Weekly Bulletin

August 23 Reflection below
 
THIS WEEK (Twenty-Four)+ of pandemic restrictions
 
MON Aug 24      
 Ministry & Oversight meeting by Zoom, 7:00 PM
 
WED Aug 26   
–Bread for the World/Fast Once a Month, 12:00 Noon
Intercession Salad supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
–Fabulous Friends and Parsonage Class Zoom meeting, 7:00 PM
 
SUN Aug 30       
Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and online via Zoom video conferencing by computer or phone
 
WED Sept 2       
Monthly Meeting for Business, 7:00 PM via Zoom
 

BULLETIN BOARD for AUGUST 23, 2020
 
PANDEMIC GATHERING:  Unless new restrictions are announced by the state, Winchester Friends will continue offering combined in-person and online Meetings for Worship-Sharing (utilizing Zoom video/phone conferencing) at 10:00 AM on Sundays during August.  A Zoom meeting invitation and a devotional essay are emailed to Friends on Saturdays and provided to those in the meetinghouse on Sunday.  Those gathering in the meetinghouse will be expected to arrive no earlier than 9:30 AM, and to honor hand sanitizing, facemask wearing, and physical distancing to help prevent COVID infection.  If you feel unwell or are experiencing any COVID symptoms (fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, recent loss of taste or smell), please remain at home and join the meeting online or by phone.  Friends may forward the Zoom invitation email to friends to invite them to join us in online worship.
 
OFFERING ENVELOPES for the remainder of 2020 (recycled from previous years’ unused ones) have been prepared by the treasurer and office assistants.  Please check the parlor table for your set, and please check to make sure they bear your correct number.  Thank you, Friends, for your faithful support of Winchester Friends’ ministries.
 
COMPASSION GARDEN tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers are available in exchange for a donation to Heifer International to help low- income families in developing countries.  See Pam Ferguson for details.
 
NEW SUNDAY SCHOOL QUARTERLIES for Sept.-Nov, titled “The Jesus Movement” and covering 1,2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and 1,2,3 John, are available from the southwest parlor table or the church office. 
 
COMMITTEE CLERKS of the church’s standing committees are reminded to prepare written annual reports covering July 2019-June 2020 and submit them to the church office soon.  Due to the pandemic, the next Monthly Meeting for Business has been delayed until Wednesday September 2.
 
 
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Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394
www.winchesterfriendschurch.org
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           August 23 Reflection

 

Was My arm too short to ransom you?  Do I lack the strength to rescue you?  By mere rebuke I dry up the sea,
I turn rivers into a desert…. Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.
Isaiah 50:2; 59:1
 
Hope in Our Multi-Tasking God
 
Genesis 11:1-9 records the story of the tower of Babel, a story passed along to Moses from the pre-literate oral traditions of people who lived after the Flood but before Abraham.  It gives their account of a group of nomadic people who decided to settle in one place and to “make a name for themselves” by building a great city with a tower that “reaches to the heavens.”  As the story goes, the Lord saw their project for its real purpose – to use their God-given brains and bodies to build something so great that it would achieve for them parity with God and eliminate their need for God.  The Lord responded by scrambling their languages, making the construction project unworkable and causing the various language groups to move on to different locations on the earth.  The story was told to make the point that being “created in God’s image” does not mean that humans can do everything God can do.  It also teaches that trying to replace or eliminate God with our amazing capacities to learn and do remarkable things will never end well for us.
 
As Pam and I were driving home from Richmond last Tuesday, we met a closely-spaced group of three or four vehicles headed south at highway speed.  At the end of that little convoy was a guy on a motorcycle traveling at the same speed, and in US 27-fashion, way too close to the pickup in front of him.  As they flashed by me, I was stunned to see the motorcyclist’s head bowed as he looked down at the cell phone in his left hand.  All it would have taken for a disaster to occur was one of those vehicles ahead of him braking suddenly while his eyes were averted. 
 
