The Pastor’s Peace™
Inspirational thoughts from Pastor Brian for your reflection and consideration, published monthly during the year, available in our printed Beaver Church Chatter newsletter and on our web site.
Well, here it is, we are starting a new decade, the 20s. It is hard for me to believe that so much time has gone by in my life. I was talking recently with someone about music I listened to in high school. I realized that when I was a senior in high school, in 1994, there were the same number of years between 1969 and my senior year as there are now between my senior year and 2019. So basically kids who are currently seniors in high school who are listening to music that was released when I was a senior are the same as me listening to 60s music when I was in high school. My music tastes that were once modern are now classic, but that’s the way it goes. For those older than I, the view of time and changes are obviously even more abundant, like my grandfather who remembers the other 20s, that would be the 1920s.
If there is one thing we can count on it is that time marches on and that change is inevitable. Just like the old saying states, “the only thing that is constant is change.” That quote is from the philosopher Heraclitus, by the way, a Greek philosopher from around 500 BC, and not even he could have imagined all of the changes between then and now. That being said I disagree with that statement to a point. Even though there is always change there are some constants as well. There are things that are the same now as when I was in high school, and they were there when my grandfather was in high school, and they were even there when Heraclitus was in high school, although they probably didn’t call it high school back then. The things I am talking about are love and compassion, family, forgiveness, struggle, and even hatred. All of these aspects that make us human are things that people have been dealing with in every century. In addition to those, there has also always been God in our life to help us with these things.
Christ was there for me in 1994 just like Christ is here for me today. Even though Jesus was born after our philosopher Heraclitus, God was still with him as well, trying to call him to a life of compassion and love. This is true not only for the past but for the future as well. The last 25 years of my life have brought forth events and changes that I could have never fathomed, and I’m sure the next 25 will bring more such changes should I be lucky enough to live that long.
If I am that lucky I know that Christ will be with me as well, and even if I’m not that lucky, Christ will still be with me. You see, who knows what the 20s will bring, but whatever it brings, know that you are not alone, that Christ is with you always, and that through Christ we shall be joined together for all time.
Peace, Blessings, and Happy New Year,
Many of you know that my wife has been experiencing a chronic pain condition since June of this past year. We had been to several doctors here in the Dayton area but had not found any answers. As a final effort we went to the Cleveland Clinic and met with several doctors there and had many tests completed. The doctors and care at the Cleveland Clinic were phenomenal and I understand why it is considered one of the top 10 hospitals in the world. Despite all of the good care, however, they were unable to provide a definitive diagnosis. They did rule many things out, but all they could provide beyond that was help in managing the pain. It was good news that she didn’t have a horrible disease, but it would have been nice to have a better idea of what was going on. Apparently undiagnosed pain conditions are not as uncommon as one would think. There are limits to what medicine can test for and what it can cure.
I think that as our modern society has continued to advance we have placed a great deal of trust in things such as medicine and technology. Some of that trust is well placed, as there have been amazing advances in these areas and caring people working to improve the lives of all of us. As advanced as we have become, however, such things cannot fix everything nor can they answer every question we might have. In the time of Jesus, I believe it was easier to place one’s trust in God, as the world especially for the poorer classes offered little in terms of care or solutions. When Jesus appeared with healing and salvation, I’m sure many immediately followed his cause.
In our current day some of these things seem less miraculous or perhaps we even wonder if they are necessary. If we manage to find ourselves in places of comfort and plenty, what does God have to offer us? This is true today and was true in Christ’s time as well. Part of faith is not only believing in Christ, but also remembering why we believe in Christ. We might have achieved much as a people, but in some senses we are as needy as those in the first century.
No matter our advances we will never have control over all of creation, and we will always need guidance to live good and moral lives where we respect and care for all those in God’s creation. In short, we will always need God. I was reminded of that recently and I am grateful that God is indeed in my life. No matter what happens I will always be in God’s hands, and what good news that is indeed.
