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Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-07

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To Members and Friends of 

First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
 
Dear Friends,
 
A Holy Week prayer: 
 
Gracious God we thank you for the blessings, large and small, that, by grace, we have discovered in this deadly pandemic that grips the world you love. We thank you for the ways we have seen life anew: with deeper, more sacred appreciation. 
 
Bless all those working to relieve suffering, to find a cure, and serving others with open hands in a no-touch season. Help and heal those who are sick.
 
And forgive us.
 
Forgive us for, until now, taking our lives and freedoms for granted. Forgive us for the times in our recent past when we avoided connecting with others when they so desperately sought holy fellowship in us. Forgive us for the important things we kept putting off that needed doing at that kairos moment-now-past. Forgive us for the ways we looked backwards to the past or forward to the future and disregarded the many graces of the present moment. Forgive us for our addictions to sensationalism, false modesty, and car-crash curiosity. 
 
Forgive our sin.
 
Unburden us from all that which keeps us from living deeply and serving humbly and gladly.
 
We ask it in Christ’s holy name. AMEN. 
 
 
News:
 
Here’s a link to the newest Heart of Missions, our “Mission” newsletter update. Click here: https://www.firstpres.church/HoM20200407 
 
Remember, when you get an email from my personal account, it is from Matt@FirstPres.Church. If it comes from somewhere else, asking to be in touch with me immediately, or asking for money, it is NOT me. Please forgive the solicitations which insist on coming from “Matt Matthews” or “Pastor Matthews” but are not me. Argh…
 
DO BEES HAVE KNEES? If YOU think YOU are working hard these days, consider the BEES. Charles “Stretch” Armstrong shared this video from the beehive in his back yard. It’s glorious! Click here to see it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0THqlRAw_I
 
Some of you have shared pandemic HUMOR. This is from Beth Holm:
Three of my fav hobbies:
1.) Eating out of restaurants
2.) Shopping at non-essential businesses
3.) Touching my face.
  
Good Word:
 
Proverbs 16:24    Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
  
Let us pray
 
From Augustine (I love the mention of restless waves)
 
O God, full of compassion,
I commit and commend myself to you,
in whom I am, and live, and know.
Be the goal of my pilgrimage, and my rest by the way. Let my soul take refuge
from the crowding turmoil of worldly thought beneath the shadow of your wings.
Let my heart, this sea of restless waves,
find peace in you, O God. Amen. 
 
Much love to you all. 
 
PEACE,
 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church
 
 
 



Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-06

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Monday April 6th 2020

A Weekday Emailer from
Matt Matthews
 
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois 

Dear Friends,
 
My Friend Kevin Murphy is writing daily reflections on the Psalms to the flock he pastors in Xenia, Ohio. Last week, townsfolk remembered a local tragedy from years before. Here are Kevin’s words:
 
Earlier this week I was reminded by a long-time resident of the significance of this day for Xenia. It was in 1974 on April 3rd that a half-mile wide tornado hit Xenia, killing 34 people, injuring another 1,150 and destroying over half the buildings in town. It was the event that spawned the [merger] of 1st Presbyterian and 2nd Presbyterian to form Memorial United Presbyterian. Personal memories of that fateful day are a part of just about every family’s history. I’ve heard many of those stories. Lives were drastically changed in a few short minutes that day, and those who experienced it will never forget it. Just as our lives are being changed by this virus and we will never forget this spring.
 
The psalmist has just finished complaining to God when he comes to his right mind and proclaims; And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” From that point on he can only be amazed at God’s mighty deeds and how it was that God brought the Israelites out of slavery.
 
I am becoming increasingly amazed at how the right hand of God is in the process, right now, of changing our grief. The fear and anxiousness that marked the beginning of this COVID-crisis has somewhat subsided. (You can now find toilet paper at most stores.) More and more people are taking seriously the restrictions, closures, distancing, staying at home and hand-washing. We are learning new ways to make our lives work during this crisis, new ways of being present for each other while we keep our physical distance. We are checking on our neighbors and calling our family and friends. We are offering money and prayers to those in need. In my mind, that is the amazing work of God changing our grief. Just as God was at work in Xenia following that tornado—changing grief into works of compassion and caring. 
 
May God continue to change our grief.
 
 
News:
 
Good News: Kristie Cozad does not have inflammatory breast cancer!
 
 
A Video Message from Matt: Observational arborist? Click here: https://youtu.be/B4nolfiqswY
 
  
Good Word:
 
from Psalm 77      
And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.
 
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
 
You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled. Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. 
 
 
Let us pray
 
This prayer is the first and last verse of the old hymn, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”  
 
Dear Lord and God of humankind, 
               forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind, 
               in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
 
Breathe through the heats of our desire 
               thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
               speak through the earthquake, 
               wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm! Amen 
 
 
Much love to you all. 
 
