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Wednesday Words, April 29, 2020

Wednesday Words - Together

April 29, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

All who believed were together

- Acts 2:44

The second chapter of acts paints a portrait of Christian community that we should all aspire to.  The verse that caught my attention this week was verse forty-four,  “All who believed were together…”  Togetherness is something that I’m longing for in this time of quarantine.  I’m guessing you are too. 

At John Baldwin’s funeral last week, I felt keenly aware of how distant and alone we all feel in this time. I wanted to console those who mourned they way I always do – with hugs and words of comfort.  Instead, I found myself coldly waving to those in grief, with muffled words through a protective mask (worn by everyone at the small gathering).

Though I’ll admit it felt strange, I think it’s equally true that the physical distance we put between us couldn’t separate the love that people had for one another as they remembered John - holding one another in love.  And maybe that’s the point.


Despite that odd social distance we all kept between us, there was togetherness.  I could see it in the way that people interacted and cared for one another.  We came together in the belief and hope in the resurrection, remembering John’s life, and proclaiming that in the waters of baptism he had new life.

There is togetherness in belief that transcends all other barriers.  At the funeral I was reminded again of that famous verse from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, 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.”

Did you hear that? With faith, nothing can separate us.  I’ve felt that in our worship together on Sundays - maybe you’ve felt it too – that in some strange ways, I’ve felt just as connected with you all (in some ways even more so) than I ever was before. 

Being a part of this community of faith means that you too, are connected to God and to all those people on the other side of the computer screen.  You are connected with all the saints, both past and present, through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 22, 2020

Wednesday Word

Pr. Cathy Daharsh


In this Sunday’s Gospel, Cleopas and another are walking together on the road to Emmaus. The mood is somber as they process the chaos into which their world has been thrown. Their hope is failing them. They had invested their lives into Jesus and now they will need to rebuild a new kind of normal.

I think we all are doing that right now. The way in which we had been living our lives and worshiping has been turned upside down and we are in the midst of figuring out how to do this “shelter in place” life, wondering about the future, and attempting to find hope along the way.

This past weekend our family went to the Daharsh Cabin in northern WI for some R&R after the news of my husband's brother, Tony's death. We were grateful for the time away to process his death and everything else. Tom’s other brother, Tim, and their daughters joined us and we worked side by side on projects talking at times and in other times just being  quietly present to each other.

We did lots of projects around the cabin, took shingles off two garages and tore down the four seasons room. The four seasons room was invaded by a family of ten skunk that made their home underneath the room. The skunks were removed about three weeks ago, but the remnant smell of skunk was still in the air. There was something profound and symbolic about getting rid of the stench in the air, removing the boards and siding that held the smell, and dreaming about a new future for that space. We took turns swinging a mallet to demolish the walls, which was therapeutic. It will be converted into a deck with an overhang where we can gather our family and friends to grill out and socialize. The sliding glass doors that will be installed in the cabin will lead into the space and it will give us a clearer and more open view of the woods from inside.


With the help of Jesus, Cleopas and another see clearer and use their faith to make sense of a scary situation. They look at scripture and see the stories of God’s people going through great trouble and chaos. In every single instance God is there guiding and providing for them. Even when the people think God has gone far away, the prophets remind the people God is still with them. Looking at the way God’s people have gotten through difficult times before helps them (and us) remember they will get through this, too. Then when they act on their hope, inviting the stranger back to their home, they literally find out Jesus has been walking every step of the journey with them. Their act of love leads to them communing with Jesus.

 I have no doubt that Christ is walking with you every step of the way as you struggle and grow in these challenging, strange, and sometimes scary days. My prayer for you, my friends is that Christ’s presence brings you moments of peace and hope that strengthens your faith and give you footing to carry on. Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 8, 2020

Wednesday Words – What Will Easter Be?
April 8, 2020
Pr. Paul Cannon

5 But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised”

Matthew 28:5-6

As I’m looking out my window now, it’s about 70 degrees outside, flowers are in bloom, and spring is appearing in full force (this is a good time to acknowledge that Illinois weather may still dictate a blizzard or two if it feels like it).

But despite the beautiful spring weather, it doesn’t feel like Easter is just around the corner. It feels like something is missing, as we plan to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord stuck in our homes figuring out how on earth Jesus is going to come back to life while we’re sitting in front of our laptops, TV screens and mobile devices. It’s like the world is getting ready to celebrate Easter without us.

What will Easter be without the organ and the brass? What will Easter be without the lilies and the flowers? What will Easter be without the hats, bows, dresses and suits, all in a rainbow of pastels?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Easter will be different. I imagine this Easter will be a lot more like the original one.

The original Easter began with women in their mourning clothes. The original Easter began with the solemn trudge of Mary and Martha silently making their way to a tomb they expected to be occupied.

There was no brass, no organ. If there were lilies they went unremarked upon, unnoticed. There were certainly no fancy hats, nor pretty ribbons, nor shined shoes, nor pastels.

The first Easter began with fear and trembling, not unlike how this Easter must feel for many of us. Anxiety, worry, confusion, helplessness – all of these things were present the day that our Lord Jesus rose from the dead.

Although this year may seem different from any other Easter in your memory, it strikes me that this Easter is far closer to the original one than we’ve ever experienced.

