Are We the 2020 Israelites?
November 25, 2020
“What happens here, doesn’t stay here…”
Dear Church Family,
I am uncertain that I have ever thought of a text from Exodus as I prepared to write a Thanksgiving message, however this year, pieces of the story are creeping in. The Israelites were under great tyranny and prayed and begged to be led out of slavery to freedom. God sent Moses to them and we can read and probably recall, from our Sunday School lessons, if we went to Sunday School, what the next 40 years were like. The Israelites, after escaping the Roman army through the waters, well they, wandered through the desert for 40 years heading to the “promised land.” While they were blessed to escape, blessed with water and food, blessed with shelter on the journey, they continually complained after each miracle and blessing. They even cursed Moses and God for “bringing them out here to die” after each blessing. Even though they were living in oppression and complete servitude to the point of oppression and death.
Doesn’t sound very much like a Thanksgiving message, does it? Those Israelites couldn’t see or realize the blessings they received in the midst of their discomfort to freedom. Did God really know what God was doing? Was Moses even to be believed, even though they know he was sent by God and had risked his life to save them? Was this “suffering” of their journey to freedom really worth it? If they would have stayed where they were, they would all die, that was the point of Roman rule was to control them and not let their population get so large as to overpower the government.
Ok, so I do find a message in this for us in this season. The morning paper today included a front-page article about the added stress this time of moving through the pandemic puts on families during the holidays, not to mention the loneliness.
My heart hurts in this time, in fact my heart is so torn, I want to see friends and spend time with extended family too. I don’t want to think about how horrible it is for families not to be together and those who reside in care centers not to see their loved ones. And I know there is a balance between caring for the physical and mental health of one another in this time. However, at the same time, I know we have so much to be thankful for. Neighbors helping neighbors through this time. Neighbors sharing food with one another, checking in on one another knowing their families maybe can’t make it in to be together this year to keep one another safe. And knowing that there are so many medical professionals, front line workers, chaplains and medical care personnel that are pushed to the brink caring for loved ones who are sick and possibly dying.
Oh Lord, our hospitals are full, children and adults alike are sick, health care workers are left to be caregivers, family, spiritual guides while leaving their families at home to care for others. Even the pastors need your prayers O, Lord, we can’t care for our faith communities the way we feel led. Lord, in your mercy, when will this end?
In this Thanksgiving season, I see and experience it over and over. We know we have much to be grateful for, yet we slip quickly back in to the grumbling and complaining because it is uncomfortable this way. Yes, we know this uncomfortableness is needed, it means we are acting from a place of love for neighbor, and family. But Lord, I just want to see my family, I just want to be home for the holidays, I just want to go hang out with friends, we’ve done this every year, why not this year, what will it hurt? People can’t tell me not to…I know better…
This Thanksgiving, yes, this message is a little different, however, maybe it’s what I needed, maybe it reminds me and others to pause and give thanks for the blessings we have. Today is our 18th Fresh Express Food distribution since March and the pandemic hit. I am thankful for the hundreds of volunteer hours and the well over 1,000 served. I am thankful that we have a way to share food, help neighbors, reach out in creative ways to stay connected and that more than complaining we have worked to adapt our living and helping because we do it from a place of love.
I’ve never thought about it before, however I wonder, in the Israelite nomadic community, as Moses was leading them to the promised land, I wonder if there weren’t people in the community who helped one another encouraging them and getting them through those hard days and years? Moses was leading, God was providing, and somehow I can’t imagine there weren’t community leaders within the group who worked to remind one other that they weren’t still under the authoritative rule of the government, that they were blessed to have food to eat and a promise of hope ahead.
Of course, the promise of hope ahead, makes me think of Advent and that begins this Sunday. However, before we get to Advent, before we talk of hope breaking-in, I believe we need to pause and give thanks, that in the midst of all the chaos and uncertainty and hurt, we still can give thanks this unusual Thanksgiving. My prayer for us all this week is that, yes, I know we will grumble, and we are provided grace for that too, and yes we will feel put upon and out of sorts by the virus and the things we need to do to take care of our neighbors, however my prayer is that we will not forget the blessings we have. My prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving for doctors and nurses and scientists and chaplains and housekeepers who sanitize our medical facilities and front-line workers, for the food we have on our tables and those that when we can, and we will, we will gather with again. For now, for this Thanksgiving, maybe we need to give thanks in heightened awareness of the blessings we do have and not lament the things we can’t do or don’t have this season.
Be good to yourself and be good to one another. For together, we can be community, encouraging one another and reminding one another we are on this journey together. God has a promised land for us all.
Stay safe, be well and know you are loved and beloved. I am thankful to be on this journey with you all.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving,
In our daily prayers…
Please include this day and each day things you are thankful for, people who are placed on your heart and all those included in our prayer requests. We remember especially this day Clarence Snider as he remains in Geisinger Medical Center, Danville. We remember all those who are alone on this Thanksgiving, we remember those who are facing this holiday as the first holiday without a loved one and we remember one another in love, grace and thanksgiving.
Please also remember to either join or update the prayers on St. Paul’s Love and Prayers Facebook page, send an email or call the church office with updates or requests that we together may pray as a community of faith.
News from Home...
