March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
First things first.  My wife wanted me to make sure I passed this on to all of you.
  
It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it.  It’s safe to say that none of us has ever experienced anything like this before.  I’ve thought many times this week about conversations I had with my mom about living through the great depression and World War II.  She often told me that our generation couldn’t even imagine what it was like to embrace the kind of shared sacrifice and disruption that those two events created.  Today, I think we have a taste of some of what my mom’s generation lived though.
 
And we should not lose sight of the fact that our parents and grandparents lived through it.  It was hard.  Painful.  Many suffered.  Some died as a result.  The fact that it was hard and painful should not be minimized or easily dismissed.  But our parents endured.  The country endured.  In fact, maybe in some ways, the country grew up a bit.  Maybe we will too.
 
My mom was born two years after the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide.  That number is staggering.  The estimates I’ve seen for our current crisis put the worldwide death toll at anywhere from a low of a few hundred thousand people to a high of more than 4 million.  Even the lower estimate is hard for me to imagine – I can’t wrap my head around the idea of hundreds of thousands of people dying from a virus in our day.  Imagine living 100 years ago and trying to wrap your head around a death toll in the tens of millions.
 
I share all of this to provide us with perspective.  There are still hard days ahead for us.  What we’re experiencing right now – for most of us at least – amounts to little more than some minor inconveniences.  That’s not to say that having schools shut down early and events or programs cancelled isn’t stressful.  It is.  Many people are experiencing loss as events they’ve looked forward to are cancelled.  There is sadness and disappointment associated with how this pandemic is affecting every one of us.
 
For some, the pandemic will bring more than minor inconvenience.  Some people’s income and livelihoods are at risk.  Some people’s retirement accounts have taken a huge hit and have left them wondering about their future.  Some people will be experiencing some very real economic pain in the days ahead.
 
And of course, there are people who are being infected right now with COVID-19.  Most of us won’t be.  Depending on how effectively we’re able to “flatten the curve” in the next few months, it’s possible that only a few of us will actually know someone personally who is infected.  And only a small percentage of people who are infected will not recover.  Even for those in high-risk groups, the odds of a full recovery are much higher than the odds of dying.
 
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant.  We should.  We must.  If we care about other people, we have a mandate to do all we can to reduce the spread of the virus. 
 
As Dr. John Dietrich shared with us on Sunday, it’s important that we get our information from reputable sources.  “Something I read on Twitter” is not something we should assume is accurate.  Instead, we should pay attention to what’s coming from sources like the Centers for Disease Control, the Arkansas Department of Health or this site from Johns Hopkins University
 
Earlier today, the CDC did a one hour update on COVID-19 where they provided the most up to date information about what’s happening.  That presentation is on line and is a good place to go for the most accurate, most current information.  Speculative social media posts and click bait websites are a much less reliable source.
 
Here again is a summary of what medical experts are telling us to do:
 Listen to and follow the directions of state and local authorities.If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.If your children are sick, keep them at home. Contact your medical provider.If someone in your household has tested positive for the Coronavirus, keep the entire household at home.If you are an older American, stay home and away from other people.If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition—such as a significant heart or lung problem—stay home and away from other people.Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.  You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts – use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.Practice good hygiene.Wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface.Avoid touching your face.Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.Here’s a link to the video we showed on Sunday on the right way to wash.  And a link to Gloria Gaynor’s instructional video.
 
Some of you asked this week for a copy of many of the scripture verses I shared and a few of the quotes I shared during my message on Sunday.  Here’s a link to a document you can download that has a summary of what was shared.  Feel free to pass it along to anyone who you think might be encouraged by it. 
 
Now, let’s talk about Sunday.
 
We’ll meet on line again at 10 am.  This week, we’ve asked a few members of the worship team to be there to lead us in singing a few songs and hymns together.  We’ll get an update from Joe and Dana Neff about their work with Teach Beyond and see how we can pray for them and for their work during this challenging season.  I’ll be speaking this week on how we should understand the concept of providence in the midst of troubling times. 
 
Since we won’t have anything at church for the kids this week, Mrs. Jen has sent parents links to the Gospel Project lessons and handouts.  I hope you’ll download them and have your own Gospel Zone time with your kids.  And if you’re looking for additional activities or stories or shows you can watch with your kids, here are a couple of links you may find helpful.
 
First, Phil Vischer, who helped created Veggie Tales, has opened up his on line video vault to give parents access to all his content for two weeks for free.  Have bored kids?  This might help.  And the folks at Seed Family Worship are helping families memorize 20 Bible verses together in 2020.  Songs and stories and videos are available here, again for free!
 
Some of you have asked about taking the Lord’s Supper together, even though we’re not gathering each week.  Because the Eucharistic meal  is so meaningful for all of us, pointing us each week to the centerpiece of our faith – the death and resurrection of Jesus – I’ll plan to lead us in meditating on the gospel as we close our service.  If you have communion elements at home – juice or wine and crackers or bread of some sort – consider having them ready and join with us as we celebrate our communion with Jesus and with each other.
 
A note for those of you who typically bring a check to church and drop it in the giving box in the back.  Since the giving box is on quarantine right now, we’d like to encourage you to be proactive and either give on line on our website (www.Redeemerlr.churchcenter.com/giving).  Or you can mail your giving to Redeemer Community Church, P.O. Box 26677, Little Rock, AR 72221.  Please don’t send checks to our street address – there’s no mailbox there!
 
We have no upcoming events or activities to remind you of this week.  So I’ll close with this prayer for use during the Lenten season from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
 
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
 
 See you Sunday!
 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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