From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Hello everyone, please know you are being held in prayer by many. If you have other needs, do let us know. I think of you all so often, and it is indeed with deep gratitude.
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
I have always loved this well-know scripture of Abraham and Sarah extending hospitality in the desert. There is, of course, more to these "three men" than is first apparent, for one of them announces to their hosts that they will bear a son. Abraham and Sarah are reluctant to believe this bit of news because of their advanced age (in fact, Sarah, who was a distance away actually laughed out loud), they would indeed give birth to Isaac.
This story reminds us that everyone has something vital to offer. Abraham and Sarah offer food, water, some shade. The travelers share a message from God. We all have a role to live in this life, and we all have something to give, and something to receive. Sometimes all we have to offer are prayers and love. That is more than enough for we can depend on God to give us what we need. Learning to trust that we will be provided for is part of all our journeys. Let us always encourage one another for we know we journey together. Amen.
Holy God, you have called us on this journey, and we know that wherever we are, you are with us. Help us to treat one another, and ourselves, with love and encouragement. You know sometimes the journey does get difficult. We thank you for the good traveling companions you have given us. May we not take you, or them, for granted, but rather offer the hospitality of our hearts. May we always rest comfortably in the company of one another and in your care. Amen.
"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor, San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors
P.S. Read Sue Ann's Blog www.hearthpsalms.blogspot.com
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Scripture: Psalm 46: 1-3, 10 (NIV)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah
... Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
I believe Jesus might have heard this tender message in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wanted the cup he was about to receive to pass him by. That was not to be, but a wondrous story unfolded then, and it continues to do so today. Let us remember that Christ is always guiding us. "Shh...Listen" God is telling us to sit in the silence and know that He is everywhere. God is asking us to be willing to trust and be patient. Let's let God be God, because we cannot. Yet, what we can do is pray, knowing that God is always with us, right where we are. Isn't that good news? Let us give thanks.
Our prayer today comes from the beautiful hymn, Be Still My Soul"
Be still my soul; for God is on your side,
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Trust in your God, your savior and your guide,
who through all changes faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a peaceful end.
Words written by Katharina von Schlegel, 1752
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Grace and peace to you from God our Father Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
Dear Lord, be with us in these days -- when we and our nation are in a time of great pandemic as well as disorder, confusion, and, yes, violence. In the midst of the calamity and frustration we face, grant us grace and vision for the immediate hours -- that are to follow. In your name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You."
1 Corinthians 2:9 "...we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began..."
Let us pray. Please come along with me today:
O God...Today, I will not worry about other peoples' reactions to my convictions. I will not focus on events and reactions beyond my control. I release myself from every hesitancy and fear. Instead, I will focus upon my reactions. I will handle my life well today and trust that, tomorrow, I can do the same. Build in me Christlike conviction and courage. In Jesus' name.
We are all saddened by what is happening in many of the metropolitan areas of our country. I am especially focusing in on Minneapolis where I was partially raised. I lived right down the street from where many of the TV images are presenting the sights of this normally delightful city. Things have changed there as everywhere. All of us, so it appears, need to grow into the twenty-first century, realizing that many things that should have been taken care of centuries ago, we are still dealing with. Often, with a mindset of faith, I tend to think that many of our problems have underneath them a certain presupposition that I would like to address in this meditation.
A note in passing..."What if's" can drive us crazy. They place control over our life into someone else's hands. "What if's" are a sign that we have reverted to thinking that people have to react in a particular way -- for us to continue on our course.
"What if's" are also a clue that we may be wondering whether we can trust ourselves -- AND GOD -- to do what is best for us. These are the tell-tale signs of personal insecurity in our thinking, feeling, and behaving...and they raise a "red flag" when it comes to being dominated by fear. It is one aspect of the "spector of fear" in our lives. Whenever and wherever fear becomes the motivation, there can be no dominant controlling factor of God's love in our lives. So the Apostle John correctly affirms, 1 John 4:13 "...perfect love casts out fear..." God's love and human fear cannot co-exist in the same human body, mind, and soul. What an insight to savor this is -- as we seek to know peace, purpose, and freedom in our lives of faith.