So we hope you can join us this Holy Week, as we journey from the cross to the grave and back again. Bring your worries. Bring your anxieties. Bring your confusion. Bring your helplessness.

God has seen it before.

Worship with us

Maundy Thursday, 7p

Good Friday, 7p

Easter Sunday, 9am

Wednesday Words, April 1, 2020

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

What day is it? How many days have we been home? The first week seemed easy, but…

As we all stay home to “flatten the curve,” the isolation is taking a toll on our spirits. Many people are worried about the loss of income as jobs in restaurants, hotels, schools and so much more have shut down. Others are worried about family members in other locations and people have canceled long-planned weddings. Funerals are on hold, and older family members are locked down in retirement communities. Many people wonder how they can help without putting others in jeopardy.

Zoom meetings allow many of us to work and have church together and yet people are starting to have “Zoom fatigue."  I would also add social media fatigue to the list. Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram helps us to connect with people, but Zoom and social media are like eating potato chips; a little bit is great, but after a whole day, we feel drained. It’s food, but not very nourishing. There is much loneliness as we want to connect and help others, but how?


This year, like no other before it, and hopefully like none after it, we have a better idea of Jesus’ loneliness as he rides into Jerusalem. We have a unique window into the isolation of Jesus, as he enters the city.

Grounded in our humanity, sharing an experience of sorrow with much of the world, this Palm Sunday invites us to embrace our pain, and welcome the lessons of isolation. Palm and Passion Sunday will feel odd this year as we celebrate from the living room or some place in our homes. We’ll feel off-kilter as we worship via Zoom or Facebook instead of with palms and the music of the church. In this 'weirdness,' the presence of God can come fully to life. It may be that we have never been closer to Jesus than we are this year. Do you believe it?

Christ is with us in this loneliness and sadness. Many of our distractions are stripped away right now which gives us a new perspective of world and encourages us to face our fears and worries leaning into our faith.

I would like to end with a story shared by Bethany member Jim Bradshaw. It’s a story of God’s work through a child to give us encouragement as we face our fears, worries and loneliness.

“Yesterday, while working at the Crystal Food Pantry with Joanna, Kelly, David and Andrew Bradshaw, I encountered a case of generosity I would like to share. The food pantry like most organizations has been forced to use curbside delivery. Yesterday a car pulled to the place where the pantry workers gather information from the neighbors in need so food can be gathered and taken outside to the waiting car. In this case, a neighbor pulled forward and told the pantry worker that this was her first time at the pantry and in the past she had been able to volunteer. In the back seat of the car was a young lady probably five or six years old who had come to the pantry with her mom. In the little girl's hand was a baggie filled with loose change and paper bills. The little girl informed the pantry worker that she had broken open her piggy bank and wanted to give the money to the food pantry  to help people who were less fortunate than she was. In the chaotic world we live in it is the little acts of generosity and kindness that shed some light into the darkness."


This is one of many stories that are happening in our wilderness. Believe it or not there is hope in this wilderness. I pray that you too might see God work’s and sense God’s presence, especially, in your times of loneliness. Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 25, 2020

Wednesday Words – Act of God Days

March 25, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

 

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth

- John 11:43-44

I had a proud “Bethany” moment this week when Emily Landon (daughter of our congregation and more specifically daughter to Mary Ann Landon), stood up next to Governor Pritzker this week and gave one of the most moving speeches about the coronavirus that I’ve seen. The speech went viral, and became must watch footage describing the dangers of this disease (Watch here if you haven’t seen it). It was one of the most clarifying & passionate responses to this pandemic in the cacophony of media noise on the subject.

But for all the drama of that press conference, it was another response to COVID-19 that keeps rattling around in my brain. Last week (which feels like a decade ago) the state of Illinois declared “Act of God Days” for schools, which cancels classes without requiring make-up days due to “a hazardous threat to the health and safety of the students.”

Of course, as a pastor that struck me as an odd turn of phrase: act of GOD days. Are these acts of God? If they are, I’m not sure I’m interested in religion.

What is an act of God? I would argue that if you blame God for all the frightening things in creation (like a virus or a tornado), then God should also get the same credit for all the good things in creation (spring time, fresh baked bread … those warm towels they serve on airplanes, etc).

And maybe that’s all fair. But when I hear the term “Act of God” I hear something completely different.

I think of Lazarus, when he had been dead and rotting in a tomb for four days. Lazarus too, had been ill. Maybe he caught a bad virus. Maybe it was something else. We don’t really know. But Mary and Martha also seemed to blame God for this, so much so that Martha runs to Jesus with anger and pleading in her voice. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him."

And that’s exactly what God does. He raises Lazarus from the tomb.

Now, I ask you, what was the act of God? Was it that Lazarus died or was it that God raised him from the dead? If you answered the latter, I tend to agree with you.

True acts of God aren’t when awful things happen, but when good people try to do something about it. Acts of God are when hospital workers show up for 12-hour shifts to treat infected patients.

Acts of God are when we volunteer to disrupt our everyday lives for the sake of people they might not even know.

Acts of God are when congregations gather over Facebook and Zoom in order to protect the weak and vulnerable among us.

Those are acts of God.

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