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Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-04

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                                                              THE HEART OF MISSION
                                                                       August 4, 2020
                                                

I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately for my health. On my walks I pass by people. I try to wear my mask and that gets in the way of my usual smile and nod. I heard on CBS that just making eye contact and saying “Hi” to a stranger can actually increase your Oxytocin (feel good hormones). We are social creatures. God, Being in relationship, Three in One, created us to touch, shake hands, hug, move in close, laugh together. We are made in God’s image. Lately, we have been limited in our ability to do those things. So, walking is good, not just for my body parts (and letting go of the many pounds I have to shed!) but for the social body in which I live, move and have my being. Walking is good. Jesus walked. He walked in other people’s shoes with his mind, his heart and his deeds. Jesus showed us who to walk with (our neighbor) and how to walk.  He showed us walking could be loving. That is the heart of mission!  Just yesterday morning I read in Su Voz, our Cuban Partner Network e-devotional, a poem about walking. It talks about what to walk away from which adds a nice balance to all the other walking I am doing. In case you missed it, I will share it again:
 
                                                      WALKING IS THE BEST EXERCISE
 
                                                                  I Timothy 4: 6-10
 
                                                                            “…stay away from such”.
 
                                                      I Timothy 6: 5b (Reina Valera)
 
                                                      Walk away from arguments that don’t lead you
                                                      anywhere but into anger
 
                                                      Walk away from people who freely put you down
 
                                                      Walk away from any thought that reduces your value
 
                                                      Walk away from failures and fears
                                                      that paralyze your dreams
 
                                                      Walk away from people who don’t care about you
                                                      and who are opportunistic
 
                                                      The more you walk away from things
                                                      that poison your soul, the happier your life will be
 
 
                                                      So, walk . . .
 
Prayer: Beloved God, thank you for each of the blessings that you have placed in my life. Lord, I put this day into your hands praying that your will may be done in me. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
Peace,
 
Rachel Matthews, Temporary Mission Coordinator
 
 
More Mission Announcements:
 
Frontera de Cristo – First Presbyterian Church raised $3250 to this point for the Raindrop Offering which goes this year to Frontera de Cristo. There may be a little more coming in in the next couple of weeks as happens with offerings but I wanted to share the good news with you and with Frontera. We hope it will lessen the impact Covid19 has had on our neighbors on the border. Thank you all who contributed in whatever way you did. Your help doesn’t have to stop with the Raindrop Offering! You can continue to help this ministry with your prayers and also with your own education and advocacy about what is happening on the border. Notice that the ‘Coffee, Conversations and Compassion” will continue in August:
 
On Thursday, August 6th, we will resume our “Conversations.” We welcome your ideas and suggestions for topics or ministries that you’d like to know more about. Please send your ideas to mark@fronteradecristo.org
 
The coffee “special” will continue through August 31st. You can continue to order your coffee online here and help your sisters and brothers during the pandemic. You will receive delicious 100% organic coffee cultivated, roasted, and shipped by the Café Justo cooperative and your purchase will continue to help families affected by COVID-19. We invite you to comment on the campaign on our Facebook page and invite friends to order Café Justo.
 
Courage Connection:
Courage Connection Needed: Diapers (not size 3) sizes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. Baby wipes, Clorox wipes. Take them to Michael Hogue’s house and he will deliver them.
 
CU at Home:
Needed: men’s (and women’s) underwear, sanitizing wipes, prepackaged snacks, and volunteers! Take items to Rachel’s Church Office or to CU at Home directly. If you are able to volunteer, call CU at C-U at Home, 70 E. Washington Street, Champaign, IL 61820 
217-819-4569  www.cuathome.us
 
Also, CU at Home has partnered this month with a local jewelry company, Almsey.com! Shop at Almsey.com now until September 1st and 20% of all proceeds will be donated to C-U at Home!  Almsey produces minimalist jewelry with a social impact. Live alive. Give life. Do good. AlmseyTM products lead our movement to do good, propagate acts of kindness, and spread love & unity in the world. Learn more at almsey.com Every AlmseyTM purchase supports a charity or positive effort detailed in the product description. 
Friends of P.E.B.  PEB recently sent out a newsletter about the Summer Science projects the schools were doing despite the pandemic. I encourage you to read it. Also, a little trivia in there about the P.E.B. school we sponsor in Sangla Hill:

  • Sangla Hill got its name because of large hill just outside the city.
  • There are unconfirmed stories of Alexander the Great passing through Sangla Hill during his invasions.
  • The Sangla Hill School is the largest school in terms of area in all the PEB schools.
  • The Sangla Hill campus also houses the offices of SHE & SHA Projects of PEB.