A key factor in true, genuine Christianity has to do with a presupposition of faith. The reactions, feelings, likes or dislikes of other people don't have to control our behaviors, feelings, and direction. We don't need to control how others will react to our choices. As we trust the Lord, we trust ourselves with God's help to handle any eventual outcome -- even the most uncomfortable, unexpected result. Many Christian women and men fear this. With the mighty support of the Scriptures and God's direct help we can trust ourselves to handle it well.
What kind of reaction of others do you fear? Be kind, be loving, be happy, be well, but be yourself...everybody else is taken!
Cordially, in Jesus, Tom
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Greetings and blessings to each of you as you care for your residents, your families, and, I do hope, yourselves. You are in our hearts. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if there is a need, including the need to talk. My cell phone number is below.
Scripture: Acts 2:17-18 Common English Bible (CEB)
"I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams. Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy."
Our scripture today was announced by the Apostle Peter and he is quoting the ancient prophet Joel. Luke goes on to tell about the ministries of both Peter and John and how the Holy Spirit had given them the confidence to teach and preach about Jesus, and to even heal in his name. Other believers gathered with them and Christian communities began to form.
While the Spirit is recognized as part of the Holy Trinity that is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or Creator, Christ, and Spirit, I have often thought that we do not speak enough about the Holy Spirit. It is Spirit that brings us God's grace and power. Spirit does indeed give us the confidence and courage to face what we need to face, and to live our lives in faith. Spirit cannot be controlled, but can certainly be accepted and loved. We cannot hold on to God, Spirit, and Christ, but the love they offer is tangible, and can be accepted and lived. We can then confidently share our love with others. Sometimes we cannot understand what Spirit is bringing us. However, let us always have the faith to know that understanding will happen. Like Peter and John, let us trust how God is calling us to be today.
Holy One in Three, we thank you for the sharing of your love and protection. Help us to have confidence in this time, trusting that you are working for the good of all. We thank you for the gifts of care and friendship that you are bringing to us. We thank you for the people who are praying and working for the good of all. We lift our prayers to you, knowing that you already know what is in our hearts. We also know that all prayers are answered. Therefore, we lift our concerns to you, confident that you are holding us all. Help us to remember to look for the blessings that are present every day. We know Jesus tells us to not be afraid, so in his name, let us pray the Lord's Prayer together.
Our Father, who art in heaven.
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread,
And forgive us our tresspasses,
As we forgive those who tresspass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power,
And the glory forever.
May we dare to dream dreams of abundant peace and love for all.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
How about a little humor...
What did Adam say to Eve in the Genesis? "I wear the plants in this family!"
What's Ludwig Beethoven doing now? Decomposing!
Mrs. Caesar to Julius Caesar: "No way we're naming this kid, Sid!"
What's the difference between apathy and ignorance?...I don't know and I don't care.
Enough. Enough. The great saints of God always maintain a keen sense of humor. Walk with Him with joy!
We trust in the Lord in our midst as we pass these days. Soon we will be together again to praise Him in our beloved church in the fullness of His perfect timing!!!
Many of us used to "pick on ourselves" before we came to faith in Christ. Now that we have become women and men of faith we may yet have a tendency to "pick on ourselves" -- to beat ourselves up -- even after the time we have let go in order to let God do things in our lives His way. I've caught myself at times saying,
"If I was really living a life of faith in Jesus,
I wouldn't be doing that again. After all, I've
been working on faith in Jesus for seventy-seven
years now. I should be further along than I am."
Acceptance enables us to grow, to change for the better. That's what God wants for us. We can come to embrace our humanity because God has made known His love for us -- and we are made worthy -- through His grace, available for us to receive accomplished at great price to through the sacrifice of Jesus. Not worthy in one's self!!! Made worthy!!! That makes sense. I don't need to attempt to justify myself. That seems fake to me.
How about you? I just accept God's undeserved grace as a gift, because somehow God deems me worthy of His great love. Being justified I don't need to struggle with whether I am good enough or not. God accepts me as I am. No wonder the song "Amazing Grace" has become so popular.
