Shenandoah District Connection
Wind of the Spirit,
What Does This Mean?
May 22, 2020
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,   made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus... (Ephesians 2:4-6, NIV).
From the Desk of District Executive Minister John Jantzi

This meditation is another in the series of reflections leading up to Pentecost Sunday. The theme is taken from  Acts 2:12,  where the question was asked, “what does this mean,” by those who observed the coming of the Holy Spirit. The coming reflections will include a variety of folk throughout the District.

Individuals and pastors have requested the District put together a concise list of best practices for potential reopening of congregations. A committee has been established, which is comprised of doctors and a pastoral representative, along with the District Executive and legal counsel, to create such a document. This document will draw from and respect established guidelines and procedures. This best practices document will be reviewed by several groups of people prior to its release for congregational use. We hope to have this available by the end of next week.

During the next period, we will revise the publishing schedule to allow staff time to assist in the construction of a new website. The revised schedule will be printed next week in our Daily Connection and will begin on June 1. Next week, be advised that Tuesday’s edition, May 26, will be solely devoted to Brethren Woods and their revised summer program.
Call to Worship
L. Gather us in, O Lord, and purify our hearts.
P: For we have come through many times of testing and trouble.
L: Gather us in, O Lord, and make us one people;
P: For we have strayed and been estranged from ones we love.
L: Gather us in, O Lord, and make us your disciples;
P: Teach us your will and your ways that we may be a living example of your love. AMEN.
Zoom Justice

It is 4:30 a.m., and I’m sitting in my favorite chair listening to the chirping of the birds as they rise for another day. Their songs stand in stark contrast to the tumult and the discordant voices which surround us. There are times when my soul matches that fragmentation and dissonance. I find myself yearning for clarity of thought and the discerning of God’s purposes. I find solace in the knowledge that my brothers and sisters share the same malady.

I have been haunted by reoccurring images these past weeks. I sit in my office, alone and relatively secure, protected from the virus which pervades much of our country. I conduct many meetings by Zoom and make decisions that are not threatened by the virus that surrounds us. Except for the foray to the grocery store early Friday mornings, I can live a life of relative isolation. Safer at home works for me. I call this pattern of living "Zoom Justice." My work does not require risking much exposure.

This, however, is in stark contrast to many of our brothers and sisters who work in the checkout lines at supermarkets, who work on the production lines at poultry and meat processing plants, who provide hands-on medical care and the list continues. These have been deemed essential businesses, and the people who work in these establishments are at far greater risk than I. COVID-19 has laid bare the fissures and cracks in our system. We knew they were there before, but now they are more starkly revealed. Zoom has become the symbol of that divide. "Zoom Justice" recognizes no partisans. Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, and yea District Executives partake of its privilege. And so, I ask the question, “what does this mean?”

A consistent theme has emerged in recent meditations in the Daily Connection. Since we began asking “what does this mean,” there has been an emphasis on the gathered group of believers (local congregation) as the focal point of God’s transforming power in the world. Speaking of early Christian fellowships, Kevin Daggett reflected in a recent edition of the Daily Connection, “I believe that one of the realities in those early Christian fellowships that would bowl us over is the variety of people we would find gathered around the table. In any of those early congregations, we would be amazed at the different economic backgrounds, languages, and nationalities represented. Why slaves were worshipping with free persons, and men were seated at the same table with women who were not kin to them by marriage or birth!”

To say it in a different manner. These gathered believers in the early church were the place where the issues of “Zoom Justice” began to be addressed! This is the place where CEOs of major retailers sit at Jesus’ table with check out clerks. This is the place where owners of meat processing plants sit at Jesus’ table with the workers on the line. This is the place where District Executives sit with bi-vocational pastors struggling to hold a fragmented world together. It is that place where the barriers that divide “come tumblin' down” as we experience the power of the Holy Spirit to restore our relationship with God and with each other.

This vision makes my heart beat faster and provides meaning in the midst of exhaustion and sometimes, despair. There’s no greater relevance to our denomination, culture and country than these gatherings of local congregations. Local congregations gathered in the name of Jesus, living and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to their neighbors. The Compelling Vision of the denomination calls this “Jesus in the Neighborhood." It is the place where the fissures revealed by "Zoom Justice" begin to be healed. It is the place where the winds of the Spirit blow and restore us to live as God intended. During the chaos, amid the discord, in the midst of the vitriol, God uses these moments to reshape God’s people into beacons of hope and reconciliation. "Zoom Justice." The beginning of the story, not the end.
Merciful and loving God, our hearts are filled today with all the trials and tribulations of life. It hasn’t been an easy road and sometimes we have felt so alone, without companions, without support, without hope. Bring us closer to you this day. Forgive the times when we have turned away from you, choosing not to believe because we can’t see you with our own eyes. Forgive us when we have mocked the faith of others, and yet hoped to have that same strong faith in our lives. Break through the tarnish that has covered our souls. Help us to shine with your love; help us to feel your mercy, for it is in Christ’s Name that we offer this prayer. AMEN.

In Our Prayers
We remember the family of Mt. Zion-Linville Pastor Jonathan Prater and his wife, Jess, as they grieve the loss of Jess' father, Frank Feher.

We continue to pray for Tim Sites during his continued hospitalization. Tim is interim pastor at Leake’s Chapel.

Prayers also continue for Jack Haddock, pastor of Trinity, as he recovers at home from a recent hospitalization.

Prayers are requested for Dot Mellott as she is hospitalized at Martha Jefferson. Dot is interim pastor at Waynesboro Church of the Brethren.
Today's Call to Worship, Meditation and Benediction
submitted by:
Shenandoah District Executive Minister
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