Peace and Blessings,
Well, for those paying attention on February 2nd, good old Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous groundhog around, did not see his shadow and therefore predicted an early end to winter. I would like to think that Phil is correct in this assessment, but studies have shown that the groundhog’s predictions are not all that reliable. Certainly my time in Ohio has taught me that predicting spring is not an easy endeavor. Of course this is true for many things in life. It would be nice if we could predict when and what would happen in our lives, but such predictions are often as consistent as Ohio weather. What do we do when we have no idea what the future holds? What do we do when we are in a place of challenge and difficulty and wonder when will relief finally come?
Although I am looking forward to spring, the truth is that my life is just fine without it. In fact on the bright side there is much less yard work for me to do. Other situations, however, are not so easy to endure, and seemingly have no bright side. If we find ourselves diagnosed with a serious illness, or find ourselves jobless, or homeless, then we wait with nervousness, pain, and despair for change to come and provide relief. To make matters worse, there is no telling when that change we are looking for will occur, when our spring will come. In cases like this, which most if not all of us will find ourselves in at some point in life, it is important to hold onto the one thing that can help us in these times, and that is hope.
In the well-known passage of 1st Corinthians 13:13 we see that Paul holds up faith, hope, and love as the keys to life. We often talk of faith and of course love, but hope is so important as well. It is hope that nourishes us in times of famine. It is hope that compels us to not give up. It is hope that encourages us to fight for a better day. Even when our future is uncertain, as Paul points out in Romans, we hope for what is not yet seen. If you find yourself in a period of winter in your life, rely on hope and remember that nothing is permanent except our relationship with God. If you find that you know someone going through a difficult time, use the most important key of life, love, and be that change in their life that they need.
Together with hope and love, I have faith that there is a better future for all of us. I can’t set my watch and know when it will happen, and I can’t predict it like Phil, but I wait for it, as Paul says, with patience and composure. In this season of waiting, this season of Lent, hold onto hope always, for a brighter day is on the horizon.
Peace and Blessings,
Well folks, I have to say that I was trained on a number of things in seminary, but responding to a global pandemic wasn’t one of them. This, of course, isn’t the first pandemic Beaver church has been through. Being that we are 211 years old, we have been through several cholera and flu outbreaks, the worst being the flu pandemic of 1918, known as the Spanish flu, that sadly took the lives of 600,000 in the United States, with 600 perishing in Dayton alone. Looking at our history records there is an entry dated December 1918 stating that the fourth quarter communion scheduled for October was delayed until December because of the “prevalence of influenza.” So this is not the first time we have had to change our worship due to disease, and like our church brothers and sisters 102 years ago, we will continue to write our histories for the future generations of this church.
Because it has been over 100 years since this country has had to deal with anything similar to the scale and speed of the current Coronavirus, it is understandable that our leaders, including Gov. DeWine, are doing all they can to reduce the spread of this disease. This is why Beaver church has moved to online services for the time being and why we are encouraging all of our members to practice physically distancing themselves from others, and as per state guidelines encouraging those over 65 to stay at home except for absolute necessities and emergencies. I have confidence that together we can, through these practices, limit the casualties from this disease such that we don’t have another outbreak as deadly as the 1918 flu or worse. All of us have to do our part, caring for each other, as God has cared for us.
Despite the gravity of the situation we cannot lose hope, and we need to banish our fears. We should take comfort that our current understanding of disease and medicine is vastly superior to our knowledge a century ago. Even in those bleak times so long ago, life as we know it continued and flourished. In 1918 Beaver church recorded only one death, but in addition celebrated the baptisms of four new babies, including the birth and baptism of Catherine Tapy, the daughter of then Beaver church pastor Rev. J.F. Tapy and his wife Bertha.
In the midst of struggle and difficulty there is still always beauty and joy if we look for it, for God never abandons us. Even in the death of our savior Jesus Christ, nearly 2000 years ago, the sadness and death of the cross was transformed into the joy and wonder of the resurrection. We might indeed find ourselves in difficult times, and hopefully things will have gotten better since the time I am writing this, but no matter what, the love of God through Christ is eternal. God is present in our lives through the Holy Spirit always, and all darkness will be overcome by the light of Christ.