Cuba Partner Network – Conversation with Rev. Liudmila Hernández
Vice Moderator of the IPRC Synod

Rev. Liudmila Hernández regularly joins the monthly meetings of the CPN Steering Committee, providing updates on the situation in Cuba.  Here is a summary of her report from our July meeting: 

Most provinces in Cuba have entered Phase 2 of re-opening. With the exception of Havana, where there are still new cases each day, the other churches have reopened and are joyously worshiping, at a distance. 

The economic situation continues to be dire; severe shortages continue, with long lines for food,  hygiene supplies, medicines and other essentials.  Restaurants, bars, B&B’s, so helpful to the economy in the last two years, remain closed.  In the communities, people have formed WhatsApp groups to communicate on the availability of medicines. The churches continue to provide for their communities however they can.

The Steering Committee asked Liudmila what life is like for pastors in the isolated setting of the pandemic. She says that pastors have had to be creative in caring for their congregations through visiting, providing meals, maintaining hope and taking care of the peoples’ physical and spiritual needs.  In her experience there is not a feeling of isolation, but rather, there is so much to do and so many to take care of, there is no time to feel isolated or discouraged.  Congregations are caring for their pastors and caring for each other. 

Liudmila sends all of the US churches warm wishes from Cuba.  She affirmed that our churches are like a family, always in prayer for each other.  

Save the date! 

CPN Virtual Gathering: September 25 – 26, 2020

The Cuba Partners Network Virtual Gathering will be held via Zoom from Friday, September 25 to Saturday, September 26.  The CPN Program Committee is working on a full program which will include many items of interest, from advocacy to partner communications. Look for more information and a link to register via email in early August.
 
With regards to our sister church in Luyano, please keep them in your prayers as they have opened up the church for in person worship now.
 
DREAAM HOUSE The Summer program is coming to a close. The COVID19 interrupted what would have been a trip to New York City but that has not kept the DREAAMers down.  Already DREAAM is looking ahead to 2021 or 2022 when they hope to take that trip to the Big Apple! More about that later!
 
Salt and Light: Salt and Light are offering gift cards now. If you have a friend who is in need or have a friend you’d like to thank, consider these gift cards. It will get double duty!
 
Kemmerer Village – I wanted to report on the good news happening at Kemmerer Village. Read their Summer Newsletter here:
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/564e3957e4b0ebe1a4b5f512/t/5f21b7ab509f742614dfe482/1596045230256/195272+Voice+Newsletter+-+July+2020_v7.pdf?bbeml=tp-fnJ026uBG0qkcZHu5DiuVA.jaZd1cWYvfUe7AJwsGbMqLw.rb1DsRFNtH02fuTfUswwqbQ.lzGbxGrKDnUKq5R7vBl4UDQ
 
Opportunity International:
Opportunity International has been having virtual webinars during this time of COVID19. In their next webinar we’ll be joined by our colleagues from around the world, Wednesday, August 5 at 11:00 a.m. CT, to hear how the pandemic has impacted the lives of women and girls specifically, learn about research that’s changing how we serve this critical group, and discover how you can be a part of the response. Register at this link:
https://opportunity.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAlf-6urDsvGd0nUfoAuACChaRwvrxsvWco
 
The webinar will be hosted by Muffy MacMillan, Opportunity International’s Global Ambassador for Women & Girls. Guest speakers will include:

  • Renée McAlpin, EduQuality Manager
  • Dana Lunberry, Digital Financial Inclusion Manager
  • Mary Pat McVay, Research and Knowledge Manager

 
Let us keep all our mission partners in our prayers, those who are waiting to go back to their place of ministry and those who are able to work where they are. Listen for God’s call to you in their ministry.
 
