"God Isn't Far Away from Any of Us" from Iowa Annual Conference on Vimeo.
Listen to Caring Connections Podcast for May 13, 2020
Grace and peace in the name of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a beautiful time of year spring is here in Iowa! As I sit in my home office at my computer and look out the window, I see many children playing in their front yards or choosing teams to compete at basketball, and it reminds me that even in the midst of COVID-19 life goes on. God continues to call you and me to practice social distancing, care for our neighbors, and pray for all those who are suffering greatly as a result of the coronavirus Pandemic.
I am reminded of our lectionary scripture for this coming Sunday from Acts chapter 17. The apostle Paul is in Athens, waiting for his colleagues Silas and Timothy to arrive, and is very distressed to see that the city had been flooded with idols. Paul stands up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and witnesses to his faith, “God made the nations so that they would seek God, perhaps even reach out to God and find God. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. In God we live, move, and exist.”
What ultimately draws you and me to God is divine love and the conviction that God cares about human beings. Without God’s grace, as shown to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are nothing. God approaches us before we even know it and loves us into faith.
Every day I hear new stories about that love. Confirmation students at New Horizons UMC in Melbourne in the Central District distributed May Day comfort baskets to people who are self-isolating during this pandemic. They and Pastor Karen Garrison are leading their congregation into service to others.
First UMC in Iowa City in the East Central District, under the leadership of Pastor Barrie Tritle, has found many ways to reach out to others during COVID-19. They include donating money to purchase Hy-Vee gift cards for families who are food insecure; purchasing books for students who no longer have reading instruction; and donating money for families that cannot pay rent in a nearby mobile park.
There is a group that contacts congregation members to check in with them and provide social interaction. There is also a card team that sends cards to various care facilities to lift the spirits of the residents.
At the Ellston-Tingley Parish in the South Central District, Pastor Kasey Dredge had the children color Easter eggs and post them in the windows of homes and nursing homes. The church is livestreaming bedtime Bible stories for kids and also livestreams devotions at breakfast. In addition, families and the elderly are being paired up for online chats, phone calls, and pen pals. All of these new ideas have been very well received.
And in the Northwest District, Pastor Vicki Fisher offers online Zoom coffee at 11:00 a.m. every Wednesday. Anyone who wishes can connect on Zoom to visit about Highs and Lows and simply say “hello” to each other. Pastor Vicki has also started a new worship service during this time of COVID-19. The traditional 8:30 a.m. worship service has now become Family Room Worship, including a kids time. Plus, the Children’s Ministry Coordinator shares ideas for Sunday school at home through Facebook.
I’d like to close by sharing a prayer posted by St. Luke’s UMC in Houston, Texas.
It seems like lots of uncertainty around us.
So many people who need prayers.
Today, I pray…
For those whose health is compromised by the coronavirus or other health issues.
For those who suffer from the economic impact of the virus, in travel, manufacturing, hospitality, energy or so many other industries.
For health care workers and first responders, and other public servants who put themselves in harm’s way for us.
For our leaders of the world, our countries, states, and cities, as they seek to help manage this challenge
God, it can be overwhelming. But you tell us over and over again not to be afraid.
Show me how to trust in you.
As I examine my heart, help me to turn away from my concern with self,
and turn my heart, hands, and prayers toward the concerns of others.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray.