June Communications Update
The entire staff is working diligently keeping the Congregation informed and soliciting comments as how to best open the Church for Worship. There is no perfect solution, but with much compromise it appears doable. Your Session is working on various scenarios for seating and safe efficient flow patterns for entry to, and exit from, the Sanctuary. Not an easy task nor will it be pleasing to everyone.
Our live streaming Worship Services are the envy of the Presbytery and we are truly blessed with a talented staff.
For May Communion, The Lords Supper, I decided to create my own Communion kit. A small measure of grape juice and a morsel of Wonder bread. The Wonder of our Father in Heaven, the Wonder of Creation, the Wonder of our Lord and Savior Jesus and the Wonder of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpts from Glen Scrivener, minister in the Church of England, March 2020
Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History
How did the obscure Jesus movement become the dominant religious force in the Western world? We need to understand the remarkable response to plagues.
Inspired by their Faith the impulse to move toward the needy, heroic sacrifice and the love we seek to embody. Let the Spirit lead us.
1. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria
The Plague of Cyprian (249-262 AD) was a lethal pandemic. Upwards of 5,000 deaths a day in Rome. The Christian response to it won admiration and a greater following. Dionysius reported: Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected with the disease.
The evident Christlikeness- taking death in order to give life stood in stark contrast to those outside the church.
But with the heathen everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick, fled from their dearest friends, and shunned any participation. The Church rose to the challenge in the second century winning both admirers and converts.
2. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage
The Christian population in AD 251 was assumed to be about 1.2 million-that’s 1.9 percent of the empire, an incredible increase from the second century.
Counterintuitively, another plague contributed to the church’s onward march.
This plague was different possibly measles but we’re unsure. But mortality just as high as those a century earlier. Towns in Italy abandoned, the military and Roman infrastructure was massively weakened. Once again Christianity shown in the midst of trial.
Cyprian the Bishop of Carthage, put like this:
How suitable, how necessary it is that this plague and pestilence, which seems horrible and deadly, searches out justice of each and every one and examines the mind of the human race; whether the healthy care for the sick, whether relatives dutifully love kinsmen as they should, whether physicians do not desert the affected.
The plagues “search” us. They discover in us the way of the flesh or the way of the Spirit. The third century plague found church a Spirit filled people. Willing to walk the way of the Master. Church death rates were significantly lower than those of the general population. Christians were stronger as a proportion of society, since more of them survived. They had more resilience because they had robust hope.
Christianity went from an obscure movement to representing 6 million believers by 300 AD.
3. Martin Luther, Wittenberg
From the 14th century onward, the Black Death haunted Europe. In just five years it wiped out as much as half the population with urban areas particularly affected. Outbreaks continued reoccurring in the following centuries, including the plague that struck Wittenberg in 1527. Many fled, yet Luther and his pregnant wife, Katharina, remained to care for the sick, citing Matthew 25:41-26 as their guide. According to this, we are bound to each other in his distress but are obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped. He warned Christians not to judge one another for different decisions.
We are here alone with the deacons, but Christ is present too, that we may not be alone, and will triumph in us over the old serpent, murderer, and author of sin, however much he may bruise Christ’s heel. Pray for us, and farewell. (Letter dated August 19, 1527) Luther has in mind Genesis 3:15.
Luther and Katharina survived, and the way of Jesus was vindicated in this intense trial.
4. Charles Spurgeon, London
By the 1850’s London was the most powerful and wealthiest city in the world, with a population of more than 2 million. A cholera outbreak in 1854 struck fear into the hearts of Londoners.
Charles Spurgeon, only 20 years old at the time, came to the capitol to pastor New Park Street Chapel. He would look back to this plague as a key time of learning for himself and also for the city.
I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.
He tells the story of visiting a dying man who had previously opposed him:
The man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death then he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips.
Spurgeon saw the plague of his day as a storm that led many to seek refuge in Christ the Rock.
Today: While the outworking of love may look different in different ages, love must still be the aim a love directed by the Holy Spirit, not out self-centered flesh.
* Spurgeon drew as many as 10,000 people at his services. Preached 3,600 sermons, wrote 49 volumes of commentary. Known as the Prince of Preachers.