Peace and Blessings,
As I write this month’s Pastor’s Peace, I am in the midst of a difficult week, not only for myself, but for many people I know and care for. I performed the funeral for Sharon Parkison this week, and for those read this that didn’t know her, I will say that she was one of the finest people I have had the pleasure to call a friend. Her loss is tremendous for everyone who knew her. Having to be a pastor to people in grief while standing 6 feet away and wearing a mask is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks I have had to do as clergy. In addition to the loss of someone I cared for, there is also the continued pressure of losses from my wife’s business, which for April had lost 80% of its revenue. This is true not only for her business but almost all of the businesses that are owned by friends and colleagues in the downtown area. There are several businesses that will likely not open again and be closed permanently.
To think that a mere few months ago I was actually very positive about many things. It seemed as if we had turned a corner from the difficulties of 2019 and I was looking forward to a good year both personally and for the church. However, the future is always unknown. Even now I hope we are over the worst of this pandemic, but maybe we are not. As I have been thinking about the fear of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I am reminded of the 23rd Psalm. Even though I walk through the darkest of valleys, I fear no evil, for you are with me. These are words I have been pondering a great deal this week. In times of uncertainty and loss, there are things I need to focus on, things that still bring joy and comfort, the Lord being chief among them.
Faith is always important. It is easiest when things are going well and you feel that the Lord is blessing you constantly. It is hardest when the world feels as if it is being pulled out from under you, when you are in that darkest of valleys, and you wonder how things will get better. It is most difficult to have faith in these times, but it is also the most important time to have faith, and it is when faith is the most useful. The fact that I can believe that no matter what happens in the world, that the Lord is with me, is very important now. The fact that I know that even if people are taken from me to be with Christ, that I will be with them forever through Christ, is very important right now. The fact that in this time of seeming chaos, there exists the constant of God, provides me comfort. I do not know what the future will hold, I can’t tell you for sure when things will get better. I can, however, tell you that eventually things will get better, and that through Christ those whom we love the most will be with us always, no matter what. Hold onto these truths, and know that together with God, we will see a brighter future.
Peace and Blessings,
Normal, that seems to be the thing that everyone wants right now. We don’t need exciting, we don’t need flashy or once in a lifetime, we just need normal. Who knew that normal would be so popular? All of our lives have been uprooted and changed during this pandemic and all of us would like to have some normalcy in any way we can get it. One of those normal things is to gather as a church and worship in person again. Although our online worship has worked well and we have decided to continue it even after we meet in person again, there is just something wonderful and holy about being able to come together in a shared space and worship our Lord. That is why people have been practicing gathered worship for over two thousand years, and why they should continue to do so.
Of course, the joy of coming together also needs to be balanced with the safety of those doing the worshipping. The Bible is full of references about the shepherd protecting the flock, and that is a task I take seriously. I also think about the scripture passages detailing Christ’s time in the desert and his temptation by the devil. In the second temptation the devil suggests that Christ should throw himself from a great height, quoting scripture that God would protect him. Christ quotes scripture himself in denying the devil, saying that you are not to put your God to the test. When we knowingly put ourselves in harm’s way, demanding that God keep us safe, we are doing just that, putting our Lord God to the test. Encouraging each other to worship together in a shared space is part of discipleship; knowingly calling people together into an inherently life-threatening situation is not. This is the rub, the challenge of deciding when and how we should gather again. Like many things in our faith life, we must strike a balance and look for the middle way.
It is prayerfully with this in mind that the consistory met to discuss this issue. We have been carefully looking at data, speaking with experts, and working out plans for how to reopen. After a lengthy discussion in which we looked at all of the options, we decided that we would not meet in person in June. Instead we will be taking that time to fully document and implement our reopening plan, such that by the end of June, the church would be ready to open if it was deemed relatively safe. The other part of determining that safety is looking at the data of infection rates in our area.
