A New Testament verse and Prayer from this morning’s Daily Texts 2020.
“…the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
Let us pray, Gracious God, you kept the promises made to your people Israel through endless generations, and your words continue to be trustworthy and true. You fulfill your promises to me even though I fail to keep my commitment to you. Help me live steadfastly in the love of Jesus, who gave his life that I may live forever. Amen
Irrevocable. Endless. Trustworthy. True. Committed. Steadfast. Eternal. God is God, and God is all powerful and God is always present.
And you? You are the beloved children of the Living God. You are the cherished followers of a crucified and risen Jesus. You are the tender and tenacious people of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit!
You are called! And the call of God is irrevocable! Though I must confess that in these last 2 weeks, the call of God seems overwhelming. The call of God feels like too much. How will we ever find the strength to care for the people of our parish and serve those who are and those who will be in great need? These are unsettling and uncertain days. But what is settled and certain is that you are called. You are called by God, and the call of God is irrevocable. And God is near, and God will provide us with all that we need for the facing of this hour.
We are called by God and in these days of great uncertainty and heightened anxiety, I will remind myself and I will remind you of that call. We are called by God to serve the people of God; even and especially when it gets hard. And it’s going to get hard. But with the help of God and through the strength that we draw from one another… we can do hard. Because we are called. We are called by the Living God.
On Thursday morning, I was on a Conference Call with Governor Mike DeWine. I was joined by several other bishops and church leaders from the Ohio Council of Churches. The purpose of the call was an impassioned plea for the churches of Ohio to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It was a sobering call. Governor DeWine spoke very candidly and passionately. His overall theme is that we are currently in a “life and death” situation.
Governor DeWine also challenged us to unleash the power of the church for the community. He charged us to set up ministries and networks in our churches and communities to deliver food, medicines, and other necessities to those in need. “We are going to need you!”
Here are my 3 takeaways from the Governor’s Conference Call.
1. It was sobering. I called Bishop Suzanne Dillahunt from the Southern Ohio Synod right after the call to process what we had just heard. Both of us were shocked by some of the statistics shared. For example, Covid19 is 2x more contagious than the flu and 20 times more deadly. We encouraged one another to stay connected and to lean on God’s strength.
I called Pastor Adam Sornchai, who serves on the Executive Committee of the Ohio Council of Churches. He prayed with me, and I drew strength from the power of that prayer. The news was sobering, but through the power of prayer, the presence of God, and the strength of God’s people, we will prevail. This worldwide crisis has the potential to be the church’s finest hour.
2. We need to avoid gathering in groups of any size. On Monday, March 16, I strongly suggested that the churches of the Northwestern Ohio Synod suspend in-person worship services. After the Governor’s call followed up by a lengthy conversation with Ben Batey, the Health Commissioner of Wood County, I am now asking you to suspend in person gatherings of any size. On Tuesday, March 17, during our ZOOM meeting with Rostered Ministers, I encouraged our parishes to consider “House Church” meetings of less than 10 people. I am now taking that off the table. We need to avoid gathering in groups of any size.
But that does not mean we need to be disconnected. Connect with one another. Reach out by phone or Facetime and enjoy a conversation. The staff of the Northwestern Ohio Synod is reaching out and making phone calls to pastors, deacons, Synodically Authorized Ministers, seminary students, Church Council presidents, and Church secretaries. The conversations have been rich and life giving.
This is not the time to turn in upon ourselves, but it is time for us to reach out and connect with one another. We are never alone. God is near and we have each other. When I was elected in 2016, you promised to pray for me, and you promised to have my back. I feel your prayers. And when I grow weak, I feel your strength.
3. It’s time to dream new dreams and seek God’s vision. As I shared during our Zoom meeting, I have never been this anxious and I have never been this hopeful. I am eager to see what is to come. So, keep praying. Keep reading and reflecting on Scripture. Keep serving. And keep tinkering and collaborating. We need your gifts, and talents, and innovation. Dream new dreams and seek God’s vision, for God is always doing a new thing.
And though we may not be able to meet for in-person worship, Sunday School, or Bible study, I would remind you that the church isn’t cancelled. We don’t cancel Church, because we are the church! And now we have this new opportunity to be the church in a whole new way. It’s time to dream new dreams and seek God’s vision.
Yes, there will be tough days to come and the weeks ahead will be hard. Though less hard, when we face them together. We have certainly entered uncharted territory. We have gone off the map. Into a time and place where even angels fear to tread. But tread we will. And serve we will. And rise we will. Because we are the people of God. God has gathered us to be the church and God has gifted us with everything we need. We are in this together.
And we are faithful. We are resilient. We are kind. And we are strong. At the end of the day, we are called by God to do the work of God. And this is our time to rise as the people of God. Because you and me, we are irrevocably called by the Living God.
Bishop Daniel G. Beaudoin
Thursday, March 19 (St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus)