Maundy Thursday 2020 Pastoral Letter to LBPC

*****Please Read the Bottom section of this letter “What is happening at LBPC”

Dear Congregation,

          I write this on a day that we remember Jesus’ giving to us the covenantal meal of communion – along with the command that we love one another the way that Jesus loves us.  Tomorrow we remember the event of the crucifixion of our Lord, as he demonstrated his love for us by stretching out his arms on a rugged cross to die in our place.

          Easter morning, we will rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection and victory over the grave and over sin.  We will worship the risen Lord with joy.  However, it will be different than how we are used to celebrating.  We will not be gathering together at the church, there will be no “Son Rise” morning service.  Many of us will not have the family gathering that we have always had.  This year will be an Easter we will long remember as we celebrate Jesus during a period of historic disruptions to life as we know it. 

          As our world has been disrupted through the pandemic of the coronavirus it is helpful to review what God has been teaching us so far this year as a church and how he has been preparing us for this time.  For such a time as this God has us here, and God in his grace has prepared us.

          We began the year 2020 as a year of vision – a year we were looking ahead.  In January I could not foresee how the coronavirus would be the health crisis that it now is.  But our vision wasn’t fixed on predicting world events, our vision was focused on following Christ.  We fixed our eyes not on what is seen but that which is eternal, our Lord Jesus who called us to be his disciples.  A disciple is one who follows Jesus becoming like him.  We also affirmed our vision that God calls us to be His beacon in our community.  We love and serve with the same radical ways Jesus loves and serves us, so that we will reflect to our neighbors and friends God’s love which is of a different order than worldly goodness and kindness.  Following Christ and being His beacon in our community we said was not about us and how we are treated or thought of, instead it is all to the glory of God. 

          Then we looked at the spiritual practices that train our hearts to live out the vision of following Christ and being His beacon.  We saw prayer was the first fundamental practice – that we spend daily time talking in the presence of the triune God. Prayer is still the fundamental practice that we need through this time of isolation.   Interestingly we then saw the importance of gathering together in worship as a formative practice of living out our faith.  While this has been disrupted, we long to be together once again and understand by its absence the great benefit of being together in our worship – of singing as a congregation, of lifting up the needs of one another in prayer, of standing together and declaring our faith.  As this has been taken from us, we long to return to this practice.  In the meantime, we have sought to encourage one another through social media, through phone calls, and through letters.  Lastly, we looked at our mission that as God has compassion on the world and has sent his Son on a mission to save it, so the Son of God sends us on His mission – one that is impossible by human standards, one that is hard and encounters roadblocks and obstacles, and a mission that is Christ’s mission through us to our world. 

          During Lent we began a series of sermons based on Isaiah mainly looking at the servant of the Lord who came to bring God’s justice and our salvation – the servant is Jesus the one we follow, the one that we are looking to and becoming like.  God gave us Isaiah 53 with his assurance to be with us through days of difficulty that we might rest in his love though times when our world gets swirly.  This was the message on March 1st, a timely message to prepare us for what was coming.  On March 8th our passage was Isaiah 44 about the foolishness of idols.  Within a week of this message many of our idols as a nation were shown to be vulnerable as all sporting events were canceled, many jobs were shut down, the economic impact on our nation grew dire, and travel for pleasure was frowned upon.  Only God is the true God, and the tottering nature of cultural idols made us long for the living and true God.  What a grace God gave to prepare us for this time!  Allow me to encourage you to keep your spiritual practices during these weeks now turning into months of disruption.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. 

          For many of us we can’t wait for things to return to normal.  Yet we know that there is no going back to the way things were.  Our world has changed, we have changed we can only go forward, and when we are allowed to gather again we will do so not taking it for granted that tomorrow will be like yesterday.  Our theme verses this year as a congregation are: Philippians 3:13-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”   That is where we are focusing our vision this year in 2020 – we press on toward the goal, that we might win the prize that God has called us to.  In a world of life and death we follow and become like our resurrected Savior.  And we strain forward as we follow him!

          What is happening at LBPC:

          Although our building is closed we will be using Facebook Live on Good Friday to walk through our Tenebrae service.  This will be at 7pm. 

          On Easter Sunday join us for our Facebook Live Easter service at 10:30am.  And call friends to invite them to church through Facebook this Sunday.  And why not call, text, or email those you ordinarily sit with in the pews to rejoice to exchange the Easter greeting: “He is Risen!” “He is Risen Indeed!”

          For all our Facebook live posts you are able to watch them later after they have ended.  They remain on our Facebook page, and some have found that there is less buffering if you watch them not live.  Yet there is value in jointly gathering at the same time, so I continue to commend watching it live if you are able. 

          We have a Bible Study that is meeting on Wednesday nights at 7:30pm through zoom.  We would love to have you join us for that and invite your friends, it is not limited to LBPC attenders.  Simply email the church and we can send out the link to you.

Prayer meeting is also held through zoom on Fridays at 2pm.  Tomorrow is a special day of prayer and fasting and if you can join us for prayer that would be wonderful.  You can find out more information about the EPC call to prayer and fasting through their website.  https://epc.org/

          Follow our website and Facebook page for updates, devotions, and announcements. 

          We continue to receive your offering at the church, we thank you for your faithful and regular act of faith in giving to the LORD.  I am checking the mailbox Tuesday through Friday and putting the envelops in our safe.  The offering is then being counted every other week.  We are excited for ministry that the Lord has given to us in this season and for how we will be able to continue bringing the good news to others in these changing times. 

          We are looking into online giving as well so stay tuned for that.  For online giving money given will go directly into the church’s bank account, you will be emailed a receipt and your gift will also go on your end of the year giving statement.

          If anyone could help set up a computer program that will allow our Sunday worship to be put on a phone call for those who do not have internet, please let me know. I am able to get the Facebook service onto an mp3 but ran into technical difficulties in being able to share it publically so that the program can play it through the phone.  Any help would be appreciated.

          When will the church building be opened back up?  The session has canceled all activities that use the church building through May 2nd.  Would you join us in praying that by the beginning of May we will be able to start gathering again?  We continue to follow government and health experts’ recommendations for churches, and will adjust our plans as needed.  We all know the importance of making our plans “if the Lord wills.” 

Other Easter ideas: Sight and Sound is broadcasting their production of Jesus through TBN and their website Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  I recommend you watch it.  More information can be found at: https://jesusevent.com/

          We grieve that we will not be able to gather for Easter Worship.  I was personally hoping that we would be able to, as I know you were too.  But as a church we need to continue to protect our community by staying home this year.  Our grief is like the mixed emotions of the first Easter.  That as we grieve we are also rejoicing in the resurrection.  One church sign put it: “Don’t worry if our building is empty on Easter morn –so was Jesus’ tomb.” 

          Friends when our ordinary ways of worship are disrupted let us remember why we do what we do, and continue to press into the essentials of our faith and into the living hope we have in Jesus. 

Because of the Resurrection,

Pastor Tom

Location 255 Little Britain Church Road Peach Bottom, PA 17563 Phone 717-548-2266 E-mail lbpc1732@gmail.com Hours Prayer - 9:00 am to 9:20 am Sunday School - 9:30 am to 10:15 am Worship Service - 10:30 am to 11:45 am
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