Pastoral Letter 7 from Bill Lentz and Covid-19 Devotion 6

Grace, mercy, peace, and good health to us all!

I’m writing yet again to alert you of recent directives’ changes that influence our church. The Federal Government’s directive for the nation and the Commonwealth’s directive for all 67 counties is to Stay-in-Place until Thursday, April 30, 2020. Though religious institutions deemed “essential” have guidelines that say a maximum of only 10 people may gather while practicing social distancing protocols. Therefore, we’ve suspended all church-related and non-church-related activities until after April 30, at the least. One directive’s exception is broadcasting weekly Sunday services at 9:00 a.m. and, next week, a Good Friday Tenebrae Service at 7:00 p.m.

Several people are working diligently to keep the church’s ministry on track. Their commitment is inspiring to me. Gratefully, two Zoom Meetings this week have resulted in a plan for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Details will reach you in an e-mail tomorrow, April 2. Please be in prayer for the exceptional people who put themselves at some health risk to produce live stream services to keep our connection secure in this uncertain time.

One way you could express your gratitude for provisions and blessings is to keep your contributions and donations flowing to meet expenses. I sympathize with those who are currently laid off, furloughed, unemployed or underemployed and are not able to meet pledges or intentions to give. Reach me if you need assistance! We have limited resources to share on a case by case basis. Otherwise, please help your church. Giving at https://www.lansdaleumc.org/tithe/ is quick and efficient! Thank you!

If you’ve accessed news sources recently, you’ve found stories of two pastors arrested for violating their states’ virus mitigation regulation to limit groups to 10 people by defiantly holding worship services. They each cite dubious understandings of constitutional law (neither pastor is a lawyer) as well as dangerous theologies (I could find no credentials for either pastor to suggest divinity or seminary training). People with influence must be held accountable for long-established norms, customs, laws, and traditions. The pastors’ actions will be judged by the law and the community–and by God. And so it is for all of us!

I bring this up to reaffirm God’s preference for health in this life. The biblical witness on this point is vibrant and unequivocal. Let’s look at one vital text:

     “That thy way may be known upon earth,
          thy saving health among all nations.”
               –(Psalm 67:1-2 KJV)

The King James Version (1611) made a radical choice to assign the English word “health” to translate the Hebrew word “Yeshuah” (yeshu-ah), which is ordinarily rendered “salvation.” Some protestants use the word “salvation” to describe “winning souls.” Some Christians press people ardently, asking, “Are you saved?” “Have you found salvation?” But notice carefully that the KJV Bible–the preferred translation of many traditionalist and conservative Christians–opted to render the Hebrew word “health” and not “salvation” more than 500 years ago. 

That’s fascinating, at least to me.

Even more fascinating is that the Hebrew word “Yeshuah” has the same root as “Yehoshuah” (yehoshu-ah), which is the Hebrew word for the name “Joshua,” which is usually rendered as “rescue,” as in “God rescues.” The Aramaic form of the name “Joshua” is “Yeshua” (yeshu-a, “which in Greek is “Iesous,” which is rendered into Latin as “Jesus.” 

 

Christians could more accurately inquire into the status of someone’s soul by asking, “Are you healthy?” “Are you healed?” “Have you found health?” There is no single Hebrew or Christian conceptualization of “health.” The reason is that there’s no unique concept of health in the Scriptures. The Bible does not reveal prescriptions on how to live a healthy life in ways we might recognize in today’s “health market.” But if we take Psalm 67:2 seriously, then God’s way upon the earth is health! Health is the way! Perhaps in that sense, the entire collection of books we call the Bible is a book about health. The Bible, then, prefers health. The two defiant pastors could have preferred health over preening for admiration. They could have valued the health and lives of their flock before valuing their “rights.” 

 

LUMC is following the directives. We are keeping to a maximum of seven people. We value health at LUMC. We value the community. We value our witness to the community to be exemplars of healthy living. To do so, pleases God. And it pleases God when we seek to please God. Be healthy! It’s the way!

 

Prayers continue,

Pastor Bill.       

 

 

Pastoral Letter 6 from Bill Lentz and Covid-19 Devotion 5

Grace, mercy, peace, and good health to us all!

Today, I’m combining my Pastoral Letter and Covid-19 Devotion 5. So, first things first. My hopes and thoughts, as well as prayers, are with the people of LUMC. I pray for you every day as news of the virus’ rapid spread and stories of people who succumb to it confront us. Feelings of uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and even doubt, may be prevalent in your life. I, too, feel their effect. They’re all quite normal feelings to experience during this crisis. One less thing overall to doubt is God’s presence among us and the world. Before the universe came into being, God was present. God’s presence was there at the moment of creation. God’s presence was with us every past moment and will be with us forever and always. 