Our PC(USA) Mission CoWorkers:
Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar (Mexico)
Farsijanna Adeney-Risakotta (Indonesia)
Jeff and Christi Boyd (Central Africa)
Jo Ella Holman (Caribbean and Cuba)
Bob and Kristi Rice (South Sudan)
 
Our regional and global mission partners:
Kemmerer Village (and Camp Carew)
Lifeline Pilots
Marion Medical Mission
Mission Aviation Fellowship
Opportunity International
Friends of Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan Presbyterian Cuba Partnership
Special Offerings of the PC(USA)
Theological Education Fund
Young Adult Volunteers
 
Here in Champaign – Urbana:
CU Better Together
CU at Home
CANAAN S.A.F.E. HOUSE
CANTEEN RUN
COURAGE CONNECTION
DREAAM
eMPTY TOMB, INC
FAITH IN ACTION
JESUS IS THE WAY PRISON MINISTRY
THE REFUGEE CENTER
RESTORATION URBAN MINISTRY
SALT & LIGHT
 
Here at First Presbyterian Church
FPCC Amateur Preachers
FPCC Environmental Committee working with Faith in Place
FPCC Presbyterian Women
FPCC ESL
FPCC Children, Youth and Families
FPCC Mission Possible/Go and Serve
 
 
  
             302 W. Church Street
             Champaign, IL 61820
             217-356-7238
             info@firstpres.church

 
   
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Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-03

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Monday August 3rd, 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
 
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
 
Dear Friends,
 
Rev. Dr. Steve Montgomery died in a bicycle accident over the weekend. Last year, he retired from his post as pastor of Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis. 
 
Upon his retirement last year, Montgomery wrote “Twelve Things I Have Learned In The Ministry” for the Daily Memphian. Among them:

  • Jesus never used the word “tolerate.” Tolerate one another? Tolerate your neighbor? Tolerate your enemy? Nope. “Love one another.” “Love your neighbor.” “Love your enemy.” There is all the difference in the world.
  • I have always grown the most spiritually, intellectually and emotionally from those who are different from me: women, members of the LGBTQ community, Central Americans, Jews, Muslims, African Americans, and yes, evangelicals.
  • Children are not the future of the church. Enough of that nonsense. They are the church now. And they need the church’s nurture and advocacy.
  • Being Presbyterian, I am all for doctrines and creeds, but it is bad religion to deify them. They are only to be used as signposts and not hitching posts. Doctrines, you remember, supported slavery and apartheid. Some still support the marginalization of women and members of the LGBTQ community. Love alone is the hitching post. Faith can divide, but compassion can unite.
  • Whenever you engage with the Bible, make sure others are a part of the conversation, or else we ended up baptizing our own prejudices.
  • It really is a joy to be with irrepressible people who are so precisely because they follow the One who said, “I have come that your joy might be full.” Or to be with people of any faith who decide not to be members of the Bystanders Association, but rather embrace life fully. As Bishop Irenaeus said early on: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive!” It is a joy to be loved. It is a joy to love others.

News:
 
HELPING HANDS: The Presbyterian Women at First Presbyterian has a committee called “Helping Hands”.  The committee’s goal is to check with people in the congregation that might need help with meals or errands for a period of time due to personal or other family events.   Examples might be:

  •       Meals needed after surgery or during an illness
  •       Help with meals while family is visiting for a funeral service.
  •       Assistance with grocery or pharmacy pick-ups.

One of our biggest challenges is knowing about those who might need our services.  Please help us out by passing on referrals to Marcia or Patty in the church office or to Clemmie Ackermann at 
coletta.ackermann@gmail.com or at 217-377-7901.  The other members of this committee are Lola Ruthmansdorfer,  Claudia Kirby and Marty Edwards.  
 
Tuesday’s Men’s Bible Study 8 am
Email zoom@firstpres.church for the link.

 
Humor: (Serious times call for re-creation, joy, and humor.)
 
Why are elephants banned from swimming pools?
They can’t keep their trunks up.

