For many of us, the summer brings changes in our schedules, especially if coordinating care for kids while school’s out for the summer, and/or with planning vacations or weekend getaways and outings. I know my family and I will take a few weeks away near the end of this summer, too! So it’s easy for us to lose track of time and commitments over the summer. Whether I’m away or you’re away, the Church (the Body of Christ) still gathers every Sunday to worship our Lord, and the Body of Christ, including Unity’s staff, is still at work through the week, helping to coordinate and engage in the day to day ministry and mission of the Church.
Now, I hope that over the summer we will all gather for worship as often as we are in town. But in light of all the various summer activities, I know that it won’t be every Sunday for most of us, but I also want to make sure that we all know that even when we can’t join in worship on Sundays, we can still continue to support and participate in the ministry and mission of the Church. To that end, Session and I would like to let you know that many banks in town offer online banking and auto bill-pay options. These allow you to have your bank send a check on your behalf to pay a bill to a service provider or even send in an offering to the church even when you’re out of town for the weekend! Session and I invite us all to consider setting up automatic payments through our banks as a way to be able to continue supporting the mission and ministry of Unity even when we happen to be unavailable on a Sunday morning.
The second thing I want to share is that I’d like some suggestions from you! Are there passages of Scripture or questions of faith that you’d like to hear addressed from the pulpit? I’d be interested in trying to address some of these throughout the summer. Also, what sorts of articles and/or information do we print in the monthly newsletter that are beneficial for you and that you enjoy seeing in the newsletter? Are there other things (information/articles) that you’d like to see in the newsletter that you think would benefit you and the church? Please either email me (email@example.com) your thoughts about that or use the below space to let me know. You can cut it out and place it in the offering plate or hand it to me on a Sunday. I’d even like to know if you think the newsletter already covers everything you think it should! Are there other ways we can communicate with you (did you know that Unity is on facebook and twitter?), or other things you’d like the church to communicate about that would be beneficial to the life of the church and your walk of faith? Let me know, and we’ll see what we might do about it!
Our relationship with Jesus and with the Church is a two-way street. We each give and receive. As we approach the summer, I’d like us to make sure that communication and support is going in both directions, so that we continue to grow as the Body of Christ, encouraging and strengthening each other! “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV).
Sickness. The weather seems to be changing, trying to begin Spring. The temperature is going up and down, there’s rain, then sun, then rain again. And I’m sick. As I write this, I’m trying to fight off something. I’m trying to rest and “push the fluids.” I’ll have moments where I feel almost completely fine, and then my throat starts to hurt, I cough, I feel weak and tired. It comes to us all. No matter how healthy a lifestyle you live, you will face sickness at one time or another.
Sickness. Those who are affected by sickness seek treatment. They seek healing. They seek wellness. Sickness breaks us to various degrees, and healing brings wholeness. On being questioned why he was spending time with “bad people,” Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17, NIV). This is both encouraging to me, and challenging! It encourages me because Jesus has the cure. In fact, Jesus is the cure! He has been called the Great Physician of our Souls (and Bodies). “By his wounds [we] have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24)! Praise the Lord! This wasn’t just while Jesus walked the earth; this is both a future promise and a present promise. Behold, says the Lord, “I am making everything new” (Rev. 21:5)! There will come a time, when Christ returns, when there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Jesus Christ has begun “the treatment” of the world, and when he returns, it will be completed. Hallelujah!
So, I am encouraged that Jesus is about bringing total healing and wholeness to the world. But I am challenged because Jesus says he did not come to call the righteous…but sinners. Friends, this means we can either pretend that we’re “well” and that we can get along fine without being “treated” by the Physician, or we can admit that we’re “sick” and in need of a cure. It means submitting to the Physician so that we can be made well. It means admitting that our attempts at peace and well-being haven’t been going so well. It means letting go of our attempts to heal ourselves. We need transformation from the inside out, because the root of our sickness is within our very hearts. We need a total heart replacement in order to have the heart of God, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t perform open-heart surgery on myself!
During this season of Lent and during this time of national tragedy, fear and turmoil in this country, may we followers of Christ humble ourselves, lay down our own attempts to “cure” the sickness within us and the sickness of the world, and may we approach Jesus to seek his loving “total treatment plan” both for ourselves and our world.
Grace & Peace
When they hurled insults at [Jesus], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body
on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds [we] have been healed. For [we] were like sheep going astray, but now [we] have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of [our] souls.
~ 1 Peter 2:23-25
Lent begins on Valentine’s Day this year (seriously!), and Easter is on April Fool’s Day (no joke!). Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord. One of the time honored ways to “prepare” is through fasting.
I started fasting during Lent, to my remembrance, during my first year of marriage. I did it for the wrong reasons, and I did it in an unhelpful way. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally learned a proper perspective on fasting along with helpful considerations on how to do it. I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you, and invite you to join me in fasting this Lenten season.
We do NOT fast:
-to show ourselves as “holier than” others
-to “prove ourselves” to God or others
-to get “brownie points” with God
We DO fast:
-to recognize our moment by moment need for Jesus
-to relinquish control of our lives to our Heavenly Father
-to rely on the Holy Spirit to sustain, strengthen, and guide us
“Fasting is not primarily a discipline through which [we] gain greater control over [our lives], but one through which God gains access to redirect and heal [us] in body, mind, and spirit...Combined with prayer, [fasting] is a potent means of making ourselves available to the cleansing, restoring, empowering grace of God.” ~ Excerpted from Marjorie Thompson's, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, (Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 1995), pp. 77 & 79.
Because fasting is a way to help us in prayer, if you do not feel called to fast or are unable to do a total food fast, please do not let that hinder you from participating in a modified fast and dedicated times of prayer during Lent. There are many ways to fast (e.g. all food/calories [drinking water only], just food [drinking juice], eating only veggies and fruit, just giving up all meat, giving up just red meat, etc.).
If you do feel called to an all food fast, and would like to try it, Marjorie Thompson recommends that when fasting: do not eat more than usual for your last meal before fasting or for the meal with which you break the fast. From experience, I completely agree!) I will be fasting on each Thursday in Lent, beginning after dinner on Wednesday until dinner on Thursday, but you are welcome to fast another day, or in another way!
I hope you’ll prayerfully consider praying and perhaps also fasting with me as we set our hearts and minds on our Lord’s death and resurrection, praying for new life in our city even as he desires total claim on our own hearts and lives now.
Grace & Peace in Christ,