Life is too short to spend behind "the eight ball"...as far as the Lord is concerned.. Get with it, Sister! Get with it, Brother! When Jesus died on the cross, He suffered and He died literally becoming our sin that we might be made innocent in His presence. I've said it before and I will say it again, if you were the only human being who ever lived, yet Jesus would have come to save you. That's how much God loves you and me, no matter what we've done, no matter what our circumstance may be. This is the reliable source of our sense of self-worth. Our worth, our value is determined by God's opinion of who we are in Him...not by who we think we are. Talk about reliable! We've got to "grab hold" of this solid Bible truth.
Even if we slip back into old, harmful ways of acting out, from time to time... thoughts of feeling helpless, of behaving badly as a result, we don't need to keep living in the shame of it all. We simply turn it over to Christ. We make our confession. We put that "guilt garbage" into His hands. Otherwise Jesus died on the cross in vain. Goodness! I would not want to be accused of thinking that Jesus' death on the cross was for no purpose whatsoever, just a meaningless tragic effort. Certainly I'm really ready to hand it all over to Him. We need to confess. We don't need to wallow in guilt. Nobody needs that in their life, and yet it's so prevalent.
Saint Paul makes it clear in Galations 5:1, it is for freedom's sake that Christ has set us free. God encourages us to take full advantage. We are not to be burdened by the demands of an arduous religious life. Christians are set free by the saving power of Jesus to live fully. As we are made free in Christ others are being made free by observing us.
Saint Francis used to say, "Preach Gospel truth all day long, and sometimes, talk about it." Living free we are an example to others.
So there are two types of guilt, good guilt and bad guilt:
On the other hand, you can have only a penny in your pocket, and trusting in God, you can be the happiest and most contented person alive. Shame, guilt and regret will put you into a prison of your own making. I know a man who is worth six hundred million dollars. He is on his fourth wife and he is miserable. Allowing Christ to free you from these "three killers" will complete your life, one day at a time. It really works. The Lord will never force you. It is up to you.
I'll end things today by taking on a bit of Theology...don't really mean to bend your ear...but it is such a lovely and completing thought I have in mind. In the sixth chapter of Romans, Saint Paul says that through our baptism we die to self and become a new person. So since we die only once, it means the person we were before is gone, and we have become a new person, "a new creature".
In a sense we are in the "first phase" of eternal life awaiting the everlasting life that will begin for us at "the marriage feast of the Lamb"...and yet...being born again, so to speak, we still have to deal with our human body. I call the experience the "creative tension of the gospel" which is of great advantage because it keeps us on our toes. This baptism makes us one with God and with His purpose here on earth. This baptism makes us part of His family and therefore we are precious to Him. He knows what we go through, because He became one with us through Jesus.
This is a brilliant biblical idea from the incredible mindset of God. It would take someone like Saint Paul to sum things up by saying "what counts is a new creation" (Galatians 6:15) and earlier in Galatians 3:16, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Paul could say, "Because of Christ, I am who I am." It is just the opposite of what happens in the world at large. We are given divine assurances about our lives as we live day by day. God does this to allow us to be totally human and yet to have assurances for our everyday lives that show us the marvelous plans the Lord has for us. People, we are loved!
From the Mathews Family
SpiritCare has some wonderful volunteers helping us. Here the Mathews family have made some videos to share. The first video sends a message of Hope with a lovely song.
Listen to the hymn Amazing Grace in this second video.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
These times are trying. Please know that all of us at SpiritCare Ministry are holding you all in prayer. That means we are holding you all with confidence, knowing that ultimately it is God who is holding us all. Please do not hesitate to call or drop me an email with concerns, joys, or specific prayer requests. I am here for you.
I grew up in ranching country, so the image of good pasture is still dear to me. I love the references Jesus makes about his people being sheep. The image that comes to my mind is of sheep traveling together in a flock, almost as one. I love the idea of our belonging to one another and moving with one another, of our finding our way through the gate together, and then going on to find good and sustaining pasture.
We are reminded that no matter how narrow the gate is that we must pass through, we will make it through and find nourishment for our soul. It is a beautiful pastoral image and one that brings calm to my heart and mind. Whatever we need to face, whatever we need to move through, we can find the strength to do so because we know we journey with one another. This is an honest, yet faith filled way of living our lives: connected and in relationship.
