this first Valentine’s Day without that special person. God bless you! Link heartstrings with mine.
In our ZOOM church service this morning, I provided the “special music.” It was inspired by the February 14th message in Charles Stanley’s In Touch Daily Devotional.
“When facing all kinds of difficulties, many of us have a tendency to power through in our own strength. But the reality is that’s never effective – at least not for long. God wants us to come closer to Him.
When we stay focused on Jesus, we can take comfort in knowing He’ll lead us through the hard places.
As you continue walking with Him, trust that He already knows what will happen in your life – and that regardless of what lies ahead, He will never leave you.”
EMBRACE HEARTS Lord, link mine to yours – And link ours to one another.
Embrace Hearts with one another – Offer your love and support to heal. Heal the broken-hearted by sharing. Share your love with a song or a meal.
Not everyone has a heart full of love today; Some are feeling quite empty. Lord, fill their hearts with the love of God – And encourage others to “Go With Him” today.
I have told my WP friends this story before, but it was a while back… and since then, many of you are new to JanBeek, so it bears repeating:
My friend, Bob Jorgenson, born with Cerebral Palsy, was bright as a tack. His parents brought him every Sunday to church in his wheel chair. They sat mid-way up in the sanctuary with him. They stayed after church for fellowship. They helped people understand what Bob had to say – because Bob’s speech was compromised – but he had so much to say!
Homer and Ruth knew their son would not live a long life, but they packed ten life-times into Bob’s 35 years. They took him to Europe, to Disneyland, to Asia, to the Holy Land. They built a train track and a miniature train in a circle around their wooded property, and fixed up the engine so that Bob could run the train and give train rides to various groups of kids who came to experience the wonder of it.
When Bob was on his last breaths, lying helpless and speechless in his hospital bed, Homer sat with him. He had Bob’s favorite hymnal. As he turned the pages, Homer asked Bob to blink when he came to a song Bob wanted to hear.
Homer was singing “It is Well With My Soul” to his son when Bob breathed his last.
I never hear this song without welling up inside. My heart smiles.
Thank you for checking in with JanBeek today. If you are one of the newbies here, welcome!!
You may not know that I take sermon notes in poetry most Sundays, and then I share them here. I do… and I enjoy helping you hear what I heard through my poetic filters. Comments always appreciated.
Sermon by Reverend Steve Hundley Madison Valley Presbyterian Church Ennis, Montana Notes by Jan Beekman
God is Great, God is Good!
Thanksgiving celebrations Have a history with friends. This year with COVID, Most will find unwelcomed ends.
Reunited old relationships Were important to reflame. Old traditions are important. What’ll we do to reclaim?
What can we do to overcome This year of so many deaths? How can we truly be thankful When so many breathed last breaths?
Remember to give thanks For life – no matter how short. Help the family say good-bye, And trust God. Give no retort!
There is no way we can Make whining acceptable. Suck it up and give thanks For life! … Be respectable.
Praise and give thanks to God For the daily gifts He gives. Blessed be the Lord of all. Blessed be our God. He lives!
Psalm 100 gives praise No matter the troubles and strife. Remember the password to God: “Thank You!” God, thank you for life!
Rev. Steve told a story about a family Thanksgiving a few years ago where his mom ALWAYS asked him to be the one to provide the blessing. But on this particular Thanksgiving, his four-year-old second cousin interrupted and said HE wanted to say the blessing this year. Steve’s mom told him he could, assuming Steve would follow up with the REAL blessing.
The four-year-old cleared his throat and declared, “God is Great – God is Good – Amen!” Steve’s mom asked, “That’s it?” And the boy responded emphatically, “Yes! That’s it!” Then she turned to Steve, expecting him to expound further. Steve simply said, “Amen!”
Yes, that’s it … that’s all we need to know: “God is Great! God is Good! Amen!”
Steve’s opening prayer this morning: “Father in heaven, we give You thanks for life and for all of the experiences that life brings us. We give You thanks for joy, hope, peace, and answered prayers, but we also give You thanks for our trials, sorrows, and pain. We give You thanks for our land, for the beauty of the landscape, for the riches it provides for our living, for the people and cultures among us. Above all things, we give You thanks for our hope in Christ, for the life and freedom that will ultimately be ours. Teach us to cherish all Your gifts. Teach us also to use all these resources for the good of society and for glory to You. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.“
*AN AFFIRMATION OF THANKSGIVING
I believe in the God of fruit time and harvest, who makes the land to bear gifts in its time and fills our tables with the bounty of His hand.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who was the first fruit of those who slept, and brings us to spiritual tables where our cups overflows.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, who causes us to remember all things for which we are grateful and teaches us to see a relationship between our gifts and the Giver.