Good Word:

Matthew 14:22-33              
22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

LET US PRAY (AN ENCORE):
 
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

 
(Thomas Merton)
 
PEACE to you all,
 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church
 



Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-31

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Friday 31 July 2020
 
Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois

Dear Friends, 
 
In this Friday greeting, I include a sermon (!) for you from a great Charlotte preacher named Jerry Cannon. There’s nothing quite like hearing this stellar preacher preach. He’s a fine writer, too. So, read a Friday sermon. 
 
On Sunday, I’m going to look right into your eyes and preach about wrestling with God. Some of you, I know, could preach about that topic from personal and immediate experience. Bless you all. And while we’re at it, bless me, too. If it’s true that preaching is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” about half the time half of you are mad at me. 
 
See you on Sunday. Follow the links at FirstPres.Live and join us at 9:00 on Sunday.
 
See you on Sunday. Invite a friend.
 
Pay attention to God’s activity in the world around you.
            Be amazed.
                        Tell somebody.
 
PEACE,
 
Matt Matthews
864.386.9138
 
* * *
 
From your Nurture Team — Congrats to Kathy Havey for being the first to guess last Friday’s photo was of Mark Schoeffmann!  

Here’s this week’s photo. 


Visit http://fb.com/groups/firstpreschampaign to make your guesses, or email them to photos@firstpres.church.  
 
Please join in the fun!  We would like you to select a photo from your younger years (grade school, high school or early adulthood). Photos need not be professional. Candid shots are welcome. Please send your photos to photos@firstpres.church.
  
* * *
Grace for People Who Have Messed Up
by Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon
 
“13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So, Levi got up and followed him. 15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” – Mark 2:13-17 (NLT)
 
God uses whom God chooses, and God moves through folk who are willing to serve. God works through those who are open and humble; and God speaks through those who make themselves available to carry God’s Word.
 
Through the preacher, God gives proclamation, through the teacher, God gives illumination. Though the disciple, God develops discipline, through those in crisis, God brings out commitment.
 
Through the challenge, God builds character, and through the struggle, God shows strength. Through pain, God raises power and through hopelessness, God sends the Holy Spirit.

Yet God’s grace and God’s invitation to a Christ centered relationship is particularly extended to sinners, and people who have messed up.
 
Sinners according to Mark’s gospel are the focal audience of Jesus’s evangelism. And this invitation of inclusion is emphasized as Jesus says: “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Jesus invited Levi, (also known as Matthew) the tax collector to enter a relationship with him and to follow as a disciple. What must be noted is that tax collectors were viewed as traitors and thieves among their own people because they got rich working for the Romans in the earliest forms of a corrupt political system. Yet appearing as a top draft pick for “team Jesus” was someone whose reputation was shady and whose “Linked In” profile was a “known sinner.” And as if drafting Matthew weren’t enough, Jesus also went to a house party with other tax collectors and sinners!
 
And one may raise the question, didn’t Jesus care about ruining his credentials by hanging out with shady characters like sinful tax collectors? I believe he cared, but not in the way that you and I care. For he said: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
 
Thus, the wow for me in the text lies in the inclusive word “sinners.” And it is only inclusive because Romans 3:23 (NIV) says: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The truth is, “sinners” refers to everyone; the folk at the dinner party who thought that they were better than everybody, the other tax collectors hanging out at the buffet table, and everybody else in earshot of this proclamation.
 
It is here that God’s saving Grace is being offered not just to the greedy but to the needy. This grace was packaged and wrapped particularly for folk who the “self-righteous” looked down on, and folk who knew they needed redemption but may have felt unworthy given their current lifestyle and vocation.
 
Because we are all sinners, saved by grace; Jesus offers us a chance of redemption and transformation that moves us from selfishness to Christlike expressions of inclusion and acceptance of all. It is this grace, extended to folk who have slipped up, fallen down, and messed up, that hope arises that acceptance and inclusion in our community and our world evolves. It is the Grace that comes to messed up people like you and me, who become transformed miracles. It is the Grace that comes to messed up people like you and me, who inspire and witness to “self-righteous and the sinners” of our world.
 
Jesus said: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

I am glad to have a savior who seeks sick people, sinners, and folk like me who have messed up.
 
Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon serves as a Minister of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Presbyterian Foundation. He is Pastor/Head of Staff at C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church, a thriving congregation dedicated to community service in Charlotte, N.C. He has served as a mentor to many young adults since being installed in September of 1992.
 
