Most Fridays, I will plan to use "Reflections" to update you on upcoming events, worship, and other important information you may need to know. This Sunday, we will begin our online worship service. You can watch it anytime beginning early Sunday morning from our website at jcpcusa.org. In addition to sermon and scripture, Heidi and Christian, our Co-Directors of Music, have planned some outstanding worship music. My message is entitled "Social Distancing" and it will be based on Matthew 22:35-40. When you watch the service, it would be good to find a Bible to have with you so you can read along.
On our church website we will also have "Church at Home" resources. This will include prayers, Bible studies, videos, and other links for your spiritual enrichment at home. We also want to encourage everyone to continue with their generous giving, even though we're not meeting at the church for worship and other activities. Your staff and your church leadership are working hard every day to make a difference in the lives of our community and our members. From creating a brand new worship service online, to providing resources that anyone can use at home, to caring for the most vulnerable of our church members, to creating times for online fellowship - your giving is what makes this happen. So, please use whatever way works for you -- whether it's mailing a check, dropping it by the church mailbox or office, or giving online through the church website or our JCPC app. Thank you for your generous and faithful giving!
Please keep our session and our staff in your prayers as we have our first online virtual meeting this Saturday morning. Pray that God would guide our decisions so that we can fulfill the mission of our church in these unprecedented times.
Finally, I have included a link to a wonderful prayer I found online at Christianity Today. It can serve as a guide for us to know how we should pray during this pandemic. I am choosing to use one of the petitions each day during my devotions to guide my prayers. I am also praying for you, the members of our congregation, every day.
"20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic" by Jen Pollock Michel
. . . This list isn't comprehensive, of course, but it's a good place to start. My hope is that it can provide words for us as we pray collectively (if also virtually!) as a church body. We believe there is a God who bends his ear to listen, and so we pray:
1. For the sick and infected: God, heal and help. Sustain bodies and spirits. Contain the spread of infection.
2. For our vulnerable populations: God, protect our elderly and those suffering from chronic disease. Provide for the poor, especially the uninsured.
3. For the young and the strong: God, give them the necessary caution to keep them from unwittingly spreading this disease. Inspire them to help.
4. For our local, state, and federal governments: God, help our elected officials as they allocate the necessary resources for combatting this pandemic. Help them to provide more tests.
5. For our scientific community, leading the charge to understand the disease and communicate its gravity: God, give them knowledge, wisdom, and a persuasive voice.
6. For the media, committed to providing up-to-date information: God, help them to communicate with appropriate seriousness without causing panic.
7. For consumers of media, looking to be well-informed: God, help us find the most helpful local information to equip us to be good neighbors. Keep us from anxiety and panic, and enable us to implement the recommended strategies, even at a cost to ourselves.
8. For those with mental health challenges who feel isolated, anxious, and helpless: God, provide them every necessary support.
9. For the homeless, unable to practice the protocols of social distancing in the shelter system: Protect them from disease, and provide isolation shelters in every city.
10. For international travelers stuck in foreign countries: God, help them return home safely and quickly.
11. For Christian missionaries throughout the world, especially in areas with high rates of infection: God, provide them with words of hope, and equip them to love and serve those around them.
12. For workers in a variety of industries facing layoffs and financial hardship: God, keep them from panic, and inspire your church to generously support them.
13. For families with young children at home for the foreseeable future: God, help mothers and fathers to partner together creatively for the care and flourishing of their children. For single mothers and fathers, grow their networks of support.
14. For parents who cannot stay home from work but must find care for their children: God, present them with creative solutions.
15. For those in need of regular therapies and treatments that must now be postponed: God, help them to stay patient and positive.
16. For business leaders making difficult decisions that affect the lives of their employees: God, give these women and men wisdom, and help them to lead self-sacrificially.
17. For pastors and church leaders faced with the challenges of social distancing: God, help them to creatively imagine how to pastor their congregants and love their cities well.
18. For college and university students, whose courses of study are changing, whose placements are cancelled, whose graduation is uncertain: God, show them that while life is uncertain, their trust is in you.
19. For Christians in every neighborhood, community, and city: May your Holy Spirit inspire us to pray, to give, to love, to serve, and to proclaim the gospel, that the name of Jesus Christ might be glorified around the world.
20. For frontline health care workers, we thank you for their vocational call to serve us. We also pray:
God, keep them safe and healthy. Keep their families safe and healthy.
God, help them to be knowledgeable about the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, as well as the changing protocols.
God, help them to stay clear-minded in the midst of the surrounding panic.
God, deliver them from anxiety for their own loved ones (aging parents, children, spouses, roommates).
God, give them compassion for every patient in their care.
God, provide for them financially, especially if they fall ill and are unable to work.
God, help Christians in health care to exhibit extraordinary peace, so that that many would ask about the reason for their hope. Give them opportunities to proclaim the gospel.
God, we trust that you are good and do good. Teach us to be your faithful people in this time of global crisis. Help us to follow in the footsteps of our faithful shepherd, Jesus, who laid down his life for the sake of love. Glorify his name as you equip us with everything needed for doing your will. Amen.