When we lived in Uganda in the mid-1990s, Pam would sometimes laugh when she found me typing a letter or a report on a laptop computer while listening to the BBC on a shortwave radio and occasionally glancing at muted CNN International news pictures on the little TV across the room.  It’s a good thing we didn’t yet have internet access.  I have read that some brains actually function best while dealing with multiple stimuli, but that Kampala setup probably wasn’t the most efficient or focused way to work. 
 
With high-speed data transmission, wireless connectivity, and ever-shrinking device sizes, the “digital revolution” (this era’s Babel?) has enabled people to work with greater efficiency and productivity than ever before.  We now can work from nearly anywhere, electronically connected to the rest of the world 24 hours a day.  Other improvements and advances abound as well – in medicine, communications, transportation, entertainment, and other aspects of life.  It is often said that the smart phone in one’s pocket has more computing power than the Apollo spacecraft had which carried people to the moon.  And so nearly everyone uses technology to multi-task like in the examples above, cramming more and more activity into each day in hopes that it will enrich our lives and solve all our problems. 
 
But not everything about the digital age has been positive.  Drivers distracted by phones have been shown to be as dangerous as those impaired by alcohol and drugs.  Unfocused work is, well, unfocused.  When work can so easily be carried home, boundaries and expectations get blurred, and both workers and bosses can forget the importance of taking breaks and resting.  Relationships with people and with God can get shortchanged or destroyed.  It turns out that humans weren’t really built for so much multi-tasking.  Too often, the technology that was supposed to enrich life and solve problems ends up doing the very opposite.  
 
The desire for something or someone to solve the serious problems of 2020 is certainly understandable.  The coronavirus pandemic has now disrupted life globally for over five months, with no end yet in sight.  Within the next two or three weeks it will claim its 200,000th victim in the US.  The harm inflicted upon the US economy by business closures, job losses, and relief and mitigation costs will continue complicating our lives long after the pandemic finally ends. The fear and stress of the pandemic have been layered atop long-simmering frustration over social injustice and racial inequities, resulting in frightening violence in a few cities and revealing the need for years’ worth of long-ignored vital reconciliation work.  And the pandemic has almost certainly diverted resources and attention away from the world’s address of its greatest existential threat, climate change.  I cannot help wondering how much longer and how much more pain it will take for people to admit that technology and human achievement alone will not suffice to solve these challenges, and finally to become open to the spiritual renewal that could offer answers and peace.
 
When in about 685 BC Isaiah wrote his prophetic statement, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1), he was writing to Hebrew people 100 years in the future whose trust in their own intelligence and achievements, rather than in faithfulness to God, had led to their exile in Babylon.  They were miserable and powerless in captivity, distraught over the destruction of Jerusalem, and losing hope of ever going home.  In Isaiah 61, he gave a vivid description of the Savior whom God would send to turn things around, the multi-tasking Messiah who could simultaneously address all their miseries – the spiritual deadness, the injustice, the sickness, the sorrow, the hopelessness.  Those words in Isaiah 61 are the very ones Jesus used to announce to his home synagogue at Nazareth the start of his three years of public ministry that would reveal the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:18,19).  Those words, his lived demonstration of them then, and his empowering of his followers then and now to do the same, ought to resonate well with people staring at 2020’s heartaches and longing for something better.
 
Hopeful Commission     Jesus told his friends in church that the Spirit and anointing of the Lord was upon him “to preach good news to the poor,…to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the Year of God’s Favor.”  In other places, at other times, he told listeners that he had come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and that he had come to provide abundant life to all who will accept it (John 10:10).  He told Nicodemus that God had not sent him to condemn the world, but to forgive and save it (John 3:17).  It was an assignment to bring healing to broken bodies and hearts, broken societies and relationships, broken spiritual covenants and souls.  It was an impossible task for anyone except God’s multi-tasking Messiah, and those who would allow him to continue his work through them, one assignment at a time.
 