* * *
Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Rest in Peace.
https://vimeo.com/62834898
 
* * *
 
Did you like Hamilton? You’ll love this!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFduNE4pXAQ
 
* * *
I miss  the Chesapeake Bay. Sing it, Otis.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTVjnBo96Ug
 
* * *
Turn it up. My bucket list includes hearing this song live in Chicago.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEmvBdRLg4k
 
 
 



Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-30

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Thursday July 30, 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
 
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
 
Dear Friends,
 
            Thomas Merton wrote the beautiful prayer at the end of this email. I post it here and there in hopes you’ll read it twice. (The parens are mine.)
 
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.

 
(Sometimes I feel guilty about this; if pastors are holy enough and ‘good’ enough, aren’t they supposed to know where they are going? I do know I’m surrounded by faithful, good people, and that we are shepherded by a faithful God.)

I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

 
(I love this line; just because I presume I know what God’s will is doesn’t mean I do. I’m wary of people who are full of absolutes.)

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.

 
(I hope so.)

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
 
(I try. Most of the time.)

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
 
(Amen.)
 
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
 
(God knows even when/if I don’t. Whew!)

Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

 
(Trust, trust, trust.)

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

 
(Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)
 
Take on Race:
 
            One of the things our church gave up during the pandemic was a trip to visit our sister congregation in Cuba. The Cuba Partnership Network produces these devotionals each day. In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Luyano, Havana, Cuba, I share this devotion. (The English version is at the end of this email.)
 
LAS CARGAS DE LA VIDA/La prueba de vuestra fe produce paciencia. Santiago 1:3
 
            Los miembros de ciertas tribus africanas se colocan una pesada carga sobre la cabeza cuando deben vadear un río importante. Ese peso los impele a caminar con paso más seguro y mantenerse siempre en perfecto equilibrio con la mirada puesta en la lejanía. ¿No tenemos en esto una hermosa imagen del creyente que atraviesa una prueba cuya carga pesa sobre él?
 
            Debo poner los ojos en Jesús, el autor de la fe, para no dejarme llevar por la duda o el desaliento, ni estar preocupado por la fuerza de las olas.
 
            Debo llevar mi carga bien erguido, con confianza, contando con la ayuda de mi Señor. Entonces experimentaré que la prueba atravesada es menos pesada de lo que temía.
 
            Debo asegurar mis pasos, apoyándome en la oración y la Palabra, para discernir la voluntad de Dios en cualquier decisión cotidiana de mi vida.
 
            Debo mantener mi equilibro. La prueba nos hace tomar conciencia de nuestra flaqueza. Nos acerca al Señor.Sepamos llevar la carga “sobre la cabeza” y el Señor irá con nosotros.
 
Oración: Dios todopoderoso, gracias porque tú nos fortaleces y nos permites llevar la carga con victoria. Amén.
 
News:
 
Sarah Laufenberg’s father, Gordon Brown, died yesterday afternoon. Let’s pray from his wife (Sarah’s mom) Kathleen, and our very own Mark, Sam, Henry, and Ellie (and their dog). 
 
Let’s pray for Jan Holmes, too. She has cellulitis in her legs and will be discharged from the hospital today, but is still in pain.
 
Did you know the church has a “Prayer Chain”? We do. Contact Marcia  in the church office if you want to get weekly notices about prayer concerns.
 
Blaise Pascal and family have one more week in isolation after their son recently weathered Covid.

Today at 4 pm Zoom Youth Gathering
Email zoom@firstpres.church for the link.

Friday Men’s Prayer at 8:30 am
Email zoom@firstpres.church for the link.
 
Humor: (Serious times call for re-creation, joy, and humor.)
 
Did you hear about the big fight that broke out at the local fish restaurant tonight? All the fish were battered.
 
What did the ear of corn say she wrecked her bike? Aw, shucks.

Good Word:

Genesis 32:22-32 (The Message)
22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)
 
Let us pray:
 
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

 
(Thomas Merton)
 
PEACE to you all,
 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church
 
 
THE BURDENS OF LIFE/After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:3 (CEB)
 
            The members of certain African tribes are known to carry a heavy load on their heads when they have to wade an important river.  This weight forces them to walk with more secure steps and to maintain perfect balance with their eyes focused on the other side.  Don’t we have in this a beautiful image of the believer who goes through a test whose burden weighs above him or her? 
 