Yet, Jesus mentions thieves and outlaws. That worries us, but we are assured that there is no thief or outlaw who can lock the gate or who can lead us astray. With eyes and hearts on Christ, we learn to remain steadfast and courageous. We trust the Good Shepherd, and we know he is tending to us. There is no reason to be afraid. Nothing can be taken from us because the gift of eternal life stretches before us like a beautiful green pasture. We know will be feasting on God's love forever. We belong to one another, and to God. We belong, not to thieves, but to Love.
Let us remember that we are always in the house (and pasture) of the Lord. Nowhere can we go that God is not there.
Blessed be. Rev Sue Ann
A message for the 3rd Sunday in Easter from Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Grace and peace, Sisters and Brothers in the Lord!
Scriptural Lessons from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV)
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 "...repent and be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit..."
1 Peter 1:17-23 "...For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable..."
Psalm 116:1-19 "...I was overcome by distress and sorrow..." "...then I called on the name of the Lord..."
Luke 24:13-35 "...their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus (Him)..."
We note details in Luke's narrative about our experience of walking with God.
The Road to Emmaus
THEIR NARRATIVE WAS DETAILED AND ACCURATE
They communicated all the events of the past week with great accuracy and detail. Indeed, the "powers that be" sentenced Jesus to death and they crucified Him. They related the "unconfirmed yet" fact of His resurrection. Jesus at this point spoke up in addressing their testimony.
THEY DIDN'T COMBINE LIFE NARRATIVE WITH KNOWLEDGE OF SCRIPTURE
Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe..." (What?) "...all that the prophets have spoken..."
What had they spoken (and where in Scripture?) "...that the Christ has to suffer all these things and then enter
His glory..." They arrived at Emmaus and they urged Him to stay with them because it was getting late.
THEIR EYES WERE OPENED AND THEY RECOGNIZED HIM
At the dinner table he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and distributed the bread. How much this act of Jesus in their midst reminds me of Holy Communion.
JESUS WAS RECOGNIZED BY THEM WHEN HE BROKE THE BREAD
Our encounter with the Lord Jesus is our "daily walk" with Him. Unlike the two followers journeying one time only to Emmaus, our experience with Jesus is a daily journey, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we get to have - each and every day - as we proceed to our destination in dialogue along the way. He will open up the secrets of the universe for each of us. He will grant us "peace" when we are faced with the discomforts, the outrages, and the humiliations of this age. He will bestow an overwhelming personal sense of His "perfect love" when we question our worth or effectiveness.
Even in times when we are on alert for some reason, when times are uncertain, and where rumors are rampant, we will have His peace and His love in abundance. As the old hymn says, "He walks with us, He talks with us, He tells us we are His own." Jesus is simply right there. Still can't figure out why His two followers couldn't recognize Jesus. "It causeth me to tremble, tremble, tremble" as I need to let it go.
In short, as the Gospel narrative suggests, our faith concerns are not about about mere religion, they're not about imprisoning obligations, nor about "rules and regulations", especially for the sake of rules and regulations. It's about a relationship with God, and God in human flesh, and Jesus resurrected. It's about the companionship we have in our earthly journey with the co-Creator of the universe. All too often it happens we feel we are all alone.
All too often, it happens, that when we stand fast on some issue of "principle" we think we are all alone. In situations like this, don't lack the discernment to know His presence. In Him, there to comfort and assurance.
You are in good fellowship with - the One death could not hold down - the One who walks with you.
Love the Gospel lesson for this Sunday.
Cordially, Pastor Tom
P.S. Email me if you need help on your daily walk
We feel a sense of urgency. We may want to resolve the issue by doing something - anything now, but that action is not in our best interest - or those we want to help or serve.
Living with confusion or unresolved problems creates difficulties for us. It is easier to resolve things. But making a decision too soon - doing something before it's time - means that we may have to go back and redo it. We're in the midst of this kind of situation as we deal with the pandemic.