PEACE,
 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church



Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-03

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Friday 3 April 2020
 
Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois 

Dear Friends, 
 
Please plan to worship on Sunday with your church. Find us on Facebook OR firstpres.live
 
It’s Palm Sunday this Sunday. We handed out 41 Palms to 17 cars in our Great Palm Branch Handoff in our alley. It’s also communion Sunday, so bring bread and juice to our on-line service of worship. 
 
Several of you joined our prayer service last night. We’ll do it again. Remember Holy Week Services next Thursday—for Maundy Thursday—and “Good” Friday at 7:00 p.m. 
 
Here’s a hymn:
 
Frail to Sing Praises
tune: Finlandia/Jean Sibelius
text: Matt Matthews/Acts 16
 
A gift in progress to our beloved
Music Director Joe Grant
First Presbyterian Church, Champaign, Illinois 
 
Dragged through the streets,
               the marketplace grew quiet.
Silas and Paul
               stood humbly and were charged
The magistrates 
               had them stripped and beaten
and locked in stocks
               in jail by faceless guards.
Cut off from day,
               steel and stone their blanket,
a starless night,
               and trembling, sighing hearts. 
 
When midnight came,
               an airless wind was rising.
So were their fears
               of what daylight might bring.
They lifted prayers,
               and feeble lamentation,
and kindled light
               when they began to sing:
“Praise be to God,
               Creator and Redeemer.
Forgive them all,
               and may your peace we bring.” 
 
May we kneel down
               in times of desperation,
when midnight casts
               long shadows chilled with doubt.
Like Paul and Silas
               help us to remember,
to pray to you,
               when mercy has runout 
May we find voices
               frail to sing your praises
And by your power,
               cast all our worry out.

—25 March 2020
Sheltering In Place,
Corona Spring  
 
* * * 
 
I can’t wait to worship with you again on Sunday.
 
Pay attention to God’s activity in the world around you.
               Be amazed.
                               Tell somebody. 
 
PEACE,
 
Matt Matthews
864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church 
 
This bread tastes wonderful. Try it:
 
Here’s Kristi Corbin’s bread recipe, if you’d like to make a fresh loaf for Sunday:
 
1 1/2 cups warm water
1  tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup honey
2 1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 1/8 cups of whole wheat flour
 
In large bowl, mix warm water and yeast to dissolve.  Add honey and olive oil to the mixture and stir. Let rest until yeast is bubbly.  This is usually just a few minutes. Mix salt and flour together first in a smaller bowl and then add gradually to the mixture.  Knead about 5 minutes until smooth. Place in a bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Punch down risen dough, knead briefly, then shape into one large loaf or two equally-sized round, slightly flattened, loaves. Using a serrated knife, carefully score the sign of the cross in the middle of the loaf.  Place in preheated oven on a baking stone or cookie sheet and bake until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when thumped (around 45 minutes). Let cool fifteen minutes before lifting from the cookie sheet or baking stone.  Ideally, let cool completely before serving.
 
* * *
Here is a kitchen video for you to enjoy: https://youtu.be/r8eeol5lwaI

Missed getting palms?  Here is a picture which you and/or your children can color to wave on Sunday.

* * *
 
Friday night at the movies (Another double Feature).
 
Friday night at the movies:
Ebert’s take on the movie “Schindler’s List”
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-schindlers-list-1993
 
Friday night at the movies:
Ebert’s take on the movie “Smoke Signals”
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/smoke-signals-1998
 

“It’s a good day to be indigenous!” the reservation radio deejay tells his American Indian listeners as “Smoke Signals” opens. We cut to the station’s traffic reporter, who scrutinizes an intersection that rarely seems to be used. “A big truck just went by,” he announces. Later in the film, we will hear several choruses of a song about John Wayne‘s false teeth.
 
“Smoke Signals” comes billed as the first feature written, directed, co-produced and acted by American Indians. It hardly seems necessary to even announce that: The film is so relaxed about its characters, so much at home in their world, that we sense it’s an inside job. Most films about Native Americans have had points to make and scores to settle, like all those earnest 1950s white films about blacks. Blaxploitation broke the ice and liberated unrehearsed black voices, and now here are two young Indians who speak freshly, humorously and for themselves.
 
THE FILM OPENS IN IDAHO ON A SIGNIFICANT DAY: THE FOURTH OF JULY, 1976. IT’S SIGNIFICANT NOT ONLY FOR AMERICA BUT FOR THE INFANT THOMAS BUILDS-THE-FIRE, WHO IS SAVED BY BEING THROWN FROM AN UPPER WINDOW WHEN HIS HOUSE BURNS DOWN AT 3 A.M. HE IS CAUGHT IN THE ARMS OF ARNOLD JOSEPH (GARY FARMER), A NEIGHBOR WITH A DRINKING PROBLEM, WHO IS EVENTUALLY THROWN OUT BY HIS WIFE (TANTOO CARDINAL) AND GOES TO LIVE IN PHOENIX. HE LEAVES BEHIND HIS SON VICTOR JOSEPH (ADAM BEACH).
 