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence,

 there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are 

          pleasures forevermore.–Psalm 16:11

Here is the latest: The Commonwealth’s directive to Montgomery County (among others) is to Stay-in-Place until April 6, 2020. LUMC will continue to produce online Sunday worship services at 9:00 a.m. through the official Facebook Page and website (www.lansdaleumc.org) until further notice. We should prepare ourselves for the cancelation of gathering for the Easter Sunday service at the church on April 12th. Easter Sunday will likely be an online celebration too. But then, on the first Sunday that we’re able to gather together again in our Sanctuary, we will celebrate Easter! 

I’ll be leading the staff today in a Zoom Meeting. We will discuss Holy Week opportunities for worship and inform you when a plan is clear. It’s wise to be prepared in the current fluidity of the novel coronavirus crisis and to alter our usual practices. Whether this “new normal” is temporary or not is yet to be seen. The day will come when we will worship together! Let that be our constant hope and our abiding prayer.

I want you to know I’ve been in contact with the leaders of the four “Anonymous” Groups that have regularly met in the church for some years. I’m glad to report their groups are meeting remotely and are well. They’re eager to return to the church. They were delighted to know we care!

If you would like to volunteer temporarily in a Comfort Call Ministry, please text or call me at 484-767-2352 or email at pastorbill@lansdaleumc.org

If you would like to volunteer temporarily in a Grocery Shop Ministry for staple items to deliver to church families who need help, please text or call me at 484-767-2352 or email at pastorbill@lansdaleumc.org

Devotionally, let me address ways to cope during the pandemic physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This moment in time, called Covid-19 Pandemic, is merely one scene from the whole of your life. Your life is more abundant and fuller than this one moment. This moment will end, and new scenes will come. We have to act out this scene and ready yourself for future scenes. Your future may be different than you expected, but you will get through this moment.

Grieving is most likely the cause of any physical pain, fatigue, discomfort, or stress you’re feeling. Grief is God’s tool for healing your deepest hurts. It’s like this: Life takes a turn for the worse when a loved one dies, or a job is lost, or safety and security evaporate. It would help if you worked through the feeling of loss. As you do, your heart will open for new encounters, relationships, and dreams. When grief is unplanned, it makes you more vulnerable and uncomfortable. You must acknowledge it, honor it, work with it, and choose to resolve it with prayer, conversation, and activities that produce hope. 

Connecting is the fuel of your life. You thrive when connections are safe and healthy. You build life’s foundations on your connections. I implore you to practice physical distancing during the crisis but allow social connections to thrive. Reach out to family and friends. Call vulnerable people, you know. Have conversations with people who have fallen off your radar. Call the people you hurt or misunderstood and apologize. Be in contact with all the people who give life and meaning to you.

Structuring links your brain to your physical systems and your surroundings. You need structure and order. Establish routines to ward off any sense you have of struggling. Your brain, heart, and soul find their balance in patterns. Pray without ceasing. Breathe without stressing. Think without anticipating. Rise early. Get dressed. Eat well. Take walks. Be kind to yourself. God made you for health and long life. Reflect on the ways you’re cooperating with that gracious gift.      

Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches. 

     Whoever abides in me and I in him is the one that bears much fruit, 

          for apart from me you can do nothing.–John 15:5

Prayers continue,

Pastor Bill.

 

Pastoral Letter 5 from Bill Lentz on Covid-19

Peace, mercy, and good health be with us all!

My prayers continue as we enter day 6 of the 15 days of the shuttering of our beloved church. News and directives come swiftly, daily, which adds to the anxiety and uncertainty we feel. One certainty to hold onto for dear life: God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The Morningstar rises and sets. The tides ebb and flow. Spring has arrived, bringing longer light, warmer winds, and primary colors. Birds sing out in the early morning to praise their Creator. And we are alive to praise God too!

I’m pleased to announce that the “live streaming” of a worship service at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, March 22nd, will happen if everything comes together well. If “live streaming” proves unworkable, we will attempt to record the service and post it for use later in the day. As a backup plan, I’ve already recorded my sermon and prayers for you to use, which you’ll find on the Sermons Page on the church’s website homepage: www.lansdaleumc.org.

You’ve two choices to access the “live streaming” from your computer: (1) Access your Facebook Page and then access the church’s official page called Lansdale United Methodist Church. (Note: You will not be able to access the service from the church’s prayer page!) If you’ve not previously “Liked” the official church page, do so, but it’s not necessary for viewing the public live stream. (2) If you do not have a Facebook page, you can access the church’s website at www.lansdaleumc.org. Scroll down on the homepage, and you will see the live stream at the bottom. If you attend the live stream service, please comment or click an emoji that suits your mood! 

