Tuesday, March 24

“We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” 

Colossians 1:9

Good morning, church!

There are many downsides and difficulties in every crisis, which are all too obvious and are constantly on display in our news and newsletters, in videos of suffering people from other parts of the world and different corners of our country, in predictions and projections and expert advice… There are anecdotal stories we tell one another about people we know who are affected in one way or another… But there are also upsides to every crisis, and the most obvious and common is – a sense of togetherness, a renewed sense of community. In my own native language, there is this wonderful word construct (the Germans are masters of the word constructs), called “Mitmenschlichkeit.” If you want a literal translation, try this one: “being human together” – and it’s one word, an actual noun! If you want to understand the meaning of this word in all its nuances, I have bad news for you: you must learn German! But seriously, crises bring us closer together, even in the time of “social distancing.” I selected the Bible verse above, which is the Moravian Bible verse for today because it reminds me that all the people I have encouraged you (and myself) to pray for every day, they need our constant prayer. Please continue to lift them up in your hearts and souls! It is one way to grow the church – not by necessarily counting numbers of people, but by all kinds of caring and being human together!

I will continue to share some of the responses I have received for the benefit of all of us. Mark B. who has now two little ones with his wife Emily wrote back on Sunday after watching the service and reading my sermon. Here is an excerpt and a flavor of what he wrote. And I appreciate it especially because Mark is one of the few people from his generation who grew up at St. Peter’s and stayed engaged.    

“Hey pastor,

Isaac and I were able to watch (most of) church today! Thank you! (my computer is going on 7 or 8 years old I can not remember – and it likes to remind me that work and the internet are not so important).

I wanted to just say that this whole thing actually moved me to tears.  The ability to “be at” church I love and worship with my family (my mom was on too! so literally and figuratively ha) clearly means more to me than i regularly realize. That and the message today.

As an Eagle Scout, outdoor adventurer, and amateur farmer, (and a little bit of a social rebel perhaps), I have always been in favor of people respecting the earth and the world around them. I completely agree with the german soccer coach, and you – the world needs a break.  The Earth needs a break.  We people do not need the latest iPhone JUST BECAUSE it came out and we have to keep up. And people (who don’t even know they are living selfishly – aka people who buy up all the Clorox and toilet paper) need to remember the Earth and people other than themselves. (We recently watched The Lorax – which is a very fitting analogy to these times of realizing how blind we are to the plight of the world.)Everyone should just go for a hike every now and then.  Like once a year or so,  And be exposed to the environment, earth, world around them.

Believe it or not, I appreciate this time, at home with my family, though I fully believe we are not meant to spend 24/7 with our family haha.  And I am 1,000% grateful that I have a job, and the ability to work from home…”

Charlene B. can see a number of upsides in the current quarantine.  She is starting a gratitude diary. I want to say that developing gratitude is a teaching that I have embraced more and more in recent years, and we centered one of our stewardship campaigns around it. Developing gratitude is one of the best things you can do for yourself. She wrote:

“Thank you for all your messages and creativeness. While it may not be obvious to us …now is a great time to practice gratitude. Whether it is just in our minds or writing it down (which will also serve as something to reread ages after this is over to remind us of what is important really.) 

For me…

  • When I am feeling upset I cant visit my mother… I think how grateful I am that she is with such caring people at Lakeview.
  •  When I wake up and hear the birds singing this time of year I think how grateful I am I can stay in bed a while longer and listen to them.
  • I am grateful for being able to take socially distanced walks with Ted and Terry.
  • It made my day when walking yesterday I ran into Judy J. and was able to have a socially distanced hug and conversation.

This may be the best time for people to start a gratitude journal even a family gratitude journal with their kids!    How wonderful to have that to look back on.”  – Charlene

Karen S. had something practical to share. She is busy making home-made face masks. See the picture of a sample face mask attached.

“Hi Pastor Wagner,

Hope all is well. I am making homemade face masks and thought maybe the women of St. Peters who sew might want to consider this for family and friends. I understand some people are sewing a piece of flannel between the layers which I will try with the masks I make today. Plastic gloves and safety glasses when shopping are also wise. I folded a tissue in fours in the second picture which would be disposable. Maybe a piece of paper towel would work too.”

As we go into the second week of the quarantine with no end in sight (yet), we continue to make adjustments to how we do church. We have already decided that we will run the next Steeple Views newsletter for all of you to enjoy. It will come out sometime next week. We will also create a skinny version of a church bulletin that we will send along with the sermon for Sunday to our homebound members. They are one of the groups particularly affected by the quarantine since they can’t have visitors at this time, compounding their sense of isolation. They are used to their weekly mailing from church, but of course, we haven’t produced any church programs in the last two weeks. Going forward, we will make a small and limited edition for them. Ginny Benner is the one who faithfully sends these materials out. Thanks, Ginny!

For today, I would like you to pray for our college students, almost all of whom are back home at this point, starting online courses, getting their education in their own four walls, crouched behind a computer screen. The exceptions are… Isabelle M. who spent a semester abroad in beautiful New Zealand and may be stuck there for a little longer than expected. (There are worse places to be stuck.) Her family intended to visit her just around now, but as the coronavirus made its infamous way around the globe and quarantines became mandatory for visitors to almost every country, those beautiful plans had to be buried. Katie G. is one of the few students still at Penn State working in a laboratory with lots of safety precautions in place. The others, as far as I can tell – are home!  Joey G. made it home just in time from Italy before the country suffered one of the biggest blows of this pandemic. Joey was in beautiful Florence (not in the Italian epicenter Lombardy) and came home about two days before emergency measures were put in place. (His mom is happy!) Cate H. made it home from Boston (Emerson) and her mom Evy told me that she went up Saturday a week ago to clear out her dorm in a high rise building. She was stuck in an elevator with a bunch of other parents doing the same, feeling a bit uncomfortable in this situation, certainly not the definition of social distancing. Rachel N. is home from Temple. Our daughter Sarah was home on spring break and never went back. The college wanted us to clear out her dorm as well, but we and many other parents said: “No, thanks!” Kenyon has students from all over the country and we didn’t think it would be smart to fly or drive to eastern Ohio at this time. The college relented. We will pick her up stuff in May. I hope to hear from some of our college students, whom we naturally don’t see very often. Please pray for them as they continue their journey in ways they did not imagine at the beginning of this new semester.  

Parents of teenagers:  remember, there is a phone teleconference with Mrs. Bodolus and Mr. Miller tonight at 7!

Blessings and peace to all of you! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Sewing face masks.