At the present moment the rate of infection seems to be holding steady; however, there is a several week lag time from when infections occur until when they show up in state provided data. Considering that almost all businesses were reopened in the state between May 12th and May 21st, the consistory felt that we needed to take a bit more time and see what the data shows after several weeks’ time. If we get to the end of June and the infection rate seems to be decreasing in our area or at the very least holding steady, then the consistory will feel more confident in determining the relative safety of us meeting in person again with our new guidelines and practices in place. If, however, there is a giant spike in cases and deaths, if ICU beds are filling up in our area, then that would likely lead the consistory to practice further caution.
Please pray for us as a church as we grapple with these decisions. It is very important to reestablish in-person worship. It is also a great burden to be part of a group deciding when to do that. If we make the decision to reopen too soon and an infection spreads amongst our members taking several lives as it does, which has happened in several other congregations across our nation, then that is a decision that I, and likely all others on the consistory, will regret for the rest of our lives. The world is never completely safe, and our Lord requires of us to have faith and be brave in the face of oppositions and obstacles in our life. I do trust in the Lord and know that my God is with me; however, I do not wish to test my Lord as well. It is these two principles that all of us are trying to uphold at the same time. Please pray that we do so in the way that is best for our congregation and follows what Christ has called us to do.
Peace and Blessings,
Well, I was getting ready here at the church. I had purchased individual disposable communion kits, found wipes for hand sanitizing, and gathered around 100 reusable cloth masks for the church. I worked with several church members and we had plans in place for social distancing and marking off the pews. Bobby had even volunteered to be our Maître d' for the sanctuary and give out seating assignments as people came in. (If you slip him a twenty, he might just give you your preferred seat.) I was hopeful as well about the data surrounding infection rates in our area, which seemed to decline through the beginning of May and were holding steady. However, as you know, the consistory decided that we should wait and see what happened in June, being that so many businesses were reopening, and June, well June has been disappointing.
Although our state and our area are doing fairly well compared to others, and thankfully we have not lost more people than we have to COVID-19 in our area, the data for June has not looked good so far. As many of you are aware there has been some concerns in both Montgomery and Greene counties regarding increases in infection rates, and hospital systems such as Kettering have seen a definite uptick in COVID-19 hospital admissions. As far as why this is, there are many different theories, and the reality is likely a combination of them all. We know there are things we can do to help keep others and ourselves safe, such as hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing. Although we can always do a better job of such things, I feel that many in our community are taking these things seriously and that through God’s help and all of our continued efforts, we can work to decrease the spread of this disease. I certainly pray for that every day.
The consistory has been tasked with a truly difficult job. As I spoke last time we want to balance the safety of the congregation with being realistic and not over stating the danger. It is truly difficult to know where that balance is. There are churches that have resumed services with no current issues, and there are those that have reopened only to shut down again after an outbreak, with some churches having 50% or more of the congregation infected. That is rare for certain, but how rare is rare enough?
Because of the difficulty in making this decision, the consistory has tried to use objective data, rather than opinions to inform their discussions. The most informing of that data is looking at the infection rate for our general area of living and working, which for the vast majority of our members are Greene and Montgomery counties. Looking at the combined infection rate for both, the rate is the highest it has ever been. It is currently, as I write this, about 3 times the rate it was at the end of May. I don’t say this to alarm anyone.
The rate of infection per capita for our area is still very small. The vast majority of people you meet will likely not have the virus, but it is on the rise currently, that cannot be denied. Based upon that, the consistory decided to give it another few weeks to see what happens. If the rate decreases and returns to the level it was towards the end of May, there is a strong chance we would have in-person services again. If however, it doubles or triples again, I just don’t think it would be prudent to gather. Please pray for us on the consistory as we struggle with this issue, and of course pray for everyone affected by this disease. I know God will deliver us from this, and I know nothing can separate us from God’s love. These things and the love and support of this congregation are what help me the most during these days.
