Pastoral Letter for Easter Season
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our crucified and risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is now a little more than one month since we last met together in our sanctuary for worship, prayer and holy communion. Over the course of this month, the Holy Spirit has preserved us in our common life together in Christ. Through Internet connections and applications such as Facebook, YouTube and Zoom we have gathered together around God's Word for worship, teaching and prayer. Through traditional phone and wireless connections we have reached out in fellowship to care for, encourage and comfort one another. Through mail and delivery services or even through gifts we drop at the doorstep, we have reminded each other of the connections we share to each other through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I praise and thank the Lord for you. I praise and thank the Lord for the love you have shared and received from each other in Jesus' name. I praise and thank God that throughout this month, you have worked so diligently and generously to slow the spread, to protect the most vulnerable and to sustain the mission of Christ, using your many and diverse spiritual gifts in so many new and creative ways. I praise and thank our Lord for you!
Yet now it seems that we will need to patiently persevere in this way for at least another month. Just that realization can be overwhelming and disheartening. So, I write to you today so that you do not lose heart, but instead you might be strengthened in your faith in Jesus and inspired in your love by participating fully in the common life we share.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
I think it is very easy this week to lose ourselves in the past. In melancholy memories or angry grief. This is, after all, nothing like the Palm Sundays we have celebrated in years past. In the past we began by gathering close together, shoulder to shoulder, out in the lounge. The youth passing out palm branches, bulletins and hymnals, the Sunday school kids and choir ready to lead our procession into the sanctuary. And the whole company of saints waving palm branches and singing and praising and parading through the sanctuary and up to the altar. And then, the children would sing for us all and they would remind us —if we had eyes to see and ears to hear -- that the true inspired and enduring praise of Palm Sunday comes from the mouths of infants and babies and children noisily celebrating the arrival of our long-awaited king!
Jesus Christ remains our center
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace, mercy and peace to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This Sunday, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week and the start of the most significant season of year. This time each year we return to the center of our faith to hear, mark and meditate on the events through which God has rescued, saved and redeemed the world through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
At the same time we find ourselves in the middle of a public health emergency that has driven our world, our nation and our local communities into turmoil. Everyday we feel, not only the fear and anxiety that has gripped us and our neighbors, but also the deep grief and sadness that has wrapped the world in dark shroud.
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
As we wrap up what is for most of us the second week of staying at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, I hope to offer a little encouragement. The combination of scary and troubling and sometime gut-wrenching, heart-breaking news, the loss of close, in person contact with friends and even family, the anxiety of whether or not we or someone we love falling ill, and the complete reworking of our calendars overwhelms us. We feel powerless. We want to scream. We want to cry. We just want this all to end. Swept up in all of this, it is easy to lose sight of the many good, right and true things that are happening in our lives and in our community, and it is difficult sometimes to notice what we are learning about ourselves, our world and our place in it as Jesus' people.
"...But Now I See"
John 9: Jesus gives sight to a man born blind
Lent 40 days to a new life ... true in surprising ways
The sign outside our worship center on Old Post Rd reads … “Lent: 40 Days to New Life.” When Tony put up that sign, who could have guessed the true and surprising ways the promise of that sign would be fulfilled?
Simply going to the store has been an adventure these past few days. On Wednesday night we came in to set up for our soup supper and realized that we didn’t have the keys to our supply cabinets. We went to Shop-Rite to buy paper plates, bowls, spoons napkins and a case of bottled water. When we got to the water aisle, the shelves were almost bare and at the far end of the aisle a couple of workers were unwrapping a pallet of water and people putting cases in their shopping carts as fast as they were unwrapping it. We just needed one case, I thought, but it was easy to get caught up in a kind of competitive frenzy that made the acquisition of this water a kind of battle. I had to get a case of water, I thought. Maybe I need three or four, I thought, but I fought through that anxiety and just got the one we needed for the night. And when we got out of the water aisle and returned to my senses, I thought … wait. We have all the water we need for tonight … for tomorrow and the next day … just by turning on the tap.
PASTORAL LETTER IN RESPONSE TO PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY, COVID-19, Part 2
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This letter provides an update on gathering for worship services, how to connect to streaming worship services and a call to stay connected and reach out to love and serve our neighbors. It is lengthy, but includes important information and encouragement to keep close to Christ. Please read, share and feel free to respond if you wish. Because of the length of this letter, I will send additional information and links in another message. Later this weekend, I will send out a more traditional newsletter with resources for you, your friends and family as we work to sustain our life together in Christ.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
A couple of weeks ago I wrote to alert you to prepare for possible disruptions in our lives as we responded to the possibility of an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our area. It appears that we have reached the point where those disruptions are necessary to prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus. From the beginning, I want to make one thing absolutely certain. We will not cancel worship, nor will neglect our life of gathering around Word and Sacrament, the prayers and love and service to our neighbors. We may, for a brief time, be forced to move our gatherings online or meet in different ways and at different times, but the St. Paul’s community and fellowship is not closed and our services are not and will not be canceled. At times like this, it is even more important to devote ourselves to prayer, to scripture and to the love and service of our neighbor in Jesus’ name. Through greater devotion and service, I believe that the Spirit will also be at work in us to calm our anxiety
and quell our fears.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)
As baptized followers of Jesus, we have been commanded to ruled and guided by love for God and love for neighbor. It is my prayer that you see how we strive have love, not fear, guide and motivate our actions, including our response to the spread of the virus. It is also my deep desire that you will participate fully and deeply in the life of this community online, even if we do not see each other in worship or in person. A loving response to this new threat may call for distancing, but it doesn’t call for withdrawal or seclusion, and it certainly need not result in isolation. Now is a time when our calling to serve our neighbors in love means doing everything in our power to prevent and mitigate the spread of this disease. Starting this weekend, there were some changes to our normal patterns of gathering and worship. More changes may follow. But while our gathering and worship life may change, our call to love and serve all people, following the example of Jesus is growing.
