Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday at the eight-o-clock worship service the choir sang the most fitting anthem-"The First Song of Isaiah" based on Isaiah 12:1-6. The refrain we all sang is, "Surely it is God who saves us. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Savior."
Friends, the time we are now living is truly unprecedented. As you all know, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to change so many things about our daily lives and is causing fear throughout the entire world in ways we have not experienced in our lifetime. The words of the anthem from Isaiah give us a place to put our fears, which is in our God who saves us. He is our sure defense, our rock, and our salvation in times of trouble. Although we have not walked the troubled path of a pandemic before, God's people have walked many troubled paths. His Word can guide our hearts to assurance and peace.
Although the effects of the pandemic have completely occupied our thoughts, attitudes, and activities in the last weeks, still we can do some things to center and renew our minds in Christ Jesus. Meditating on the words God has given over the centuries of human hardships on this earth is an ancient and important practice for us in these days. Meditating on the above Isaiah's song and other scriptures like Romans 8:37-39 can be our sure comfort. Also, another foundational scripture to meditate on is Psalm 46. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..." God says, 'Be still, and know that I am God... The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." I believe these words and I know you do as well. Take heart and courage, My Friends, God is our Savior. As we walk this together, we will find strength, peace, and even the joy of the Lord.
Our church council, the medical task force we created to advise us regarding the spread of the coronavirus, the Stephen Ministry leaders, and I all met yesterday to discern and create a plan for how we as a congregation will continue doing ministry within the constraints that have been placed upon us.
To aid in curbing the spread of the virus and keeping all of us safe, we are closing our campus to all meetings and groups. As Christians, worship is the most important way that we can gather and so our worship services will be offered exclusively through the online streaming format until further notice. We join our entire world in praying that these drastic measures of limiting person to person contact do in fact curb the spread of the virus and save us from its affects.
Our plan is to stream over the internet our Wednesday Lenten service at 6:30 p.m. and our Sunday worship service at 8:00 a.m. using Facebook Live. You can watch and access these services at any time, but they will be live at these times. The sermons are also accessible after the live-stream on the church website at www.sothaz.com. We are also looking into additional ways to stream our services to those who don't have access to Facebook. Instructions on how to access these services will be outlined in subsequent emails.
The Lord promises to use all things for good, and my prayer for all of us is that we will draw closer to Him in this uncertain time. This is the season of Lent, and we are being called upon to strengthen our prayer muscles. Even though large group gatherings are discouraged, I encourage you to still gather with others in small groups (of less than 10, following carefully the CDC instructions) to fellowship and to worship. Consider inviting a few people over for a watching party as our services are live-streamed. It is still as true as ever, we need to be in community and living in isolation can lead to depression, negativity, and even despair. Use the telephone more these days. As the Lord's brings people to mind give them a call. We are all in this together and we need to remember we have each other, we have hope, we have faith.
We need to pray for those who are sick and their families, for those who are living in fear and anxiousness, for the professionals who are providing medical care, for those working on treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19, and for our leaders to act with wisdom and courage as they make vital decisions that impact each of our lives. Please also lift up the President and our nation's coronavirus task force headed by Vice President Mike Pence in prayer as they work closely and diligently with the myriad of issues related to this pandemic.
When you do go out to get groceries, medicine, exercise, etc. do practice all the advisories that we are given about hand washing, social distancing, etc. I pray we will be back together soon, but also know the Lord is with us always. Please do not hesitate to contact the church office (480-837-9532) or me (480-881-7674) if you have a need. Even if no one is physically here, we are able to access all calls remotely.
My concern is for each of you and us together as a flock under God's care. Be safe and be encouraged. God's Spirit will keep us together!
Sincerely in Christ's Abundant Love,
Pastor Jeff Teeples