AND THEN, 20 YEARS LATER, WORD COMES THAT ARNOLD HAS DIED. VICTOR HAS A DEEP RESENTMENT AGAINST HIS FATHER, BUT THINKS HE SHOULD GO TO PHOENIX AND PICK UP HIS ASHES. HE HAS NO MONEY FOR THE JOURNEY, BUT THOMAS BUILDS-THE-FIRE (EVAN ADAMS) DOES–AND OFFERS TO BUY THE BUS TICKETS IF VICTOR WILL TAKE HIM ALONG ON THE TRIP. THAT WOULD BE A BIG CONCESSION FOR VICTOR, WHO IS TALL AND SILENT AND HAS NEVER MUCH LIKED THE SKINNY, TALKATIVE THOMAS. BUT HE HAS NO CHOICE. AND AS THE MOVIE SETTLES INTO THE RHYTHMS OF A ROAD PICTURE, THE TWO CHARACTERS TALK, AND THE DIALOGUE BECOMES THE HEART OF THE MOVIE.
 
“SMOKE SIGNALS” WAS WRITTEN BY SHERMAN ALEXIE, BASED ON HIS BOOK “THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN.” HE HAS A GOOD EAR FOR SPEECH, AND HE ALLOWS HIS CHARACTERS TO REFER TO THE REAL WORLD, TO TV AND POP CULTURE AND THE MOVIES. (THE RESERVED VICTOR, IMPATIENT WITH THOMAS’S CHATTER, ACCUSES HIM OF HAVING LEARNED MOST OF WHAT HE KNOWS ABOUT INDIANS BY WATCHING “DANCES WITH WOLVES,” AND ADVISES HIM TO SPEND MORE TIME “LOOKING STOIC.”) THERE ARE REFERENCES TO GEN. CUSTER AND THE U.S. CAVALRY, TO JOHN WAYNE AND TO U.S. POLICIES TOWARD INDIANS OVER THE YEARS, BUT “SMOKE SIGNALS” IS FREE OF THE OPPRESSIVE WEIGHT OF VICTIM CULTURE; THESE CHARACTERS DON’T LIVE IN THE PAST AND DEFINE THEMSELVES BY THE CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST THEIR PEOPLE. THEY ARE THE NEXT GENERATION; I WOULD ASSIGN THEM TO GENERATION X IF THAT DIDN’T LIMIT THEM TOO MUCH.
 
IF THEY ARE THE FUTURE, ARNOLD, THE GARY FARMER CHARACTER, IS THE PAST. VICTOR NURSES A RESENTMENT AGAINST HIM, BUT JOSEPH IS UNDERSTANDABLY MORE OPEN-MINDED, SINCE THE MAN DID, AFTER ALL, SAVE HIS LIFE. THERE ARE A FEW FLASHBACKS TO HELP EXPLAIN THE OLDER MAN, AND ALTHOUGH THEY’RE BRIEF, THEY’RE STRONG AND WELL DONE: WE SEE THAT ARNOLD IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN HIS SON IMAGINES, AND ABLE TO INSPIRE THE RESPECT OF THE WOMAN HE WAS LIVING WITH IN PHOENIX (IRENE BEDARD).
 
“SMOKE SIGNALS” IS, IN A WAY, A CONTINUATION OF A 1989 MOVIE NAMED “POWWOW HIGHWAY,” IN WHICH FARMER STARRED AS A HUGE, GENTLE, INSIGHTFUL MAN, AND A MARTINEZ AS MORE “MODERN.” IT, TOO, WAS A ROAD MOVIE, AND IT LIVED THROUGH ITS CONVERSATIONS. TO SEE THE TWO MOVIES SIDE-BY-SIDE IS TO OBSERVE HOW NATIVE AMERICANS, LIKE ALL AMERICANS, ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM THE MELTING POT–FOR BETTER AND WORSE.
 
THE DIRECTOR, CHRIS EYRE, TAKES ADVANTAGE OF THE ROAD MOVIE GENRE, WHICH REQUIRES ONLY A GOAL AND THEN PERMITS GREAT FREEDOM IN THE EVENTS ALONG THE WAY. THE TWO MEN WILL EVENTUALLY OBTAIN THE ASHES, WE EXPECT, AND ALSO SOME WISDOM. MEANWHILE, WE CAN WATCH THEM DISCOVER ONE ANOTHER: THE TACITURN, INWARD MAN WHO WAS ABUSED AS A CHILD, AND THE ORPHAN WHO, IT’S TRUE, SEEMS TO HAVE GOTTEN HIS WORLD VIEW AT SECONDHAND THROUGH THE MEDIA.
 
THERE’S A PARTICULAR SATISFACTION IN LISTENING TO PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY KNOW WELL AND CARE ABOUT. THE SUBJECT ISN’T AS IMPORTANT AS THE FEELING. LISTEN TO THEM DISCUSS THE INS AND OUTS OF AN INDIAN SPECIALTY KNOWN AS “FRYBREAD,” AND YOU WILL SENSE WHAT THEY KNOW ABOUT THE WORLD.