Advent from home… We would invite you, if you don’t already have an Advent wreath at home, to create or purchase one for you and your family this year. If you would like they are available for order via online or there are instructions in our newly distributed “Faithful Families” (pp.63) to build one of your own together. If you are interested in having a wreath at home and don’t have a way to get one or build one of your own, please reach out to the church office and we will assist in whatever way is needed. Also, as you do light a candle with us each week, we hope you will be willing to share pictures with us of your creations and celebrations. Together we are continuing to explore ways to all be connected in this time of physical distancing. We are always connected to one another no matter whether in person or not. Here are some images of inexpensive and creative advent wreath ideas (thank you Colleen Franciscus, as always).
December 6, 2020 “Re-Creation,” a national touring musical group - like the USO – will broadcast a virtual Christmas Concert! The young men and women who typically perform at Veterans Homes all over the United States will produce their annual Christmas Show with the support of churches and organizations across the country. The group is based locally in Port Treverton, Pa., and was scheduled to come to Saint Paul’s this past spring as a part of their tour. With COVID-19, the group has halted in-person gatherings this year and as well their funding, reliant totally upon donations, has been cut short. Saint Paul’s will sponsor the December 6 Christmas which will be broadcast online. Saint Paul’s sponsorship will help spread the word for Re-Creation and help them continue to serve our nation’s Veterans across the country. We are excited for this sponsorship and you too will be able to offer an online donation during the performance which we will be providing links for as well. Please help spread the word.
Christmas Pageant News
“Do Not Be Afraid: A Virtual Christmas Pageant” is now being organized and is planned to be released for your viewing convenience in mid-December. Colleen Franciscus, Russ Wynn and others are working to create one of the most unique Christmas Pageants in the history of Christmas Pageants. You can register to participate in the pageant and your registration will get you more great details. Registration online: https://forms.gle/dgawrNr3P9c2NMm96
There is truly something for everyone and a way for everyone who chooses to join in the pageant.
Daily Devotions for Advent…We will be publishing a daily Advent Devotion online and printed copies will be available for those who need them. Please watch for ways which you may join us during this Advent season in daily reflection and prayer. Plan now to set aside time daily to journey through this season with us all.
There’s Still Time! Sharing our Gifts…Jen Arnold has 44 children left of the 110 she had for gift-giving. These names and needs have come to her through the Donald Heiter Community Center. Many of the “wish-list” items on the children’s list are basic needs. If you have not and are able, please contact Jen to adopt a child or children for gift-giving. There are varying ages of children in which gifts are needed. Most of the gifts are essential needs with some “would likes.” To learn more, you may contact Jen via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: (570) 713-5995, or via Facebook Messenger. Jen may also be contacted through Saint Paul’s Love and Prayers Facebook private group. Ours is the gift to give in helping our neighbors, and we invite you to participate as you are able. Reach out to Jen for more information.
Here’s a great Christmas Gift idea for coffee drinkers…Saint Paul’s Coffee Club or chocolate… We are taking orders for Fair-Trade Equal Exchange products. All proceeds benefit our Saint Paul’s Mission Fund while all Fair-Trade purchases go to benefit independent farmers. The order form is now online at this link: https://forms.gle/ipP6hADymMd1kSTC6. When you submit and order, we will notify you of a pick-up date and time as we are following safe distancing practices and complying with all state and local regulations. Orders may also be placed by calling the church office.
Products are: Mind, Body and Soul Ground Coffee, Regular, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Colombian Whole Bean Coffee, Regular, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Decaf, Ground, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Decaf, Whole Bean, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Fellowship Blend, Regular, 16 ounce, $12 per bag; Fellowship Blend, Decaf, 16 ounce, $12 per bag; French Roast K-Cups, Regular, 12 pods per box, $10 per box; Unwind K-Cups, Decaf, 12 pods per box, $10 per box; Black Tea, 20 bags per box $5 per box; Decaf English Breakfast Tea, 20 bags per box, $5 per box; Very Dark Chocolate (71%), $4 per bar; Milk Chocolate (43%), $4 per bar.
This week @ Saint Paul’s:
Wed., Nov. 25 Happy Birthday, Maggie Barrett
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church office open
Thur. Nov. 26 Happy Birthday, Polly Barrall
Fri., Nov. 27 Happy Birthday, Pat Bender
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church office open
Sat., Nov. 28 Happy Birthday, Molly Faust
Sun., Nov. 29 Happy Birthday, Steve Rowe
10:30 a.m. Worship LIVE (https://tinyurl.com/ran9suv ) / or YouTube
Mon., Nov. 30 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church Office open
10:30 a.m. Monday Morning Preacher Bible Study
Tue., Dec. 1 Happy Birthday, Bob Brittain
Happy Birthday, Joe Beatty
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church office open
Christian Education (click on Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5705681433)
· Sundays with Dave and Friends – 9:15 weekly (a Bible Study on Revelation)
· Monday Morning Preacher – 10:30 a. m. weekly (Let’s talk about Sunday’s text)
· Wednesday Musings and Theology – 6:30 p.m. weekly (Beginning again, January 12)
· Non-Zoom daily devotions with “Faithful Families”
What happens here doesn’t stay here (ways to connect in the community):
· Fresh Express (2nd & 4th Thursdays each month)
· Painting, Cleaning and Organizing at the Church
· Pantry Remodeling at the church
· Equal Exchange Coffee Sale
· CARE team Goodies and Meals
Reach out to learn more about these and many other opportunities at the church!