Devotionals During the COVID-19 Crisis: Lesson 40 – From Pastor Joyce

Monday May 11, 2020

2 Timothy 2:14-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 Remind them of this and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 16 Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.”

Proverbs 27:17 New International Version (NIV)
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.

Pastor Doug, Jon, and I have truly been enjoying crafting Sunday morning worship services for you and with you. Our mission has been greatly enhanced by the talents of Ed Swartz, Nancy Chmieleski, Ginny Arana, Carol Edge, and Denise Parker and her ability to get all our choir members to sing together separately as well as encouraging many of our members to send greetings by having their pictures included.

Although we are not meeting together for worship, we are worshipping together. And worship is one of the most important ways we can show our love for God and for others. There is an upward focus to worship – looking heavenward in praise and thanksgiving as well as confession and adoration for the God who loves us beyond measure. There is an outward focus as well – praying for one another, greeting one another, even a smile or a handshake makes a difference.

When we are able to meet together, we can enjoy fellowship as well. First Fellowship has been a most popular place to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and many, many goodies each week. Yet there is one missing element even when we are together. In these times together, there is almost no opportunity to ask spiritual questions or share spiritual experiences or ask follow-up questions about the sermon or learn more about what the Bible has to tell us.

That is why Pastor Doug and I have encouraged our folks to join a Sunday School class, a Bible study group, a book club, or other small group where such topics can be discussed. We can learn much from one another; we can teach one another much. Even becoming a member of a committee is a good thing since the discussions within committees bring about better solutions than only relying on one person’s ideas and perspectives. As the proverb reminds us – iron sharpens iron. We have seen that happen. But Solomon (who wrote Proverbs) also saw the parallel of personal growth and teaching/learning between people.

Small groups are where a person can become truly known. Small groups are safe places, places where each person’s ideas can be sharpened and strengthened, places where no question is dumb. The beauty of such small groups is that the group itself determines what is discussed. Perhaps there is a group that wants to try new recipes or a group that wants to learn more about dealing with preschoolers or preteens. Perhaps another group wants to discuss the latest best seller. Another group may want to study the Bible. Another group may want to work together on a local mission project. The possibilities are almost endless.

However, when we are practicing social distancing, it is difficult to do these together-things. This has been a little frustrating since Pastor Doug and I have experienced how beneficial discussion groups, study groups, self-help groups, or other special interest groups can be. That is why we were delighted recently when Ryan Miller asked us if he could begin a weekly discussion/study/prayer/open forum group and do this in the virtual world. He wanted to set up a time when all interested people could connect either visually or by telephone through an internet application. He chose Tuesday evenings at 7:00. Last Tuesday was its premier, and all who participated were blessed.

It isn’t often that such an interesting and diverse group of people could get together to discuss whatever might be on their minds. Last week we were asked to share how we were dealing with being isolated from our friends, family, and church. The group was made of people who are different ages, have different areas of interest at the church, have lots of experience with small groups or no experience at all, and so many other interesting differences. All who took part felt that it was a worthwhile experience.

Such times of discussion and personal growth show the importance of learning from one another, learning from one another as well as teaching one another. Jon touched on this idea in his sermon yesterday – the idea of mentoring and discipleship. He asked us to think about entering into a formal mentoring and/or discipleship relationship. And that is a very good thing. However, if a person is not ready for such a formal relationship – perhaps one-on-one may feel too intense. A small group like the virtual chat on Tuesday nights may be just the thing for folks to get a taste of small groups. You don’t have to say anything; you can just sit back and take in what others are saying.

And it is so easy. You don’t have to drive anywhere, you don’t have to get dressed up, you don’t even have to leave your favorite chair. Making the connection was easy, and Ryan was a good leader, allowing all who wanted to speak a time for expression. If you were one of the ones who had other obligations last Tuesday and could not attend, please consider joining tomorrow night.

Just as iron sharpens iron, positive people will inspire you to be positive. In this time of sheltering in place, it is difficult to stay positive when we hear the sometimes confusing news reports about if and when life can become more normal. We are also hearing about so many who are sick and have died and hearing about those who are struggling financially as well as those who are finding the stay-at-home mandates too restrictive. A positive step for us at least is to take time to focus on one another and enjoy time together even though we are apart by joining our First Church Tuesday night virtual chats. Try it – you’ll like it!


-Pastor Joyce Donigian


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