I believe in the world as the arena of my spiritual life, where I am to share my table with the poor and my hospitality with the stranger; for in so doing, I shall fulfill the desires of my great and good God who has given me everything, and of His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thank you for joining me for our Sunday service. If you find yourself in Ennis, Montana on a Sunday morning, do come and join us at the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church. 308 W Hugel St, Ennis, MT 59729 (406) 682-4355
May the Lord Bless and Keep You safe now and always.
Oh, for the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child, Friends on earth and friends above, For all gentle thoughts and mild
Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.
Enjoy this beautiful hymn while you read the rest of this post. I love The Cambridge Singers directed by John Rutter. Sooooo beautiful!!
Yes, Lord, I raise this joyful hymn in grateful praise to You!
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending time with my granddaughter, Hope, and her family: her husband, Drew, and their two children, Xander and Sienna. I am so grateful for their visit!
I was so busy with the children while they were in the house, I didn’t have time to think about pictures. But once they were strapped in their car seats, ready to leave, I said, “Wait! I need to capture this visit!”
I actually captured this photo of Xander & Drew just before Xander was strapped in. His toy phone is his constant companion. He carried on very loud pretend conversations with his dad and Bob and imaginary friends!
For the Beauty of the Earth For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies
Lord of all, to Thee we raise Our voices in grateful praise!
I pray that one day my great-grandchildren will grow to become young people who can sit and listen to a story, a poem, a wise parent… as Hope and Drew share “The Great Realisation” with them. God Bless “Tom Foolery” for his beautiful poem and the timely message he is sharing in this video with his child. If you have not heard this before, please take time to to listen. It is WONderful!!
Thanks for visiting today. Have a WONderful week. See ya tomorrow. Love, JanBeek
Rev. Steve Hundley delivered the prayers and inspirational message below by way of ZOOM to a “screenfull” of appreciative worshipers this morning.
Fran McNeill selected the songs. I am pleased to share parts of this service with you today.
Come, let us worship!
Call to Worship:Psalm 116: 12-13
God invites us into His healing presence with these words: “I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Diseased, depressed, dysfunctional, defeated, we come hungering for health that only God can provide.
God calls us to bring open eyes, hearing ears, and tender hearts turned towards Him, the Great Physician.
We worship our God with faith and expectation.
Come and sing along!
O God, our Rock, our refuge, our resting place, we come to You out of another week of mostly sheltering in place. We come out of our desire to find some meaning in this strange, unusual, and frightening time. We come out of our desire to meet You and know You as the center of our being. We gather in spirit and in the security of Your love. Fill our hearts and prepare us for service and for the living of these days. Amen.
A Children’s Message for Adults, too! (a true story)
When we were teenagers, my brother bought an old wooden canoe with the intent of restoring it. Ridge spent one entire summer re-conditioning it. He stripped the wooden ribs and re-varnished the interior. He “re-fiberglassed” the outside and even painted it to resemble an Indian birch bark canoe.
For its maiden voyage we decided to take it out on the James River for a day of fishing. After what turned out to be a banner day of catching a passel of smallmouth bass and sun perch, we reached the designated take-out point. Pulling the front of the canoe up on the shore, we jumped on my brother’s motorcycle that we had left there and headed back up river to retrieve the pickup truck.
When we drove back to get the canoe, it was nowhere to be found. Searching the river bank, we spotted it floating off downstream. Running along the bank and crashing through the underbrush, we were able to draw even with it. Grabbing the longest tree branch we could find, we strained to reach out to it, but with every attempt, it moved further out into the main current of the river, gaining speed as it drifted away.
Then came the moment of truth! It was clear that one of us would have to strip down and swim after the canoe. Looking at each other, we knew who it would be. HEY, IT WAS NOT MY CANOE! Don’t look at me like that! If I had offered to strip down and drive into the icy water to recue “his” canoe, he would not have learned anything about the responsibility of ownership. I did, however, cheer him on as he dove into the frigid water.