Peace and Blessings,
Well, the hits just keep coming; that is what I have to say about 2020. As we still continue to deal with all of the issues of this year, it can seem exhausting and daunting. The COVID-19 pandemic continues and although there is hope for a vaccine, the numbers of infections and, sadly, deaths continue to rise. Added to this for Beaver Church, we just found out that one of the major trusses above the sanctuary has been damaged and we need to keep the sanctuary closed until the repairs are completed. Upon finding that out this week, I really wondered how much more I could take, but then I remembered that I do not struggle alone. I have so many people that are supporting me and each other and most importantly we have God who helps us with all struggles.
As challenging as I think things are, they aren’t as bad as other times in our history. We are not in a major war having to worry about our soldiers losing their lives. Although we are certainly in a recession, it is not as bad as the great depression. The pandemic is a very serious threat that we face, and so many, too many have died or have permanent health complications from it. It is scary, of that there is no doubt, but we have been through worse, and we do not face this alone. I also think about the early church and how they were persecuted, sometimes hunted down and murdered for their faith. What a horrible time, and one that has sadly repeated itself over the centuries for different people of different faiths. Even though they faced such atrocities, they still came together, they still helped and cared for each other, and they still relied on God. All of these are things we should keep in mind as we face the pandemic before us.
As we continue on, I would like to suggest that we not let fear rule our lives. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take this pandemic seriously, quite the opposite. We need to be ever vigilant and follow the practices that we know will reduce infections and deaths. One can, however, be vigilant and not have fear be the driving factor of our lives. We must remember that we are not alone. We do those things that reduce infections not just to keep ourselves safe, but to keep others safe, our family, our friends, our community members. When we live and work to do the things that keep others safe, we do this not out of fear but out of love. All of the challenges that we have faced as a people were overcome not by fear, but by love, sacrifice, and commitment to each other and the Gospel of love and salvation given through Christ. May we be strong and work to overcome this virus, but may we do it first and foremost with love in our hearts, love for each other, love for our community, love for our world, and love for our savior.
Peace and Blessings,
As I am sure all of you are personally aware of, it has been a challenging time to say the least. The coronavirus alone has caused so much destruction and despair by itself, let alone all of the other things going on in the world, including the recent hurricane to hit the gulf coast. With everything going on it does put the issue we have with the trussing in the sanctuary in perspective. Our inability to use our worship space until it is repaired is indeed small in comparison to the global issues surrounding us. This, of course, doesn’t make it less important to those of us who have come to rely on the sanctuary as just that, a sanctuary from all that we fear and struggle with in the world. It is a space we have worshiped God, celebrated weddings, and mourned those whom we have lost. Our congregation has been using this space for such things for 174 years. In short, the space is sacred to us and for us.
I have written before that our congregation has faced many challenges in the past, both globally and locally, including prior pandemics, world wars, and natural disasters. Through all of these events we have persevered with the help and presence of God. These events are ones we will also pass through with God’s help. Likewise, even though the scope of the damages to our roof structure are extensive and costly, I have confidence that we will come together with God’s help and will rise to the occasion, finding the path forward to the repair and revitalization of our shared sacred space. We are still working out all of the details about how and when repairs will take place, but it will be done, and ensure our ability to share our space for another 170 years.
Just like the trussing issue in the sanctuary, there are many issues in our lives that can seem small in comparison to the larger issues of the world. Although these “smaller” issues might affect a few people or even just ourselves, it doesn’t make those issues any less important or significant to the people experiencing them. Remember that any issue you might be facing is important, and your health and well-being are a valuable thing. God is working on a grand scale, but God is also working on an individual scale and cares for each and every one of us. Keep your faith and know that together with God we can make it through this time, because nothing can separate us from our Lord.
Peace and Blessings,
The Pastor's Peace Archive™
Read Pastor Brian's thoughts from past years.
The Pastor’s Sermon™
Listen to Pastor Brian's sermons, when available, recorded during Morning Worship and other special worship services.
The Pastor's Sermon Archive™
Listen to Pastor Brian’s sermons from past years.
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