If the time is not right, wait. If the way is not clear, do not plunge forward. If the answer or decision feels muddy, wait.
In the new way of life that we have with the Lord Jesus, we have a guiding force. We do not have to move too soon or move out of harmony. Waiting is an action - a positive, forceful action. Often, waiting is a God-led action, one with as much power as a decision, and more powerful than an urgent, ill-timed decision.
We do not have to pressure ourselves by insisting that we do or know something before it's time. When it is time, we will know. The Holy Spirit will give us definite word. We will move into that time naturally - with supernatural insight. We will move harmoniously. We will have inner peace about our decision and we will have consistency. We will feel empowered in a way we do not feel today.
Let the Lord guide. Let the Lord lead. Let the Lord bring clarity.
Deal with the panic. Deal with the urgency. Deal with the fear within. Do not let them control or dictate the decisions of your life.
Waiting is not easy. It isn't fun, at least not for me, not for you. Waiting is often necessary to get what we want and what we need.
It is not dead-time. It is not downtime. The answer will come. The right power to action just precisely on time will come. Yes, the time will come...and it will be right.
Lord Jesus, guided by your Holy Spirit, I will wait if waiting is the action I need in order to take care of others and myself. I will know that I am taking a positive, forceful action by waiting until the time is right. I know you will speak to me at just the right time if I wait.
Jesus, help me to let go of my fear, my urgency, and panic. Help me to learn the art of waiting until the time is right. Help me to learn timing with your economy of time. Amen.
God bless us all as we courageously and confidently take on the day. Confidently I say that the Lord has a special place in His heart for those who wait on Him.
Cordially, Pastor Tom
Posted by Angela Hey
Sometimes SpiritCare volunteers bring their dogs to care communities. A well-behaved pet can bring joy.
Volunteer Justine has sent in this website where you can watch dogs on video. It's best if you click on the video then choose YouTube in the bottom right-hand corner to show a wider picture. Then click on the box in the bottom right-hand corner of the video to make it full screen.
It shows the gathering room at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Tennessee. You can share this video with care community residents who may be missing their dogs.
Here's a picture of a dog that a SpiritCare volunteer brought to San Carlos Elms for residents to stroke last August.
A message for the 2nd Sunday in Easter from Rev Tom Nibbe
(ED: Easter lasts beyond just Easter Sunday so Sunday April 19th is the Second Sunday in Easter.)
God of Grace and Love, walk with us in this season of second chances and blessedness beyond our comprehension. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Grace and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus!
We’ve all been missing the fellowship of worship on Sunday mornings. Perhaps, opportunities to write and share can serve to draw us together in great anticipation of being together again on a Sunday morning in the near future. We are missing the fellowship of those we meet through SpiritCare.
I like the collection of Bible verses assigned for each given Sunday because it gives focus to biblical insights which illuminate our understanding of Scripture. Let’s take a look at the Bible lessons for today… Acts2:14a, 22-32 (New Testament), 1 Peter 1:3-9 (The Epistle), Psalm 16 (Treasury of David) and John 20:19-31 (The Gospel).
It appears certain that young David in Psalm 16 really outdoes himself…after all…this was written over three thousand years before Jesus of Nazareth…verse 10 especially…His insight is beyond remarkable - “you will not abandon me to the grave…nor will you let your Holy One see decay".
David knows he will have an eternal inheritance himself. He also knows that Jesus, his descendent, though dead, dead, dead will not experience the decay of his human body, because Yahweh will raise him up. Just think about that for a while. Such amazing stuff. Normally we just read material like this and move on. The great Jewish thinker, Rabbi Abraham Jacob Heschel, wrote, to address our lack of the amazement over what is remarkable, ”King Solomon prayed to the Lord and asked for wisdom, but I, in this postmodern age, ask for the gift of wonder and amazement.”
