Thursday, March 19, 2020
Please note: due to this daily communication, the weekly version of the  Asbury Update  and the weekly newsletter,  The Vine , are both currently on hiatus

Just outside of Jerusalem, Jesus performed a miracle that changed a man's life forever. For 38 years, this man was unable to walk. But when Jesus said, "Get up," the man was healed. However, it's what Jesus said next that made this miracle a clear sign of who Jesus really was.

Thursday's Devotional
Based on Pastor Eric's daily study guide
Read John 5:1-21

The detail that John slipped in that we alluded to in yesterday's devotional comes into full relief today: this healing happened on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is a day of rest, not only one modeled by God ( Genesis 2:2) but later commanded by God ( Ex 20:8-11; see also Exodus 23:12, 31:12-17; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). All 613 Jewish laws were viewed as vitally important, but especially one like this that was in the "big ten".

The Jewish leaders found 3 offenses in Jesus' actions: Jesus had healed the man (John 5:8-9), made himself equal with God (v16-18), and told the man to carry his mat (v8; note that nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures is carrying mats explicitly prohibited, but it's believed the Jewish leaders made an extension of Jeremiah 17:22a and the extra-canonical " Damascus Document," which was among the discoveries in the Dead Sea Scrolls).

The Jewish leaders were attempting to uphold the laws that they understood to be the foundation of their faith. If they were to follow God faithfully, they needed to uphold the law. For most of them it was probably routine to remind people when they were not following the law correctly. In this passage, one can almost picture the man, newly healed and able to walk, carrying his mat, brushing past the Jewish leader, and the leader casually turning his head to gently admonish the man; then responding with bemusement when the man tried to blame someone else for his actions (v11). Oldest trick in the book, right? "You really think you can pull one over on the 'ol Jewish leader? C'mon now. Ok, I'll play along: who told you to do this?" The man couldn't respond. He didn't know who Jesus was, and Jesus had already disappeared into the crowd.

But later Jesus found the man in the temple and the man went back to the Jewish leaders to tell them who it was who had made him well (v14-15). The Jewish leaders were offended: who was this man, Jesus, to have done these actions? And to equate himself with God in the process? Blasphemy.

They couldn't see that Jesus was ushering in a new era. Their understanding was rapidly becoming outdated - God was doing a new thing.

We, too, have rapidly moved to living in a new era. What had been a tenant you lived by prior to this period of social isolation? From the viewpoint now, is it as important as it felt a week ago?

For Reflection:
Verses 16-18 lay the groundwork for why religious leaders were at odds with Jesus. What do their comments tell you about their religious priorities?

While our attention has been drawn to the unprecedented time we're living in, we're also in the season of Lent leading up to Easter. Read reflections from Bishop Peggy Johnson on this season at her blog.

Previously shared study resources:
The Women Who Knew, produced by EPAUMC North District
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past video reflection from Bishop Peggy Johnson

For SPARK (3-4yr olds)
Download this week's Parent Cue

For BLAST (PreK- 5th grades)
Read Hebrews 12:14

 Take a look at the very first sentence in today's verse.

When it comes to forgiveness, to living in peace with others instead of staying mad, what is the key? Yes, simply to try! To try means to attempt, to make an effort, to give it a shot.

So this week, when someone hurts you with their words or actions, just TRY. Take the first step even when you don't feel like it. When you try, you'll be one step closer to living the way God wants you to live. 

Write the word TRY on a wide rubber band with a ball point pen. As you wear your bracelet this week, remember to take the first step as you try to forgive.

Missed the video lessons shared on Monday?
We ask for prayers for our friends in Liberia, who now have cases of COVID-19 confirmed in their country. (And a prayer of thanks to those who have helped them develop the medical care they have available - view a note of thanks from Dr. Chris Hena below in the "announcements" section.)

Father God, in the midst of chaos, we turn to You.
In a time of tumult, we turn to You.
In our lack of understanding, we turn to You.
We thank You for Your love and care
and ask for Your peace to invade our hearts
even while things around us are anything but peaceful.
Be with those who are struggling physically, emotionally, and financially.
Help us strive to be spiritually connected even while socially distant.

A note on prayers: to respect confidentiality, we will not be sharing specific prayer requests via email; however our prayer team is still actively praying for every request that they receive. If you have a prayer request, send it to the prayer team at

Our Keep in Touch team is still striving to connect with those in our congregation who are sick or hospitalized, even in the absence of physical visits.  Members known to be hospitalized and/or sick and members who are visited monthly will be "visited" by phone. Say a special prayer of thanks for these individuals who help care for those among us who are ill!

We know that these stressful times have and will cause hardships for some in our community. The following groups, recommended by Asbury in Mission (AIM), have resources available for assistance if you or someone you know has a need:

Kingdom Life Family Center Food Bank
4333 Lime Kiln Rd, Orefield, PA 18069
1401 Linden Street ยท Allentown, PA 18102

AIM also reminds us that while volunteer opportunities are few due to the current crisis, our mission partners can still be supported financially. Learn more about all of our AIM mission partners at
General Conference 2020 has been delayed. Learn more on the UMC website.

A word of thanks from Dr. Chris Hena via Healthy Women, Healthy Liberia:

"You may never know how much you and others have blessed us. During Ebola, I had only mask and gloves. Today, we are more prepared, because of all the materials you sent our way. A big thanks to Doreen [at Through These Hands] and the Asbury United Methodist Church family. We are going to defeat this COVID-19, because of your generosity."
Precautions related to the coronavirus will have an impact on our activities and gatherings. We recognize that they may also have a negative impact on our giving. Please continue to give and support our ministries as you are able. You can visit to give a one-time or recurring gift on PushPay, our online giving portal; or you can mail a check to the church.

Rev. Steve Morton, our District Superintendent, reminds us that "[we as] Christians GIVE not because of the church's need to receive... but because of OUR need to say "Thank You" to an amazingly-generous God - and in the midst of national crisis, that good news has not changed!"

Although our activities may be curtailed for a time, our fixed expenses for our ministries and building operations continue. Also, we value our staff, who will continue to be here to support you; and they will continue to be compensated in full. 

Thank you for your continued support!

Catch up on past announcements, devotionals, and resources at .

All updates regarding Asbury's response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will also be shared at that page; as well as via email blast and on our social media feeds ( Facebook and Twitter).

Asbury's building is officially closed and has been deep cleaned. We are asking that no one enter the building until it reopens (at this point the target date is Sunday, March 29).

Please know that during the time that the office is closed, all calls to Asbury are being received by our answering service, as there is no one available in the office to take your call. Any messages you leave with the answering service are forwarded to us and we will relay your message to the appropriate staff member to respond to you as soon as possible.

Cancelled/Postponed Events
Include, but not limited to:
UMW Communion Breakfast
Children's Ministries' Communion Workshop
Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings
Men's Group Tour to Mack Museum
Reschedule dates (if applicable) will be communicated when available.
No physical meetings are being held at Asbury or off-site; but please check with your group/Circle leader to see if there are plans for your group to connect online.

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