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... let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25
Cancellations are happening everywhere—March Madness, the NBA, public schools, airline flights. Last night Governor Inslee ordered the shutdown of all restaurants, pubs, and places of entertainment and recreation across our state. The CEO of REI just announced the temporary closure of all 162 of its stores nationwide.
The cancellations, closures, and changes are unprecedented. In just a few days, we've gone from wash your hands, stay at home if you're feeling sick, to restrictions and limitations none of us ever anticipated. Perhaps most unnerving, faith communities, including Messiah, have canceled worship too.
I get why the last is essential. The virus is insidious. None us want to be the one carrying something we don't know we have yet and then pass it on to an elderly or immunocompromised neighbor. Frustratingly, no one seems to know when the coast might someday be clear, when it will end.
What we know will never be upended is God's love in Christ for the Church and us. As we adapt to the constraints of social distancing, I remind you that 'distance' only pertains to physical space, not to the closeness of human relationships and the spiritual support we gain from each other. To this end, we are working diligently to adapt in such ways to keep the Messiah community connected, supported, and spiritually fed through the duration of this pandemic. We will be experimenting with online small groups, returning to check-ins by phone, and offering new opportunities to serve. I invite you to regularly check your inbox for updates, bookmark Messiah's website at messiahvancouver.org, follow Messiah's Facebook page at facebook.com/messiahvancouver, and answer your phone when the caller ID is the church or the name of someone you recognize from Messiah.
Though we won't be assembling in the sanctuary for the prayer, praise, and thanksgiving of worship for a time, it really matters that you continue to get your offering in, as long as you are fiscally able. I encourage you to explore Messiah's secure online giving options or sign up for automatic withdrawal (EFT) with your bank. The healthiest congregations will quickly find themselves in the hole after just a few weeks of missed offerings. Messiah is no exception. If you can't give online, mail in a check, send a carrier pigeon, do what you have to do. Even if the building is empty, bills and salaries need to be paid. In remaining faithful in your giving, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping your church maintain mission commitments to our community in a time when those commitments are as important as ever. On a personal note, Kathy and I have discovered that when our faith is shaky and our fears elevated, giving actually allays our fears and strengthens our faith. It's the way God's economy works.
And if you haven't completed your pledge for giving for 2020, I invite you to do so by clicking here. The forecast for our collective income is vitally important to our financial planning process. The more information we collect, the better stewards we will be of the congregation's capacity and assets.
As we move into this unprecedented time together, God will never cancel God's care and love for us in Christ. Miracles will happen, faith will grow, relationships will grow stronger, and love of neighbor will abound. Jesus said it this way on a day his disciples were horribly fearful of what the future would bring. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27)