March 24, 2020

By Pastor Doug Stratton

I am sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you that we are now suspending our services indefinitely.

This makes me sad, but we can and must remember that the building in which we meet is not the church – YOU and I together are the church. And whether we meet in person, or in Spirit, we are together as the Body of Christ. When we return from this extended Lent, we will celebrate Resurrection! 

Even though we are apart, we are not and will never be strangers. Here is a song that reminds us that we have a home and we are all one family.

Today, however, people all around the world are looking for new ways of connecting as we establish social distancing as a normal behavior. For many of us, this distancing is causing a measure of grief. Perhaps you feel like a pastoral associate I recently encountered who said: 

I’m not sure I know how to exist in a world of social distancing… My call is to educate and push back against our tendency to socially distance ourselves from certain groups of people. I’m the one who wears a free hugs tshirt. I’m the one who ends interactions with “would you like a hug or a handshake?” to individuals who don’t know when they’ve showered last. I’m feeling lost right now. I get it, I know why we have to do it, but it sucks! 

I am sure I am not alone in feeling lost because of the distance we are told we must keep. But it helps me to remember that we are in the season of Lent. This is a time to reflect, to repent, to examine and to prepare for resurrection. But, what we must remember is the prerequisite for resurrection – is death, something we all seek to avoid. An important practice during Lent is “lament an emotion we often associate with death. We often avoid this emotion because we think as Christians, we should be praising and happy and bubbly all the time. 

In a recent devotional from Richard Rohr, I ran across these ideas about lament. 

We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state (Matthew 5:5) and that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of “Lamentation.” 

In today’s practice, Reverend Aaron Graham reflects on the elements found in prayers of lament. I hope that you will find in his words and in the text of Psalm 22 a way to voice your own complaints, requests, and trust in God, who is always waiting to hear.  

We need to be reminded that our cries are not too much for God. [God] laments with us. In fact, [God] wants us to come to the [Divine Presence] in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our confusion.  

Each lamenting Psalm has a structure; 

  • They begin with a complaint. . . that things are not as they should be. 
  • They turn to a request. God, do something! Rescue me! Heal me! Restore me! Show mercy!  
  • Laments end with an expression of trust. Laments end with the reminder that God is setting things right, even though it often seems so slow. It is right for our laments to turn towards a reminder that God is in control and about the business of righting all things made wrong. [Aaron Graham, “Lament,” An  American Lent Devotional] 

Consider praying these words found in Psalm 22, or choose another passage of lament.

Before you pray, ask God to speak to you. . . 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,  

from the words of my groaning?  

O my God, I cry by day,  

but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:1-5).  

So, express your complaint to God. Make your quest to God. And give voice to your trust in God.  

Prayer Concerns

  • Those who are grieving but cannot share with others through a Memorial. 
  • Small businesses that are being forced to close. 
  • Medical workers who are nearing their limits of care. 
  • Leaders called upon to make life-changing and life-saving decisions.  
  • Those who serve as law officers in these difficult times.  

Upcoming Events 

Blood Drive – On April 15 Hatboro Baptist Church WILL be hosting a Red Cross Blood Drive. Extraordinary measures are being taken to keep everyone safe. Details of those measures will be forthcoming. For now, put the Blood Drive on your calendar and plan to give the gift of life. 

Facebook Live – Join me Sundays for Brief Devotional on Facebook Live. Approx. 11am every Sunday.

Share a Dish! 

Cucumbers are in pretty good supply at grocers and at Produce Junction. My favorite recipe for Cucumber Salad is very simple and very refreshing 

  • 2 –  Large Cucumbers thinly sliced, peeled or not 
  • 2 – small onions thinly sliced 
  • ½ – Cup Water 
  • ¼ – Cup white vinegar 
  • ⅓ – Cup sugar 
  • 1 T – Dried crushed dill 

Directions:

  • Mix cucumbers and onions together in nonreactive bowl. 
  • Boil water, vinegar and sugar. 
  • Pour over cucumbers, mix in dill. 
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour.  

 We can enjoy this refreshing salad together. If you have dishes we can share virtually, let me know! 

Continue to Support Your Church 

During this time of virtual connection, please continue to remember the needs of our congregationOn Saturday, our treasurer, Jim, wrote to the Council with an update on our finances.

Normally, our expenses run $18-$20,000 per month. By suspending some payments, we have been able to reduce that to $15-17,000. We receive income online and from our property of $12,000 each month. That leaves a deficit of $3-5,000 per month.

We understand that many of you have lost your jobs or have seen reduced income. For all who can, your continued giving by mail, online, or by bank transfer is deeply appreciated. We will send further updates in the coming weeks. 

Our online giving portal is easy, safe and secure. Thank you in advance for your faithfulness.  

In Christ,

Pastor Doug