There is no greater blessing in life than to have someone who is willing to strip down and dive into the dark and icy waters of this world; particularly when what is disappearing down the river happens to be us. especially during this life-altering virus outbreak. Yes, we belong to Jesus, who has redeemed us with His life on the cross. Like my brother who was willing to dive into the icy waters to save his canoe, Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd, and I lay down my life for my sheep.”
SONG: Shepherd Me O God Sm 2058
Prayer for Illumination:
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we may hear Your Word with joy. Amen.
O Lord, our Shepherd, who leads us by still waters and into green pastures, we thank You for the times in our lives when life is strong, good, affirming and everything happens for the best. Teach us to remember, though, that You are with us at all times, even in the midst of this ongoing pandemic when the waters are not still and the pastures are not green, when our days are fraught with danger and difficulty and we eat our bread in the presence of a silent killer called COVID 19.
Remind us that Your loving kindness surpasses even this and Your faithfulness is to all generations. Help us to recall Your undying love for us in these days of adversity and disappointment, so that even this misfortune may but strengthen our sense of Your presence and encourage us in faith.
Though we are still sheltering in place, O Lord, we continue to pray for each other. Hear our individual prayers as we lift up to You all those we love who need your comfort and strength and healing today.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Go now – and bee the heart, ears, and hands of love. Thanks for joining us in worship today. God bless you!
Thanks to Pastor Steve Hundley and our music minister, Fran McNiell, for the prayers, stories, and sermon, and the music for today’s worship service.
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 19, 2020
Risen Christ, the brightness of God’s glory and exact image of God’s Person, who death could not conquer nor tomb imprison, as You have shared our frailty in human flesh, help us to share Your immortality in the Spirit. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You. Reveal Yourself to us this day and all our days, as the First and the Last, the living One, our immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.
Prayer of Confession:
We confess, O God, that we have not lived the past weeks in the faith of Easter. We have been like the disciples, who saw life in terms of the suffering of the cross more than in the joy of resurrection. Forgive our hopelessness in the face of our world’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic, these past few weeks, and help us to trust more fully that You are the Lord of our future. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
As God raised Jesus from the dead, so God will lift us all from the graves of broken dreams. God makes us whole again and send us forth to witness to His name.
A Children’s Message for Adults, too!
Steve’s message for the children today tells of a boy carrying two buckets… not just one, and not on a sandy beach like this one… read on and see how his buckets and path differed from this!
(a true story)
When I was a boy, my mother would often send me down the road to Clyde’s cabin to help him with his laundry. Clyde lived in a log cabin he had built in the early nineteen-hundreds. His cabin had no running water, only a well out back. There was a creek out front less than a quarter mile from his front door.
Clyde had an old roller washing machine, a tub and an old scrub board. It was my job to carry water from the creek to the cabin in two old milk pails. I would fill the pails in the creek and make my way back to the cabin, pouring what water that didn’t spill or leak out of the buckets into the large tub. Filling each bucket to the rim each trip, I would arrive with less than half a bucket of water. At that rate, it would take me practically all day to supply enough water for Clyde’s washing and rinsing.
Complaining about the amount of water that I was spilling over the top of the buckets, not to mention the water lost from holes in his dilapidated buckets, Clyde instructed me to place a small block of wood in the buckets. He explained that the blocks of wood floating in the buckets would help water from splashing out the tops. Though it helped a little, I continued to leak water from the holes the buckets.
On one trip from the creek to the cabin with water leaking down my legs and into my shoes, I had had about enough. “Clyde,” I moaned, “When are you going to throw away these sorry buckets and buy new ones? These dented old rust buckets are full of holes.” Clyde just smiled his toothless grin and said, “Why boy, those are my special buckets. I could never get rid of them.” “But these sorry things are full of holes,” I whined. “And, it takes me twice the effort and double the trips back and forth from the creek, to fill your tubs.”
“Boy, take a look along that path leading down to the creek,” Clyde said. “Do you see all those beautiful wildflowers, lining the path?Every time you made the hard trip from the creek to the cabin, spilling water along the way, you were unknowingly watering God’s beautiful flowers for us to enjoy.”
Jesus’ followers found the path towards Easter to be really difficult. Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times, though he vowed never to do so. After that, he was so upset that he no longer considered himself worthy of being a disciple. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to watch her son suffer and die on the cross. Mary Magdalene was not only upset by Jesus’ death, but was horrified to think that someone had stolen His body when she found the stone rolled away.