Surprisingly, as we turn to the New Testament lesson, in Acts 2, verses 22-32 the Apostle Peter knows about and refers to that same 16th Psalm of David. It has stuck in his mind and refreshes the mindset of his hearers, many of whom have memorized all of the Hebrew Scriptures, especially David’s Psalms. I like the way Peter puts a great poetic touch to his powerful sermon - "but God raised Jesus from the dead…freeing Him from the agony of death” because it was “impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”
Peter also makes it a point to impress upon the great crowd hearing him the relationship between Jesus Crucified and King David of old. You can’t help but love this stuff. Thirty-five years later the Apostle Peter will reflect on some of the same thoughts he had had shortly after the events of the Cross and the Resurrection of our Lord.
The occasion is one of two remaining letters we have from Peter’s hand recorded in 1 Peter 1:3-9. The course of his conversation in that letter reflects the change in time and life-style--in 64 AD--after the events of the Cross in 29 AD. Even now, we see the unchanging impact of the event of the Cross and the Resurrection…and how that now touches the lives of those who claim the name of Jesus as Lord and the power of the Cross and the Resurrection. Here’s what the Apostle proclaims - “He has given us new birth and a living hope”. It is an “inheritance” that can never perish, spoil, or fade. You and I as his readers are “shielded by God’s power through faith” in Jesus.
Refinement will be a Key Direction for Us
He writes this because the true church was being terribly persecuted. Peter’s letters have real relevance for us today. All too often, in today's church the Gospel is watered down and totally abandoned for more popular appeals that have nothing to do with God’s grace and love. Those who really love Jesus need to be “refined with fire”. Soft Christianity has rough edges. Refinement will be a key direction for us in the days, months, and years ahead. In recent times, all too often, many love the fellowship of the church – but I think – most of us still need to note Peter’s suggestion that our relationship with Christ still has a way to go.
The standard for the Apostle is a faith and love of Jesus Christ that is “of greater worth than gold” You and I have some way to go in our spiritual lives! Come on, now, admit it! And if we attain to this standard of faith in Christ Jesus, what is the reward? Should we expect a reward? I would say, Yes! Indeed, Yes!
Peter writes in verse 8 about "inexpressible and glorious joy” because we will be receiving the goal of faith. It’s really not about religion, it’s about a personal, responsible relationship with God.
How do we do this? Peter simply says, by “obeying the truth from the heart”. You know, if we’re willing, we can do this - we know the truth when we know the Bible - and accept it in our hearts - not holier-than-thou. Billy Graham used to say that the Christian walk is always two steps forward and one back, two steps forward and one back. It’s not about human perfection, it’s about a personal relationship with God in Christ Jesus, as the old hymn has it ”Just as I am without one plea…but that thy blood was shed for me.”
Peace & the Holy Spirit
A short word about the Gospel Lesson from John 20:19-22. I love this particular portion of the Gospels because it says so much to me about what our relationship with Jesus is all about “when the disciples were together with the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jews, Jesus came to them and said, “Peace be with you!” He showed them his hands and side, and the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, ”Receive the Holy Spirit”
Respond to the same invitation extended to His disciples. Allow the Holy Spirit to "breath upon you" and come alive in Christ Jesus. Come from the darkness into the light.
Blessings, Pastor Tom Nibbe
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
I have talked with or emailed the many care community activity directors I meet monthly in the last week. Thank you all for your responses. My intention is to post a short weekly email that includes some scripture, a meditation, and prayer that activity directors can share with residents and other staff members. Please know you all are in our prayers, and do let us know if we can be of help in any way. I miss being with all of your communities!
Scripture: James 1:16-18, Common English Bible
"Don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. He has chosen to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created. Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry."
When Tyler and I first moved into our house over two decades ago, the house across the street was home to a grandmother, two adult daughters, and one young granddaughter. The grandmother and I would often sit together for an hour or in the afternoon at her kitchen table. One early January she shared that she had walked into her granddaughter's room the night before and found her weeping. When Tina asked the child what was wrong, she replied, "The lights are gone."
This puzzled Tina because they had taken their Christmas tree over a week ago. However, when Tina looked out the child's bedroom window, she realized that the child could see our living room window and our Christmas tree, which indeed had grown dark. It was after Epiphany, and earlier that day, we had begun to pack the lights and decorations away. The child said that she liked to sit at the window at night and simply look at the lights. My heart was touched. I could so easily see myself doing the same thing.