I must keep my eyes on Jesus, the author of faith, so that I won’t stop carrying through doubts or hunger, nor be too burdened by the force of the waves.
 
I must carry my load upright, with trust, counting on the help of my Lord.  Then I will experience that the test of crossing is less heavy than I feared.
 
I must ensure my steps, supporting myself in prayer and in the Word, so as to discern the will of God in any daily decisions of my life. 
 
I must maintain my balance.  The test makes us notice our laziness.  We draw close to the Lord. When we carry the load “above our heads”, the Lord will go with us. 
 
Prayer: All powerful God, thank you that you strengthen us and allow us to carry the load with victory.  Amen
 



Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-29

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Wednesday July 29, 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
 
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
 
Dear Friends,
 
Here is a great devotion from my friend Rev. Kevin Murphey. Be enriched:
 
These words of Isaiah (noted below) were written centuries before Jesus was born, yet they describe him so completely the gospel writers are confident it is referring to him. Jesus certainly is the one who will bring forth justice, quietly, gently, diligently, faithfully. The way Jesus lived and ministered to all he met is surely how we too are called to bring forth justice. Those who have been bruised by this world, those whose spirits are dimly burning need us, even deserve for us to carry on Jesus’ life-giving work. We need not shout it out in the street. We can be adamant without being obnoxious. And the only way we can do it is by relying on God’s Spirit.

What does bringing forth justice look like in today’s world? It begins with understanding each other. We hear their stories and by listening well, rather than trying to lift up our own voice and tell them how they ought to live, we find the places of connection between us. From those stories we also learn what it is that motivates them, what are they passionate about, what are they good at doing. When we get to know the other we also come to understand what bruises them, where in their lives their spiritual wick is burning down. Hopefully, they are listening to us and our stories also. Then God’s amazing Spirit walks with us and helps us develop deep empathy for them. Our imaginations begin to work and we start coming up with new and fresh ideas that move the world toward justice. It is slow work. It cannot be rushed. New relationships need time to deepen. We need to rely upon God’s help, so prayer and listening for God’s guidance is a must. 

The work of bringing forth justice is good and necessary work anytime, but especially today. There are so many bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks out there. There are so many structures that do not treat everyone fairly or equally. This is the work of Christ and it is the work to which Christ calls his church. In doing it we are made new, we are refreshed by God’s Spirit, we find joy in sharing God’s love. In doing it we are being the blessing for which God has blessed us. 
 
Take on Race:
 
Light looked down and saw darkness.
      “I will go there,” said Light.
Peace looked down and saw war.
“I will go there,” said Peace.
Love looked down and saw hatred.
“I will go there,” said Love.
So he, The Lord of Light,
 the Prince of Peace,
the King of Love,  
came down and crept in beside us. 
Praise the LORD.
The Lord’s name be praised.
 
News:
 
Prayers for Sarah Laufenberg’s family are appreciated. Her dad, Gordon, is expected to be in hospice care soon. Prayers for Gordon, wife Kathleen, our local Laufenbergs are appreciated… “Be good to me, Dear Lord; the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.”
 
Wednesday (tonight!) Mid-Week Gathering 7 pm
Email zoom@firstpres.church for the link.

Humor: (Serious times call for re-creation, joy, and humor.)
 
These from Ruth Craddock:
 
Does anyone know what page of the Bible explains how to change water to wine? Asking for a friend.
 
Yesterday my husband saw a cockroach in the kitchen. He sprayed everything down and cleaned thoroughly. Today I’m putting the cockroach in the bathroom.

GOOD WORD:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.        Isaiah 42:1-4 
 
Let us pray:
 
Holy God, we pray that families who grieve might be strengthened by your presence. Where there is pain, bring comfort. Where there is sorrow, bring the healing of your joy. Redeem our memories. Help us, by your Holy Grace, to commend our lives and work to your merciful and eternal care. AMEN.
 
PEACE to you all,
 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church