I am sure that God could have found an easier path for them to follow than the way of the cross. But, without the pain of the cross, there can be no Easter joy. Without God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and paying the price for our failures on the cross, we would not see, know, or enjoy the beauty of His love for us.
Prayer for Illumination:
God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
An Easter Message: “Through Locked Doors”
For centuries Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection the week following Easter with parties and picnics. The week culminated with “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday”, a day of joy and laughter. Churchgoers and pastors would play jokes on each other, tell silly jokes, and would sing and dance. The custom was rooted in the notion of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nysa, and St. John Chrysostom that God had played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Early theologians called it “the Easter Laugh”. Later, it became known as “the Gospel as Divine Comedy.”
However, the thought of the resurrection as God’s practical joke on the devil and death is not something we tend to think about the Sunday following Easter. Over the years, the tradition of “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday” has been lost. That tradition has been replaced with what we have come to know as “Low Sunday.” Compared to the highest feast day in the church year – Easter Sunday- the Sunday following is considered the lowest. Why is that?
I don’t know. Maybe the excitement of Easter Sunday fades so quickly because the church, over the years, has lost its hope in the power of the resurrection. Maybe. Or, perhaps it is because the stories of Easter and the resurrection have become so familiar to us that we have lost sight of the irony of life overcoming death, especially given the high death toll we are experiencing during this recent pandemic. Well, maybe.
You have to admit that someone rising from the grave is a rather fantastic idea in our modern world. For instance, when my son was in middle school, he came home one day after school to discover that our Brittany Spaniel was running around in the backyard with our neighbors’ pet rabbit in its mouth. Chasing the dog, my son finally caught it and wrenched the rabbit from its jaws. He quickly discovered, not only was the rabbit covered with mud and dog slobber, it was also dead as a door nail.
Panicking, he scooped the rabbit up and ran into the house. In the bathroom, he carefully washed the rabbit off, carefully brushed it out, and dried it with his mother’s hairdryer. Stealthily, he crept back into the neighbors’ yard and quickly placed the dead rabbit back into its rabbit pen. Arranging it just right, it was impossible to tell that the rabbit was dead. Sneaking back to the house, my son retired to his room, promising himself not to tell anyone what had really happened.
Arriving home from my office, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard the blood curdling scream coming from my neighbor’s backyard. Running out the house, I ran to the fence to see our neighbor’s wife staring with horror into the rabbit pin. “What on earth has happened?” I called. “THE RABBIT, IT DIED!” she screamed. “It died?” I said inquiringly. Turning to run back into her house, she screamed: “YES, IT DIED THREE DAYS AGO! WE BURIED IT, BUT NOW IT IS BACK! (Now this story may not be true, but you have to admit, be it rabbit or human, rising up from the grave is a fantastic notion in this day and time!)
Can you and I even fathom the shock of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them, passing through locked doors? Sure, they had trudged behind Jesus through the entire Judean countryside. Jesus’ purpose and teachings were hard to understand, even though He spoke of being the Christ—the Messiah—the Holy One of God, who is of the Father.
But, all that must have seemed like a dream (or more like a nightmare) when Jesus was crucified, ending all hope. The death of Jesus had slammed the door on their greatest hopes and dreams. It was over. It had been good while it lasted, but now the door was locked and nothing could bring Him back to life again, or so they thought. They had buried Him three days before, AND NOW, HE WAS BACK!
Of course, the reaction to God’s practical joke on death was varied among Jesus’ followers. While the “beloved disciple” may have believed without evidence except for an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene only believed because the Risen Christ called her by name. The remaining disciples, excluding Thomas, believed only because their Risen Christ appears to them, granting peace to them, and showing them His hands and His side. Yet, for Thomas, neither the word of his fellow disciples, nor the sight of the Risen Lord would be sufficient. For Thomas said, “Unless I place my fingers into the nail holes, and stick my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
It would seem that true FAITH is not the same experience for everyone, not then, not now. Neither is FAITH generated with the same kind and degree of evidence for each individual. For some, FAITH is born and grows as quietly as a child sleeping on grandmother’s lap. For others, FAITH is a lifetime of wrestling with the angel. And, some cannot remember a time in their life when they didn’t believe, while others cannot remember anything else with their lives having been shattered and reshaped by their decision of FAITH.