Hopeful Compassion     After constantly encountering the sin and opposition that was rife in Palestine in his day, Jesus could have been excused for just throwing up his hands and telling God it was time for another Great Flood.  Instead, he wept in compassion for the people who had been misled or ignored by unfaithful, self-seeking teachers, referring to them as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).  He saw them not as bad people, but as victims of God’s enemy who sought to destroy them in order indirectly to hurt God to whom he had no access.  Because he sacrificially lived a fully human life just like theirs, he felt the temptations and difficulty they faced every day, and he walked alongside them to show them in the flesh that faithfulness was possible.  He dealt sternly only with the arrogant ones who refused to acknowledge their sin – the only kind of sin Jesus couldn’t forgive.
 
Hopeful Capacity       The COVID pandemic has at times been a discouraging succession of incapacities – not enough protective equipment, not enough testing, not enough relief money, not enough medical caregivers.  When Isaiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon that “the Lord’s arm is not too short,” he was telling them that regardless of the immensity of their need, God’s grace and ability to help is greater.  Part of the reason that people exhaust themselves multi-tasking is that they fail to trust God to care for all their needs and feel they must do it by their own wits and effort.  From his incarceration in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi that he had learned from experience that “My God will meet all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  He told the church in Corinth that in his frustration over not receiving prayed-for healing, likely for his diminished eyesight, God had told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).  In this stressful time when people all around us are counting their significant losses, God needs you and me to be able and willing to speak from our experience that God lovingly does indeed meet all our needs out of his infinite capacity.
 
Hopeful Collaboration     In these days of restricted activity, it would be awfully easy to sit around complaining about what we miss and waiting for the chance to do everything we were accustomed to doing pre-pandemic.  That would be not just a selfish sad mistake, but more importantly a missed opportunity.  Right after he expressed his compassion for the “sheep without a shepherd,” Jesus uttered his famous appeal for “the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers” into what he called a plentiful harvest of those leaderless sheep (Matthew 9:37,38).  One of the best remedies for pandemic boredom and frustration is to discover a way to actively engage in Jesus’ effort to proclaim and demonstrate God’s good news to the poor, the trapped, the blinded, the oppressed – physically or spiritually — and to proclaim the accessibility of the Lord’s favor. 
 
It is highly unlikely that any of us will be able to multi-task our way out of the traumas of 2020.  Technology and committed experts will be an essential part of addressing the global crises, but I am convinced that it is only our multi-tasking God who has the motivation, capacity, and compassion to address them simultaneously.  He would love to enlist the help of every one of us in the effort to proclaim the good news of spiritual hope and renewal that can begin now and make us strong long before technical solutions are found for COVID-19, economic collapse, social and racial injustice, and climate change.  Again I ask – how much longer, how much more pain will it take before people admit that spiritual renewal is an essential piece of the answer for 2020’s troubles?   Let’s all accept Christ’s commission and experience his compassion and capacity so that we can join him in proclaiming from personal experience the hope he gives us in the midst of a very troubled time.
 
Ron Ferguson, 23 August 2020  
 
Let your heart be broken for a world in need; Feed the mouths that hunger, soothe the wounds that bleed.
Give the cup of water and the loaf of bread; Be the hands of Jesus, serving in His stead.
Blest to be a blessing, privileged to care, challenged by the need apparent everywhere.
Where mankind is wanting, fill the vacant place; Be the means through which the Lord reveals His grace.
Add to your believing deeds that prove it true; Knowing Christ as Savior, make Him Master too.
Follow in His footsteps, go where He has trod; In the world’s great trouble, risk yourself for God.
–Brian J. Leech (Let Your Heart Be Broken, #315 in our hymnal)
 
Queries for Reflection and Worship-Sharing
 
1)  In these discouraging days, where are you finding reasons to hope?
2)  Have you felt your need for God more poignantly, more urgently since the pandemic started?  In what ways?
3)  Do you see any “Towers of Babel” in our time that falsely hide people’s need for God?  Do you think any of them might get exposed and abandoned as a result of 2020’s troubles?  How might that happen?
4)  Do you agree or disagree that our multi-tasking lifestyles risk shortchanging our relationships with God?  with others?
 

 

 
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Winchester Friends Church             winchesterfriends@juno.com
124 E Washington     Winchester IN  47394     765-584-8276
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