Once we test the live streaming possibilities, we have other opportunities for connecting that could be available to us. Keep watching for updates. I’m grateful for the responses to the Covid-19 devotions I’ve written. I will keep writing to connect in at least this electronic way.

Please do call me for prayers or pastoral care needs at 484-767-2352. It’s okay! Call. You might be saving me from cleaning the garage if you do! Kathy and I wish you all wellness and joy.

Prayers continue,

Pastor Bill.    

 

Pastoral Letter 4 from Bill Lentz on Covid-19 and LUMC

Greetings, dear friends in Christ,

This email is the fourth I’ve written to respond to further directives from governments and the bishop on Covid-19.

  By now, you’ve no doubt heard that Montgomery County continues as the epicenter of the virus in the Commonwealth with 30 confirmed cases. Moreover, Commonwealth and Federal officials have now restricted groups of more than ten people from meeting to promote “social distancing” to mitigate the spread of the virus by limiting physical contact. These are commonsense measures that should be respected and followed. I do not believe these actions are overreactions. The virus is novel; no one knows the ending or what to expect. Safety and preparedness are smart and moral choices.  

To that end, and at the bishop’s directive, LUMC will remain closed for the next 15 days, which takes us through March 31, 2020.

While it’s a necessary and prudent step, it’s also a body blow to the Body of Christ that gathers at 300 N. Broad Street in Lansdale. There are a few ways that may soften the blow: The Tech Team is meeting tonight to set up live streaming a worship service this Sunday from the Sanctuary. More details will follow. Please pray for their efforts. If we do perfect live streaming, I’m already dreaming about meeting with groups of nine people for a Pastor’s Bible Study at the church that would be video recorded and made available for you to watch. It’s just a dream now, but cross your fingers, I will continue writing devotionals to connect with you.

Let’s adjust our perspective for a minute. Yes, this is a significant disruption in our congregation’s life. We’re still in the early stages. Difficult times are ahead. This current reality could last for months. Think of the disruption among health-care workers, employed people, those who’ve been searching for jobs, on small businesses, eateries, retailers, families with pre-school and school-aged children, families with frail loved ones, the chronically ill, the mentally ill, and those in the throes of treatment of severe illnesses Let your hopes be with them all. Call people and share your concerns.

Kathy and I miss you. To do something to connect, we sent in our offering yesterday by text. It was easy! If you’re looking for something helpful to do, keep us afloat with your regular pledges and contributions. 

Set up e-giving (https://www.lansdaleumc.org/tithe/.) Text a donation by texting the words LansdaleFirstUMC to 73256. Easy peasy! Mail your check. Make an online donation to Manna on Main Street at (https://mannaonmain.org/give-money/donate-now/) since we won’t be gathering for the Lenten Series until perhaps April 1, if then! 

Please watch for another follow-up email from me with plans for Sunday worship and my hopes for Holy Week and Easter.

Keep your spirits and minds at ease with Jesus’ words: And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.–Matthew 28:20 (NRSV)

My hopes and prayers continue,

Pastor Bill. 

 

Pastoral Letter 3 from Bill Lentz on Covid-19

 

Greetings, dear friends in Christ,

 

Grace, peace, and health to us all! Let our spirits sing with gratitude to God for the promise of abundant life! Let our prays flow for the peoples of the 129 nations around the planet involved with Covid-19. Let our hearts grieve with those who mourn the death of loved ones. Let our hopes for healing be with those fighting the disease. As presumptive cases on Covid-19 rise in Montgomery County, I am more and more comfortable with the decision to shutter our church through March 27th. An “abundance of caution” is a reasonable standard to observe. Please follow the protocols of the CDC to protect others and yourself.

 

Here are several items for your information:

 

Concerning tomorrowSunday, Match 15: I’m attempting to record a brief service and a sermon for you on the church’s website at www.lansdaleumc.org. If I’m successful, you’ll be able to access it whenever you have time tomorrow, but how wonderful it would be for as many of us as possible to be together, connected, in internet worship at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. Check the website for an announcement about the recording.

 

Concerning Wednesdays, March 18th and 25th: The Lenten Services are suspended through March 25th. We’ll meet next on April 1st at First Baptist Church at 7:00 p.m. 

 

Concerning Sunday, March 22nd: The Brunch at Manna on Main will reschedule to a later date. The Tech Team is working on the means to Livestream the March 22nd service if we suspend that service too. Again, we will use the standard of “an abundance of caution” when making decisions.

 

My prayers for you continue. Be calm. Be not afraid. Stay well.

 

Peace and all goodness,

Pastor Bill.  

 
 
Pastoral Letter 2 from Bill Lentz on Covid-19
 
Grace and peace to you all,
 

Please read my follow-up Covid-19 e-mail carefully.