No matter how FAITH came, or comes, to you and me, it would do us well to remember the words of Jesus who said: (and I paraphrase), “REMEMBER THIS, UNLESS YOU ACCEPT GOD’S KINGDOM IN THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD, YOU’LL NEVER GET IT.” And like a child, what better way to celebrate God’s joke on death than with joy, laughter, singing, and dancing? Yet, what a shame it is, when the voice of doubters or the voice of those of us for whom FAITH has become the norm, even commonplace, drown out the true irony and wonder of the resurrection.
When I think of the true joy and wonder of faith, I cannot help but remember a boy named Lonnie, years ago, in my 3rd grade classroom. Lonnie’s parents had died in an automobile accident, so his grandparents were raising him. I remember how we used to tease Lonnie mercilessly, because he would believe anything. We’d say, “The school burned down, so we don’t have to go to school Monday.” “Oh, boy!” he’d say. You see, he’d believe it!
“They are giving away free ice cream down at Mr. Kern’s grocery store.” “FREE ICE CREAM?” he’d squeal and off he’d go running. “Lonnie, did you know that that Elvis is coming to our school?” “HE IS REALLY? WHOOPEE!” Yep, that boy would believe anything!
One day, Lonnie showed up at our little country church and came to our Sunday School class. Our teacher, old Miss King, told Lonnie that: “God loves you and cares for You. And God will come to you in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead.” And do you know, THAT KID BELIEVED IT! HE ACTUALLY BELIEVED IT!
Do you believe it? Do we really believe it? And, if we do, then where is our laughter? Where is the singing and dancing? Where is our uncontrollable joy? Hmmm.
Lord of the cross and the Empty Tomb, we worship You. Though the pandemic rages on, You give us reason to hope. We thank You that we are not alone even as the news of more Corona Virus cases and deaths dominate the headlines. Though we are well-acquainted with death, dying and grief, we praise You that death has been vanquished and its spell broken. And though our lives are still embroiled in sin, failure and inadequacy, thank You, O God, for giving our lives meaning, purpose and direction.
We confess that the more days we stay at home, the more likely it is that we may forget Your power and fall into despair. Yet, today we remember and hope comes back. Though the darkness of the night brought doubt and disarray, in the light of this new day we bow our heads in worship. Like Thomas, we desire to see the nail prints and touch the wound in Your side, but Your presence is enough, and we cry out, saying: “My Lord, and my God!”
Walk among us, Lord, and touch our troubled lives. Give hope to the hopeless, strength to the faltering, love to the lonely, compassion and courage to those on the front line of this pandemic. We pray for health, hope, and help for those who have lost their incomes and/or health insurance in the midst of this ongoing lock down. Let the radiance of Your resurrected presence shine upon them and us as it shone upon Your first disciples and make new persons of us all, as it did of them.
Transform us from frightened, hesitant, uncommitted followers into people of fire and steel who know what we believe and who will follow You no matter what the future holds. Live in and through us. Walk among us and teach us to walk with You. For You alone have the words of eternal life, and You alone can call us into discipleship. Lord of the cross and empty tomb, we praise You! Bring healing and hope to our hurting world, for Your name’s sake, saying together, as One Church, One Body …”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing, and create.
Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.
Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.
O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow May richer fuller be.
O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain That morn shall tearless be.
Today’s Worship Service
In the absence of a worship service in our church today because of COVID-19 and the need for social-distancing, our worship service was e-mailed to us. The hymns I include in this blog were chosen by our pastor Steve and our music director, Fran McNeill, and then e-mailed to us from our Madison Valley Presbyterian Church here in Ennis, Montana today.
The following sermon by Pastor Steve Hundley was printed for us to “hear” in the privacy of our homes. It is powerful!
Please take your precious time now and hear it with me:
TRUSTING GOD IN THIS DARK TIME
Read: Psalm 130
Read: Romans 8
Some years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.” He wrote this book in response to the death of his 14-year-old son, Aaron, from a rare disease called “Progeria” which causes the body to age and die prematurely.
In his bestselling book, Rabbi Kushner concluded that we must decide between a God who is infinitely powerful, but not loving enough to prevent such tragedies as the suffering and death of his 14-year-old son, or, a God who is all loving but not all-powerful. “You can’t have it both ways,” he says, “we must choose: all-powerful or all-loving.”
Yet as Christians, we believe that:
Evil exists in this world, causing bad things to happen to good people, so evident in these past weeks of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Secondly, we believe that our God is all-powerful; and
Thirdly, we believe that our God is a loving God.
