Message from Pastor Alessandri March 25, 2020

Message from Pastor Alessandri March 25, 2020 (click link to download pdf)

March 25, 2020
The peace of the Lord be with you!

PASTOR’S WEDNESDAY PROJECTS Today my schedule almost seems normal. I have to be at the church office to let in the gentlemen who will install our new computers. (Hurray!) Steve Pastena (Music Director) and I will be finalizing plans for Sunday’s worship. (Yep, we are going to try taping a service for Sunday morning) and at 4 pm we open any bid submitted for the replacement of our church and parlor roof. Still, all this has to happen with wise social distancing, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and making sure we keep our hands away from our faces. All of that is the “almost” of this day’s “normal” activities.

Take a breath of the Holy Spirit’s comfort and hope. Few things seem “normal” but many things are blessing us. I may be restricted to my home but I have a home that is warm and comfortable, with more than enough food and clean water. I can watch movies or television, read books, do crossword or jigsaw puzzles, keep in touch with people on my computer or phone and write notes. We may be restricted but we have more than enough to survive and for which we can lift up our thanks and praise to God. Keep your eyes open to the blessings, “normal” (ex. the taste of the first cup of coffee or tea) and extraordinary (ex. a good conversation with someone you have not spoken with for a while.) Here are some “God sightings” noticed by Haven members:

Among other blessings I’m grateful for are, each day, shelter, food for nourishment, friends and neighbors with whom to visit. Although our personal space has doubled from @ 3 feet to 6 feet we can still visit and share kindness. Time is a blessing. We have time to take care of all those things neglected.
Regarding time you need to take time for yourself too. Time to relax and rest assured that we will get over this big bump in the pathway of our journeys. Charlotte Loveless

I am grateful for being able to sit on my porch today and listen to God’s voice in my wind chimes, the beautiful birds, the blowing of the wind, the smells and sights around me, and the stillness and calm as I read God’s word. Nancy Newkirk

Before the day ends, name three things for which you are grateful and give God thanks. Gratitude can open our eyes and hearts to the goodness that is, even in these difficult times. And speaking of blessings, be sure to read Pastor Kaplan’s reflections for today’s devotions. (see below) Powerful!

I will be in and out of the parsonage and church office, but I remain available. I will check both phones throughout the date to get messages and return calls. I am keeping you in heart and prayer.

God IS with you,
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A Pause with God’s Word

Read Ezekiel 37: 1-14
1The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Reflection by Pastor David Kaplan
“Can these bones live?”

The answer to God’s question in verse 3 was all too obvious. A valley full of dried up bones, how could they ever come to life? For God’s exiled people, which these bones symbolized, the answer came in the form of a lament: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Cut off from their homeland, cut off from one another in a foreign land, most of all, cut off from ever again experiencing God’s goodness or joy or hope. “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered….” was their plaintive cry in Psalm 137. This was physical, social and spiritual distancing all wrapped up in despair.
“Can these bones live?”

At times during the past few weeks I’ve wondered. Not especially about my bones (although that’s in the background) but about the quarantined community, which these bones may very well symbolize. Are we cut off completely, cut off in our homeland, cut off from one another, cut off from our neighbors, most of all, cut off from ever again experiencing God’s goodness or hope or joy? In those moments of doubt and even despair, it’s OK to sit down and weep.
“Can these bones live?”

Thankfully the prophet Ezekiel, God’s messenger to these despairing exiles – and to us this coming Sunday – was open to a different possibility. It was a possibility that sprung from faith – not yet clear, not yet certain, but still an opening – “O Lord God, you know.” Maybe, just maybe, when human efforts are exhausted and every end seems like a dead end, maybe then we can hear the echoes of a different voice: “O dry bones hear the word of the Lord.” Maybe then we can feel the blowing of the wind, the caress of a gentle breath, the renewed energy of God’s Spirit – all the same word in Hebrew – assuring us of new life: “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, and I will bring you back…” And they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

No, it’s not yet Easter. Not yet even Lazarus. This story is about community restoration, not individual resurrection. But that’s where we are in this crisis, aren’t we, longing for a renewed sense of community. And yes, God did fulfil his promise and restored his people with new hope and joy. And the promise and the Word and the Spirit are for us and in us even before the empty tomb, even in Lent, especially in this Lent of despair. For it’s not only Lent, today is March 25, the festival of the Annunciation (nine months before Christmas!) where the angel announced to Mary, “You will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus…and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Can these bones live? Through the darkness that surrounds us, don’t be afraid; in this pregnant promise there is life in abundance for all.

Prayer: The exiled Hebrews felt like dried up, lifeless bones. A young Mary was told she would bear the Son of God. Lord, you bring new life into our trials. You bring life in ways we could never have imagined possible. Give us the eyes of hope and truth. Strengthen our faith to see and believe in your goodness and love. Then give us the voice to share these sightings of you with others, that they too may receive your breath of life. Amen.

Act: If you haven’t already, start a list of those things for which you are grateful. Post it on the refrigerator or a place where you will surely see it each day and add to it as you notice other blessings.
Feeling fearful? Write down your fears as a letter to God. Read what you have read. Ask God to give you nerve and courage to persevere in faith. Say: “Lord, I place my fears in your powerful and loving hands.” Then burn your list of fears or tear them in tiny pieces to be put in the trash or shoveled into your garden.