My prayers have been with you, our community, nation, and the world as we face a pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus Covid-19. The Commonwealth announced this morning there are two confirmed and 20 presumptive cases of the virus in Montgomery County. We are currently the epicenter of the virus. Directives specific to our county given yesterday include closing public schools and licensed child care centers. Though Bright Beginnings is a non-licensed program, it has followed North Penn SD’s lead in the past and will do so today: Bright Beginnings is closing from March 13-27, 2020.

The directives further place a ban on gatherings larger than 250 people. While our weekly worship attendance falls well below that number, after consulting with my administrative cabinet, we have made the following decisions: Sunday’s Worship Service, Sunday School, and youth group activities are suspended on March 15, 2020. Furthermore, to protect our building’s users, all other church-related and non-church activities are suspended through March 27, 2020

These decisions have not been made to foment panic or anxiety; they have been made to cooperate with the Commonwealth’s government official directives, to set an excellent example for the community, and to protect each other from unnecessary exposure to the virus. A follow-up e-mail will be sent about the Wednesday Lenten Service at First Baptist Church and the worship service on March 22, 2020, including the brunch to be served at Manna on Main

In the meantime, be calm and filled with courage. I ask you to offer this prayer:

O God of all hope, we pray for all living in anxiety and fear today.

For all fearing illness, isolation, economic turmoil, and people’s reactions to the unknown, we pray you will pour out your Holy Spirt’s peace and calm. We pray for your church in these uncertain times. We pray you will strengthen decision-makers and uphold the resolve of the church’s faithful witnesses to our community. We pray for the grace of your wisdom and insight. Help us turn our eyes, minds, and hearts to you, O giver of every perfect promise. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.  

Be assured that my prayers continue for you all.

 

Peace and goodness,

Pastor Bill.

 

Pastoral Letter 1 from Bill Lentz on Covid-19

Grace and peace to you all,

Here are important decisions for you to know concerning our church. Please read this follow-up to last Saturday’s Covid-19 e-mail carefully.

My prayers have been with you, our community, nation, and the world as we face a pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus Covid-19. My hopes are with all of us in this time of disruption, but especially with those caring for the sick, the elderly, and children, and those facing severe economic challenges.

As of 8:00 a.m. this morning, the Commonwealth announced there are two confirmed and 20 presumptive cases of the virus in Pennsylvania, 13 of those are in Montgomery County. We are currently the epicenter of the virus. Directives specific to our county given yesterday include closing public schools and licensed child care centers. Though Bright Beginnings is a non-licensed program, it has followed North Penn School District’s lead in the past and will do so today: Bright Beginnings is closed from March 13-27, 2020.

The directives further place a restriction on gatherings larger than 250 people. While we fall below that number, the administrative cabinet and I have made the following decisions: All church-related and non-church-related activities are suspended through at least March 27, 2020. We do this to protect our congregation and other users of the building. Sunday’s Worship Service, Sunday School, and youth group activities are suspended on March 15, 2020.

These decisions have not been made to foment panic or anxiety; they have been made to cooperate with the Commonwealth’s official directives, to set an excellent example for the community, and to protect each other from unnecessary exposure to the virus. A follow-up e-mail will be sent about the Wednesday Lenten Service at First Baptist Church and the worship service on March 22, 2020, including the brunch to be served at Manna on Main. 

In the meantime, be calm and filled with courage. If you have a pastoral care need during this time, call my cell at 484-767-2352. Let’s connect by calls, texts, and e-mails. Please check on our more vulnerable church members. Use the Facebook Prayer Page to communicate needs. Becky and I will deal with matters as they arise, so be patient with us, especially if I’m in Bethlehem. Assuming the current directives hold, I will be in Lansdale on Tuesday, March 17, for two off-site meetings. If you need to see me, let me know.    

I ask you to offer this prayer:

O God of all hope, we pray for all living in anxiety and fear today.

For all fearing illness, isolation, economic turmoil, and people’s reactions to the unknown, we pray you will pour out your Holy Spirt’s peace and calm. We pray for your church in these uncertain times. We pray you will strengthen decision-makers and uphold the resolve of the church’s faithful witnesses to our community. We pray for the grace of your wisdom and insight. Help us turn our eyes, minds, and hearts to you, O giver of every perfect promise. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.  

Be assured that my prayers continue for you all. Stay safe and healthy!

Peace and goodness,

Pastor Bill.

Following is a link to our Bishop Peggy Johnson’s Pastoral Letter concerning Covid-19:

https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Abundance-of-Caution—Words-from-Bishop-Peggy-Johnson.html?soid=1115113910561&aid=1PVTB6aogsI