Now, I admit that our dilemma is that we can reconcile any two of the above philosophically, but not all three. For example: If evil exists in the world, how can a loving God be all-powerful? Or, if God is all loving and all-powerful how can evil possibly exist?
Still, the Bible does not deal with human, philosophical questions, as much we would prefer it be so. Instead, the Bible deals with divine faith questions. So, even if we cannot know philosophically how evil can exist in light of God who is all-powerful and all-loving, what we “can” know from scripture is that “no matter what evils or tragedies we face in life, our God will not desert us.” And, knowing that is enough.
Yes, it is enough for most of us—most of the time. But, in moments like this, that alone may not be enough. When our entire world is paralyzed by this current pandemic, it is difficult in this dark hour not to cry out to God: “WHY, OH WHY, GOD?” I don’t mean to make you feel guilty, for It is only human to want to know “WHY?”
I don’t know about you, but I find myself cringing every time I hear someone in the media refer to this COVID 19 pandemic as “AN ACT OF GOD.” In all fairness, I realize it is an accepted way for referring to any such natural disaster. Still, I am uncomfortable attributing such death and tribulation to the will of God. As someone said: “If God is light,” according to Holy Scripture, “then why should we impart darkness to God?”
Visiting a young couple who stopped coming to church after their only child died of cancer, their pastor pleaded: “You can’t stop believing in God because of what has happened, can you?” “Oh, I still believe in God,” said the grieving father, “I don’t come to church anymore because I hate God!”
It is for people much like that father that I have chosen to venture further out on the “thin ice” of what is called “the Theodicy Problem”, that is: “Why do bad things happen to good and innocent people?”
So, I humbly dare to venture forward on behalf of all around this world who have suffered or lost loved ones in the midst of this unprecedented natural disaster that has and will continue to cost so many lives.
Let me begin by saying that the Bible, as I understand it, speaks of our all-powerful God who does not completely control everything in our fallen creation because of the limitations God has placed on God’s self in order to allow us freedom of faith. Without freedom, there could be no faith. Faith, by its very definition, requires us the freedom to love and believe in God, or to reject belief and love for God. God does not desire us to be puppets, manipulated into having to believe in or love God. Therefore, our God has granted us, and creation itself, freedom by relinquishing total control over our lives and the world.
The Bible speaks of Satan—and other dark forces at work in this world. And, our own human experiences confirm that there is a dynamic evil force that exercises a powerful presence in our world contrary to the will of God.
“Yet, God in Christ,” writes Paul to the Roman Church, “broke the power of these dark forces on the cross,” which means that we are dealing now with mortally wounded, though still very dangerous “principalities” and “dark powers.” Bad things continue to befall good people because these dark forces are still alive, powerful, and enemies of all that is good in this world.
As Christians, in this Easter Season, we have hope and assurance that through Christ and His resurrection, God’s eventual victory over the evil in our world is a foregone conclusion. But, until that time “when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord,” our God will do all that can be done to drive back these dark forces and utterly destroy them, as we continually pray and serve Him until God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in Heaven.
Until that time, says Paul in Romans 8:19-23:
Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
In his book: “Christ and Time”, Oscar Cullmann uses the analogy of WWII to illustrate our and creation’s struggle against the powers of darkness. He makes a clear distinction between two definitive days of the war: D-Day and V-Day. D-Day was the day Allied Forces landed in Normandy and established a beachhead. The strategizing generals on both sides recognized that the outcome of war was decided on that fateful day, June 1944.
They understood that if the enemy had driven the Allies back into the sea, the Nazis would have won the war. However, the Allied Armies prevailed in Normandy and sealed the doom of the evil Nazi regime. Still, in spite of the triumph of D-Day, the Allies had not yet totally subdued the enemy. Between D-Day and V-Day (Victory Day), there would be many months of suffering, death, and struggle. There would be horrendous battles as the Allied Army, little by little, pushed back the Nazi forces. Still, the ensuring battles would culminate in “Victory Day,” which marked the complete surrender of the enemy and the total liberation of Europe.
So you see, the cross and resurrection of Jesus were our D-Day. God in Jesus won the decisive battle over evil and death in this world. However, God and His children, as well as nature itself, continue to face struggles while driving back the forces of darkness whose power has been broken. Still, dark forces are alive in the world and free to raise havoc. God’s V-Day is not yet here! However, we can be confident in God’s triumph over evil and death (and COVID 19), because we know how it will end.