However, James reminds us that God's light is unchanging. While events in our lives come and go, God is eternal. Therefore James' advice to be slow to anger is sound. For in the midst of all that is changing, and sometimes frustrating, there is always God who is continually giving us light and love. These gifts are eternal and sacred. Let us also remember that sometimes we do not know who is needing our own light to keep shining. Let us be quick to share our light and love, and leave the rest to God.
Holy, Eternally Loving God, we thank you for surrounding us with your love and guidance and we pray for health and refuge for all in this time of illness. Help us to share the gifts of love that you have so generously given us. Help us to tend to one another with patience, compassion, and generosity. We know that it is because of your abundant, far reaching light that we have life, and we are grateful. May we be ever mindful of your love as we remember, "Within you is the spring of life. In your light, we see light." Psalm 36:9
In Jesus' name we gratefully pray, Amen
Blessings, Rev Sue Ann
Afraid Yet Filled With Joy
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
The Psalm For Easter Sunday - Psalm 118:5-8, 14, 24,26
The writer of the Psalms is King David...the blood ancestor of our Savior, Jesus Christ:
"In my anguish, I cried out to the Lord and He answered me by setting me free...the Lord is with me, I will not be afraid..what can man do to me? The Lord is with me...He is my helper...I will look in triumph on my enemies...It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. The Lord is my strength and my song..He has become my salvation. ...this is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it..."
2 Samuel 7: 9,16 reveals the great plan of God given freely to all who take faith...to redeem us...to give us assurance we need...to know that our lives are not in vain. Presently we are in the midst of a great corona virus pandemic. In the midst of our deep concerns, we will not only proceed confidently and safely, but we will have a glorious legacy granted like that of King David. God in this remarkable Scripture promises King David,
"I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great like the names of the greatest men of the earth." (2 Samuel 7:9).
Imagine, after all these centuries, we still think about David, we study his life, and we ponder the details of his struggles and triumphs. The point is...the Lord has a very special destiny planned for us, and not just King David. Christian people in our lives, long dead to this world, are still very much alive because of their goodness and faith is lived out in our lives. David was not perfect, and yet, the Lord called David a man after His own heart. The secret of this whole business of being resurrected is basically...no perfect people are going to heaven, because there aren't any perfect people...only imperfect people like David. The basic fact of David's life was that he was a man of firm faith in the Lord. not himself. His focus as an imperfect man of faith was to please the Lord by trusting in Him on matter what.
So now we get it..."resurrection" --- it's not so much something that we believe in...it is something we know because we have experienced it ourselves...you and I die to our self...we die to selfishness...we die to vain pursuits and pleasures...in order to serve Christ...So Saint Paul writes in Romans 6:4: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the Father's glory, we too may live a new life."
Do you have "new life"? Do you desire "new life". How about it? Welcome to the real and authentic celebration of Easter...Resurrection Day for me and you...as well as Jesus. Today, Lord, once again, we submit ourselves to your Lordship over our lives. The whole and complete story of Easter is not just the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but the resurrection of the deadness in our spiritual life. Do you desire the "living water"? Do you want "new life"?
The way I see it...you and I don't really "believe" in Resurrection and Eternal Life...rather...WE KNOW IT because we have experienced it in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have sensed "new life" totally consuming what we were. We have received the truth of the Lord Jesus for ourselves. We must be "born again". We must accept the invitation.
Acts 10:39-41 As Peter preaches he reveals this to his hearers, "We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead."
This, of course, is the testimony we need to have Saint Peter acknowledge about what happened then. Colossians 3:1-4 Paul communicates the insight of persons who know Jesus... "...you have been raised with Christ, SET YOUR HEARTS on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. SET YOUR MINDS on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with Him in glory."
Saint Paul in addition to this sense of what true Christian faith is writes in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me...I do not set aside the grace of God...for if righteousness could be gained through the Law (Moses), CHRIST DIED FOR NOTHING!"
No, Lord, we do not accept...we do not want to believe...that the Lord Jesus Christ died in vain. No, Lord. Matthew 28:5 ff. ... The angel said to the women (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary), "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified...He is not here---He is Risen!---just as He said."