Changes in our regular worship services and fellowship.
Here are some changes and guidance for worship life together for the next few weeks.
Protecting the most vulnerable.
Out of an abundance of love and pastoral concern, I am asking that those who seem to face the greatest risk from this virus refrain from gathering at the St. Paul’s worship center and instead use one or more of the alternative ways we will gather for worship, learning and prayer. Those who seem most at risk from this virus are elder members over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions.
If you are choosing to stay away from gathering for worship, please let me know! It is an important part of our ministry to continue to stay in contact while we work to fight against this virus, and I can tailor alternative means of pastoral and spiritual care to match your particular situation.
If you feel well and have no chronic health conditions, and if you strongly desire to attend services in person, please consider attending our Saturday evening service at 5:30 p.m. and whenever your attend, please observe suggested distancing precautions, such as no physical contact in greeting and sharing the peace and leaving space between each other when we sit in the sanctuary.
If you are feeling ill or showing symptoms of illness, please stay home, participate in our streaming or recorded services and let me know the reason for your absence.
Changes to patterns of pastoral care
Expect a phone call. Since Christian love and caution will keep me from visiting you in person, except in cases that are truly matters of life and death, I will reach out to you by phone and I will enjoy our calls.
If you need some face-to-face time for coaching, counseling or support, let’s schedule either a FaceTime call or set up a meeting using Zoom. I already use zoom for coaching clients around the country, it will work for us here too. If you are feeling anxious, fearful or if you are sick or in spiritual or material need, please give me a call on my mobile phone or schedule an appointment with me.
Hospitals and nursing homes are restricting visits, even from clergy, except in matters that involve serious illness or end of life care. In those most dire emergencies, I will find a way to be with you, to care for you and to accompany you.
Rely on each other for prayer, care and support and look to extend the people in your support. Pastoral ministry is the caring ministry we share. Reach out to each other. Be ready to first listen and empathize with one another. When possible, act to help and ask for support. This may involve bringing food and supplies to neighbors who cannot go out. It may mean praying over the phone with a friend who is struggling.
Look for opportunities to serve
God’s Work; Our Hands. What a wonderful way to understand our calling to love and serve all people following the example of our master Jesus. It appears that to adequately love and care for each other and our neighbors in the days ahead will require some of us to give more time and energy to serving our neighbors and responding to need.
We are committed to continuing to provide food anyone in our neighborhood in need of food. We are making changes to the way we distribute food through our food pantry, but we are in need of young, healthy volunteers to staff our food pantry. In the future, this may include picking up extra allotments of food from MCFOODS of Community Food Bank or a local drop site. It may include delivering food and supplies to homebound, sick or self isolating members or neighbors. It may include helping local agencies provide services.
If you are blessed with good health, look for opportunities to volunteer and serve. This means we will need every young relatively young and healthy member and their friends to be available to help. It means finding ways to include our healthy elders. It means drawing on the love of God to empower our love and drive out the fear that is gripping so many.
Read your emails. (Thank you for making it this far ... keep going).
Overcoming your anxiety
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Pray. The Spirit led us to focus on prayer this Lent for a reason. Fear and the constant barrage of virus news can paralyze us and leave us numb. The greatest way you can fight this fear and anxiety is by drawing on the gift of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit that God has given you so that you can come before the Lord in boldness and courage to pray and then join the fight against the spread and suffering this virus is creating. We, as Jesus’ disciples, are called to live in witness to the victory Jesus has won over the powers of disease and death. We are called to love one another. Our hope for resurrection and new life doesn’t lead us to escape, but leads us out to love and serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus.
Finally, keep these words close to your heart and mind and bind them to your hands to do the will of the Lord in all things.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this this way: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him”(1 John 4:7-9).
Pastor Jim Krombholz
On Ash Wednesday, we were invited into Lent with these words:
"As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from God and neighbor." This is, so to speak, a re-enlistment or a renewal in our call to renounce and reject the devil, the world and the flesh, those powers that lead us away from trust in and love for God and love for neighbor. We have joined the resistance, but it will help us immensely if remember what has happened before we entered the struggle.
A Fresh STart, Daily
If there was theme song to Ash Wednesday and this season we are entering, the season of Lent … it would have to be Psalm 51. If the words of David’s great penitential Psalm are not already sunk deep into your mind and soul, you might want to make meditation on this Psalm a top priority for the season, especially these verses:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”
What is Jesus saying to You?
It is always a challenge to hear familiar words with fresh ears and open hearts. For most of you, the words you are about to encounter ... words that truly are God’s Word ... the preaching and teaching of the man who was the Word of God in human flesh ... these words are most likely too familiar.
So let’s try something different. Let’s try to hear Jesus speaking to us. Let's be aware of the Word’s impact on us at a gut level, a human level, an emotional level. Let this word happen to you and take notice ... without judgment, just note it. Read it out loud.
The latest news, sermons and commentary on our life in mission together.