Or, as Paul says:
Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword (or this COVID 19 pandemic)? As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither, death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)
(Written by Rev. Steve Hundley and printed in our worship e-mail)
“In midst of life, O Lord, our lives have been interrupted by death: the death of our normal routine, the death of worship as we have always done it, the death of life as we have known it, the death of our personal plans, the death of innocence, the death of institutions, the death of promises, the death of those we love, the death that works in our own bodies.
In spite of our broken dreams we give You thanks for the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose message is not death but life: the life of the Spirit, the life of dreams, the life of faith, the life of love, the life of justice; life for the small people of the world, life for the meek, life for the broken and rejected, life for the diseased and afflicted, life for our loved ones, and life for us.
Lord, we pray for those who need hope, healing, and grace. We hold up before you those who are alone and isolated, those who are sick, and those who are scared of what the future holds for them. Lord, help us to discover new ways of living: living for Christ, living for those around us, living for this frightened world, living for Your Kingdom. Let the Christ of the empty tomb make empty tombs of all our disappointments and fears. Come and reign over us, now and in the days ahead and forever and ever. Amen”
Verse One: God be with you till we meet again; By His counsels guide, uphold you, With His sheep securely fold you; God be with you till we meet again.
Chorus: Till we meet, till we meet; till we meet at Jesus’ feet; Till we meet, till we meet, God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Two: God be with you till we meet again; ‘Neath His wings protect and guide you, Daily manna still provide you. God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Three: God be with you till we meet again; When life’s perils thick confound you, Put His arms unfailingaround you; God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Four: God be with you till we meet again; Keep love’s banner floating o’er you, Smite death’s threatening wave before you; God be with you till we meet again.
(Back to chorus)
Spread Love and Hope
I pray you found love and hope in these songs, these words, and these prayers.
If you did, as I did, you can spread love and hope by forwarding this post to your friends and family. Or you can sit with those in your household (as I did with my husband this morning) and read/sing these messages together. Or you can do both!
It’s a day for love. Love is so easy to SAY… but while saying it is important (when it is sincere), it’s not the word that counts. It’s the heart and the action behind that word. You know that! So, what did you DO this week, what did you do yesterday, what did you do today to SHOW your love?
Bob Goff is one of my favorite authors. About 8 years ago my granddaughter gave me his book, Love Does, as a Christmas gift. Have you read it? Do you know this zany, whimsical, amazing man? Check him out at this link… Google it – and listen to him. He will inspire you to DO LOVE!!
LOVE DOES by Bob Goff
176,359 views • May 11, 2012
Yesterday our Madison Valley Woman’s Club had a Valentine party. My friend, Kittie, came dressed for the occasion. I love her spirit! Don’t you?
We decorated chocolate covered strawberries to take home to our loved ones, and we created/decorated Valentine’s cards to give to someone special in our lives. (Oh, and we got to eat some of those strawberries, too. Yum!)
It was a fun activity… but the real fun was delivering our gifts to our “Special Valentine” today.
Of course, you know who mine went to… but I also decorated an extra couple of the strawberries and made a card for our pastor, Steve, and his wife, Elaine, and delivered them to their house yesterday afternoon. Love does! Love shows. Love cares.
Last Sunday Steve & Elaine hosted a fellowship at their house after church. Our mutual friend, Christine, created these skewers to add to the goodies we all enjoyed. Someone else lovingly made the bean dip.
Jim led us all in singing some of our old favorites. “Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play.” Ah yes, music is an automatic transmitter of love, don’t you agree?
I inherited a book from my mom. It is tattered from loving years of use. It is titled, The Modern Hymn Book. It was printed in 1924. There is a bookmark on the page where my mom’s favorite hymn is, “Blessed Assurance.”
Ah yes, on this Valentine’s Day, this song is a great reminder. There is no greater love than the love of our Savior who demonstrated LOVE DOES with His whole life. How blessed I am to have had a mother who marked the page, loved the song, and knew that story well. The song was copyrighted in 1873… and its words are as pertinent today as they were then. The tune is known around the world. Let’s sing it!
And let’s remember the Truth of real AGAPE love on this day of LOVE. John 3:16 – my favorite verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Yes, God is the ULTIMATE example of Love Does.
“I love You Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, O my soul rejoice. Take joy , My King in what You hear; May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”