The part in the text that I like best--after this amazing fact--that death could not hold Jesus down...was the part that had to do with the interpersonal aspect of the narrative. The women are experiencing both fear and joy at the same time. [Hmm, complex feelings, I've been there.] It's resolved by the personal touch of Jesus. The text says, "Suddenly Jesus met them. Shalom a'wa lae'kum! ...Peace be with you! (Greetings!) They came to Him, clasped his feet and worshiped Him...then Jesus said to them, Don't be afraid..."
Lord, we know that we are here with you - only joy will remain.
The message we can receive from Jesus as we come to Him today...and tomorrow...as we experience many of the things that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were experiencing on that first Easter Sunday. Just think about it for a while. Some of us have seen innocent people cruelly destroyed by the greed or envy of others. Some of us have been deeply disappointed in life. Some of us have been crushed by the situations we have faced in life --- or are facing now. Just yesterday I received a joyful telephone call from a gentleman who, just months ago, was going to commit suicide. In his words of personal triumph he was now STRONG in the Lord and ready to serve Jesus for the rest of his life. It was the best Easter story I could have ever imagined.
It is Easter Sunday - Resurrection Sunday of 2020. What wondrous love the Savior has demonstrated for each of us in this time of crisis and pandemic. We rest secure in the midst of it all. What wondrous love, O my soul! Lord Jesus, we will remain faithful.
We know there is no failure or regret in You. We will place ourselves at your disposal and discover new life and new hope, because you are good and your mercy lasts forever. Accept our prayer. Hear our call. Grant the assurance we seek in a time of great trouble. Amen.
Blessed, Happy Easter Everybody! Thank you, Lord, for the Blessing of Fellowship in Your Name! Pastor Tom
From Angela Hey
Christ Church Portola Valley's Music Director, Lauren Wittine, has put together some Easter Music for you to listen to on Easter Day. The music starts with part of Vivaldi's Gloria, a very energetic piece. There are some lovely Alleluias for you to reflect on the joy of Easter as we struggle with sheltering-in-place and worries during the corona virus pandemic.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Greetings from SpiritCare Ministry. Please know that you, those you love, and those you serve are in our prayers. My intention is to provide a weekly short meditation and prayer, especially for care community activity directors who may be looking for something to share with their residents.
Blessings to you all this Easter Season. I miss you all and you are in my prayers.
Scripture: Matthew 26:36-40 New International Version (NIV) Garden of Gethsemane
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Yesterday I took our dog out for a walk. Jack is an aging standard poodle with very curly hair. About ten years ago, we adopted him through a rescue agency. We think he was about two years old then, so we estimate his age to be about 12. He no longer sees well, so on our walks he relies heavily on his sense of smell.
On this particular walk, a rose caught my eye, and I went over to investigate. Jack decided to do the same, but as he drew near to the plant, one of his curly ears got caught in the thorns. This particular bush has large thorns. He immediately tried to pull away, but that just made things worse. I actually had to pull him a little closer to the thorns that had snagged him in order to gently get his hair untangled. He was not too sure about that strategy, but it did work. He was soon set free.
In the garden, Jesus actually prayed three times for the cup to pass him by. But that also meant that three times he prayed, "not as I will, but as you will." That is the gift of prayer. While we may be called to draw closer to the thorns that ensnare us, we do so, knowing that we also draw closer to God, and it there where we find our freedom. This is what Jesus' life teaches us. To be willing to go where we are called, trusting in the hand that is guiding us, listening to the voice that says, "You will be okay. In just a moment, you will be okay." God always calls us to freedom, just where we are. We simply must learn to trust the hand that is freeing us. Blessed be.
Holy Eternal God, while we may feel isolated now, you are ever with us, calling us to freely share our love. May we feel this freedom right where we are today. May we remember that whatever thorns may be in our path, Christ will always free us from what threatens to ensnare us. May we always have the courage to trust, even when, like Jesus, we are called to move closer to the struggle. We pray for those who are ill, dear God. We pray for those who are tending to our care, and we pray for their families. May your loving, healing touch be known to all.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Easter blessings to all, Rev Sue Ann