April 23, 2020
"Humbly accept the word planted in you,
which can save you.'" - James 1:21
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
How are you all doing? Really doing? One friend described the joy of those fleeting moments when she gets to leave the house for an errand. Then when she comes home, she feels like she has to go "back into the hole." Taking out the trash has become an event - one that actually requires shoes instead of slippers. This has been a struggle for all of us - for those in essential (read: formerly underappreciated) jobs, for those without work, for those trying to work at home and take care of kids simultaneously, for those who live alone, for those in fragile health and for caregivers for the fragile. Through it all, I am clinging to the promise that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. We need not fear, for the Lord is our ever-present help in times of trouble.
As Linda shared in her sermon on Sunday, the book of James is remarkably relevant for times like this. Little did we know back in the Fall when we selected it that we would be facing a pandemic while we studied James 1:2, "Consider it pure joy... when you face trials of many kinds"! In seasons of rapid change and uncertainty, it helps to have something solid to lean on. James is a book like that for me. He gives tangible, practical advice and helps keep us grounded in the Word of God.
Of course, much of what he says can be painfully convicting as he uncovers our shortcomings. Our passage this week, James 1:19-27, starts off with the admonition, "be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." With high stress situations, it is so easy to be quick to speak, quick with a short fuse, and too full of our own struggles to listen to anyone else's.
How do we overcome this? By letting the Word of God change our hearts. James reminds us to get rid of the muck in our hearts and instead, "Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21). To "humbly accept," James reminds us, is not just to read and walk away or file on a shelf in our brains. To humbly accept means to let it change us. To let the Word examine us under the microscope, rather than the other way around. To humbly accept means to submit to the teachings of the Word and let them change both our hearts and our lifestyles. James reminds us that we need to be doers of the Word, and not just hearers.
As hard as it is to do this, James promises that it will bring freedom to our lives. Things like fear, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness are actually types of bondage that the enemy uses to trap us. Our human nature chafes at the idea of submitting to something outside of ourselves, but when we submit to the "perfect law that gives freedom" (James 1:25), we find ourselves able to walk in the blessing and joy God has prepared for us.
As we are set free, we are also released to be a blessing and share joy. We begin to see needs around us other than our own, and we can practice what James describes as true religion, which is caring for "orphans and widows in their distress" as we keep ourselves pure in Him (James 1:27).
May God's Word dwell in you richly this week. May He grant you freedom of heart, even while we are isolated inside. May He renew your mind and give you peace. And may He bless you to be a blessing for orphans and widows and all who are in distress.
SMALL GROUP STUDIES:
We would love to have all of you join an online small group - it's a great way to support one another and study the Bible together. We have a variety of studies throughout the week, including several on our current James study and one for women on Esther. If you are interested in becoming part of a group, please contact us at 412-531-3387 or
. You can join by phone or computer.
FOOD FOR THOSE IN NEED
Are you in need of food assistance? Or do you have a neighbor, friend, or family member in need? Please contact Karin Smith (
) or call the church office - we have bags of non-perishable food gathered from our Food Drive earlier this month, and we would love to deliver them to anyone who might have need. We can also drop them off at your house so you can deliver them yourself.
COMMUNION ON SUNDAY, MAY 3
As it becomes clear that we will not be able to worship together in person for at least several more weeks, we will be offering virtual communion through a livestream worship service beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 3. Since this is an unusual time and an unusual communion service, we wanted to help you prepare to celebrate it with us.
- Be praying now for God to prepare your heart (1 Cor 11:23-32). Pray too that God will unite us all as a body through this communion service, even while we are scattered.
- Because communion is to be taken in community, we will be removing that part of the service following our live worship time, and then we will repost the rest of the service so it can be accessed at other times.
- Since we cannot be together in person, you will need to provide your own communion elements - any kind of bread, crackers, or gluten-free alternative and a cup of grape juice, wine, or similar juice. You may want to arrange them on a table in a quiet setting before you join us online.
- If you are unable to obtain these items, we do have individual prepackaged cups and wafers available. We can deliver them to your home, or you can call the church to set a time when you can pick them up (412-531-3387). Also, if you do not have internet access to be able to watch the service on Facebook or YouTube, please let us know. We will provide you with the name of an elder or deacon who will call you so that you can hear the service and take communion along with us. Please call the church office by Wednesday, April 29, so that we can make plans to provide you with elements or access to the service.
- One other thought: We want each of you to act on the basis of your conscience in this. Some of you will not feel in good conscience that you can participate in communion that doesn't involve being physically gathered with the congregation. Some of you may feel led to fast from communion until we are together again. We understand. Let's give one another permission to act as our consciences guide us. We all long for the day when we can gather together and truly be one body again.
Again, please let us know if there is any way we can support you or connect with you during this season. We need to be here for each other now more than ever. The email,
, has been set up so you can send us any needs, prayer requests, or just updates on how you are doing. And you are always welcome to call us at 412-531-3387.