Thursday, March 26, 2020
In August of 1527, the bubonic plague had come to Wittenberg, Germany. The bubonic plague was a particularly virulent and awful disease that killed its victims quickly and painfully, causing high fevers and large, weeping boils. It was highly contagious and had an astronomic mortality rate. In the Black Death of 1347, the disease struck Europe killing an estimated 60 percent of its population. And now the disease was back and infecting this German community so everyone who could get out of the village was getting out.  One of Wittenberg's famous residents was professor and Christian reformer Martin Luther. Luther was ordered to leave the village but he refused. Along with his pregnant wife Katharina, Luther stayed in Wittenberg, opening his house as a ward for the sick. During this time Martin Luther wrote a letter to a friend (Volume 43, Pg. 132: Whether One Should Flee From A Deadly Plague - To Rev. Dr. John Hess), explaining how churches should deal with such complicated circumstances.

In this letter Luther writes "I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."

Luther's advice to the Christian community in 1527 is still good advice for us today. He is saying that we should be smart and use discernment. We need to protect our community by staying in but if someone needs help, remember the Gospel's call to assist those in need. That may look different for everyone but we can all do something.

We can call an isolated friend who might be lonely. Check-in on elderly neighbors and family members. Don't hoard groceries and supplies. Be generous with extra income, remembering that many people will be suffering financially in the coming days. Support medical professionals through prayer and respect of their advice and guidelines.

Luther then ended his letter with this, "In closing, we admonish and plead with you in Christ's name to help us with your prayers to God so that we may do battle with word and precept against the real and spiritual pestilence of Satan in his wickedness with which he now poisons and defiles the world." Luther reminds us that although we will win the battle against the coronavirus through wisdom and science, we must not forget that this is also a spiritual battle. There are spiritual forces that want to strip us of peace and replace it with fear. Therefore, I remind you that 2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Fear does not come from God. So, as we go through this difficult time remember the promise of God from Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

May God bless you in this difficult time.


WEEKLY FRAMEWORK:
Perhaps one of the most famous signs Jesus performed was feeding 5,000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Those that followed Jesus thought he was finally getting to the point of what he could do for them. They were more enamored with the signs than with what the signs were pointing to.

Thursday's Devotional
Based on Pastor Eric's daily study guide

The commands we receive from God can provide reassurance.

Our assenting to those commands can cause tension.

Through Isaiah, God says to his people, Israel, "don't fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine" (43:1b, CEB). As God's children, redeemed by Christ, we have assurance that this promise carries to us as well. We're comforted and reassured by these promises.

But now try and say the words of David in Psalm 23 as your own:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff-
they protect me.

Did the words come out without hesitation? Or was there tension?

As we walk through this valley, do we fear no danger?

It's reasonable to assume that many of us have fears right now. Fears that are well-founded, too: Will we stay healthy? Will our loved ones? Will our employment status or income level change? How long will it be until we feel safe to go back to what used to be our daily routine?

Maybe the words of Psalm 13 feel easier to say:

How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
agony filling my heart? Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?

How long, God?

But in Psalm 23, David leans on what God has done to give assurance of what God will do. In Psalm 13, in the midst of questioning God, he also ends by leaning on the past to know what God is and will be.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise
for he has been good to me.

To repeat the words of David in Psalm 23 is to adopt them as our own; to affirm that they, too, are our view of who God is.

During this time, may you know and remember that God remembers you. As a shepherd who provides for his flock, our God has provided, does provide, and will provide.

For Reflection:
God doesn't promise us that all our prayers will be answered. He promises us to be with us in the difficult times. What is one thing you have asked God to give you that he didn't or hasn't yet? 


Previously shared study resources:
The Women Who Knew, produced by EPAUMC North District

God, remind me that You are with me
Through the trial and through the storm
In my anxiety, remind me of Your comfort
In my questioning, remind me of the answers You have given me
In my loneliness, remind me of Your presence, and the presence of those you have placed in my life
Grant me the wisdom, courage, and strength to face to trials of the day,
Assured that You have been, are, and will be.
Amen.



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 prayer@asburylv.org.

If you are experiencing loneliness, or spiritual and emotional distress during these challenging days, you are not alone. Your pastors are praying for you.  Please reach out to Pastor Barbara at  blee@asburylv.org . She has been making calls for encouragement, counsel and prayer. If you are aware of someone in the congregation you are concerned about, please ask that individual's permission and then pass along your concern to Pastor Barbara.
Thank you to all who have taken up the cause to sew masks for Lehigh Valley Health Network!
A reminder that we can help with delivery of completed masks and obtaining new supplies.   Email Pastor Barbara  for assistance with pickup and delievery.
Instructions:

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

For BLAST (PreK- 5th grades)
Read Acts 10:43

Think about the last time someone hurt you. How did you respond? Did you say something unkind back? Are you still mad?

Do you see the word "all" in today's verse? It's comes up twice. First, it talks about how all the prophets (men chosen by God to deliver an important message) tell us about Jesus. And all who believe in Him will be forgiven.

"All" includes the kid you still haven't forgiven. All includes your parents, your teachers, your favorite coach, and your grandparents. All includes the kids
no one talks to and the kids everyone wants to hang out
with. All includes you. God loves you so much and His
forgiveness is SO big that it covers everything.

Everyone needs forgiveness. God sent His only Son, to die and be buried and rise again so that our sin, the mess ups we all make, would no longer separate us from Him. As you pray today, thank God for the forgiveness He offers to everyone. Ask Him to help you choose to forgive, because everyone
needs forgiveness.


Missed this week's video lessons shared on Sunday for the week of 3/22?
 From Josefa Wall and Prof Munashe Furusa-Vice Chancellor, Africa University, Zimbabwe

The university affirmed its position to adhere to the government directive to close down the university effective 24 March 2020. On behalf of staff and students, I would like to thank you all for your unwavering support during these trying times. Your support has indeed lessened the burden on our shoulders and given us hope through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
We are grateful for your support and appreciate your prayers for the continued safety and welfare of the members of the Africa University community and their families during this global crisis. We unite with you in prayer for those affected by this illness, those experiencing stress and the medical personnel treating and caring for them.
 
Grace and peace to you and the Asbury family,
 
Josefa
 
Note from AIM: Since this initial email we have learned from Josefa that one of the two people in Zimbabwe with confirmed cases for COVID 19 has died.
We realize that your personal financial landscape may have drastically changed in these few short weeks; but if you are able to continue to financially support the ministries of Asbury, please prayerfully consider doing so.

We strongly encourage you to give online through PushPay, our online giving portal, at asburylv.org/give, but you can also mail a check in to the church office.

Your contributions will continue to help support the worship and ministries of Asbury. Additionally, we are retaining our commitment to compensating our staff at this time.

Thank you for your continued support!

Asbury's building is closed through (and including) Sunday, April 5. Read more at asburylv.org/200324update. The building has been deep cleaned and we are asking that no one enter the building until it reopens.



Catch up on past announcements, devotionals, and resources at  asburylv.org/coronavirus .

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).



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:
Children's Ministries' Easter Celebration (postponed)
Jubilation Ringers Spring Concerts (cancelled)
April Blood Drive (cancelled) - please consider giving at one of their physical locations (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Reading) in this critical time of need.
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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www.asburylv.org