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Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-13

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Monday April 13th 2020
A Weekday Emailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois 

Dear Friends,
Jill Duffield is the editor of the Presbyterian Outlook. She’s a great writer filled with insight. Many of you have been reading her book during Lent. This is what she wrote last week about Easter:
This is a hard Easter. I will miss the swell of organs, the boisterousness of the brass instruments, the quiet simplicity of sunrise services and the rambunctiousness of children who’ve had too much sugar to sit still in church. I will not be with my extended family all dressed up for brunch, nor will I help the littlest ones of the congregation find some hidden eggs before the bigger ones scoop up all the chocolate. For far too many in our circles this Easter will be even harder as they grieve the death of those closest to them or fight for their lives on a ventilator. This is a hard Easter for people working in our hospitals, for leaders attempting to make wise decisions that impact others, for front line workers taking big risks for not much pay. This is an Easter when we know the sorrow and despondency of those women who went to the tomb that day because they had nowhere else to go and nothing else they could do. 
This is an Easter when we need desperately to hear from heavenly messengers and the risen Christ: Do not be afraid.Jesus is risen. Jesus is here. He knows what it is to suffer and he will not let us be alone in our pain. The tomb is empty. The victory won, even in Galilee where there are sick still in need of healing, and those who are oppressed yearning for justice, and captives not yet free. Remember. Jesus says, remember. Remember what you’ve been told and taught. Remember what you have seen and experienced. Remember that all the worst you thought you knew got upended, overturned by the One who promised to be with you always, to the end of the age, the One who promised the peace that passes understanding, the One who tells us: Go and tell. Go and tell all those yet to hear the good news that Jesus is risen and resurrection cannot be stopped, by anything. 
Thank you, Jill. That’ll preach!
This note from Sam Haupt, our drummer for The Gathering:                    
Dear First Pres team, I just wanted to say a quick thank you to you guys for keeping our community informed and cared for during these surreal times. Whether you’re working behind the scenes, or I see you every Sunday, your work and compassion have not gone unnoticed. I truly hope we can resume our services soon! 
Prayers: By now, most of you have heard that Sabrina Hwu left on Thursday for Taiwan for her father’s hospital bedside. He has suffered a stroke. A few days before, Sabrina enjoyed a video conference with him and her mom. All was well then. Pray for Sabrina and her parents. (And Wen-mei and kids.)
Our friend Roy: Roy Van Buskirk has been told he has a month to live with Leukemia. His spirits are good. He asks for prayer, and we will deliver prayer by the boatload. Lord, hear our prayer. 
Rev. Fillpot: Jim and Kay Layman report that Rev. Dave Fillpott, former interim pastor at First Presbyterian (between Mal Nygren and Phil Reed), fell in his garden on Good Friday morning and died at the hospital. Prayers for his wife Judy. Her address is: 
Judy Fillpott
16 Pine Meadow Drive
Asheville, NC 22804-2235 
Humor (and we need it) from Tanya Deckert: Definition of irony: gas under two dollars a gallon and no place to go.
Good Word:
THE SCENES: John 20:1-18
ONE:                      1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 
TWO:                     3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
THREE:  11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 
CLIMAX: 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 
DENOUEMENT/FINALE:    17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.‘” 
18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
Let us pray
God of life, 
there are days when the burdens we carry 
are heavy on our shoulders and weigh us down, 
when the road seems dreary and endless, 
the skies gray and threatening, 
when our lives have no music in them, 
and our hearts are lonely, 
and our souls have lost their courage. 
Flood the path with light, 
turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; 
tune our hearts to brave music; 
give us the sense of comradeship 
with heroes and saints of every age; 
and so quicken our spirits 
that we may be able to encourage 
the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, 
to your honor and glory. Amen. 
                                                                              (attrib. Augustine) 
 Much love to you all. 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-10

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Friday 10 April 2020
Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois 

Dear Friends,
Today is “Good” Friday. We remember Jesus’ crucifixion. Our service is on-line at 7:00. The Methodists across the street will join us for part of the service. Check out for ways to log on. 
Here’s a remembrance from last year’s service. It’s a little dark, but, hey, it’s Good Friday:
* * *
The service is over.
The congregation left in silence without benediction of choir-song and postlude, without their warmly coded small talk—What about this weather, eh? How’re the kids?
The dutifully departed steadied one another by holding hands, heads bowed, stepping gingerly down carpeted stairs, shuffling into bracing spring twilight that neither glows as brightly as we’d like this fickle time of year, nor lingers as long as we hope. Winter was brutal, and spring is awakening like an arthritic old man—with struggle.
We read what Mark wrote about you: perfumed hair, rebuked disciples, bread, wine, garden, their sleep, your prayer, that detestable kiss. Mark keeps it brief, nothing stretched out save those long arms of yours, and that whipped, derided body, and those forsaken prayers.
I could not look up from the pulpit as I read those jagged words, your loneliness crushing me most of all. I quivered with Peter, and want to blame him, the bastard, for what I wouldn’t have done, either, despite my righteous bluster.
The candles of the makeshift cross are long quenched. Pulpit, font, table hide, covered in repentant black cloth. Crowd, choir, guests, some stunned, all sobered, are gone—depleted as after an election lost. 
Members of the worship committee straggle behind, close up the sound system at the back of the quiet sanctuary, collect discarded bulletins, double check the candles. Notre Dame’s ashes still smolder across the ocean.
Someone breaks the silence, whispers about the Easter paraments: “Shall we replace Lenten purple with Easter white tonight?” “Can we liberate the worship stations from the alien drapes?” “Can we move the cross out of the way, now, behind the piano, perhaps?” “Can we set the empty stands on the chancel for Sunday’s flowers?”
They want to erase this service, it seems, by cleaning it up, turning back the clock to a more ordered time.
But there is no way around this night, is there? We cannot give the centurion his due without your agony, and we wish we could. Like Peter, we wish we could save you the trouble, and we would be believers without cross and thorny crown, and you would still be Lord.
This darkened silence is playing tricks on us. We still hear our own voices in the crowd shouting, “Crucify.” We hear the pinging of those nails and your baritone prayers, the jeering, the cursing, the clicking dice, the heaving sound of your breathing, which is why we can’t keep silence. We whisper about décor, and what we mean to say is, “Can we turn back time? Can we get our chance to undo what our ancestors did? Can we redeem our own dark hearts?”
Vulture-like, they want to ready our space for Easter, vacuum something, polish some brass, water the lilies. Especially, they want to hide that smoldering, dark cross.
After your death, Lord, when did those women busy their hands, readying their burial spices to anoint your body after sabbath? Did they try whispering this night out of their heads, also? It’s time to let bygones be bygones. It’s best to get back to normal. Time, maybe, will make things right.
Can somebody, at least, turn up the lights?
                                                                    (Matt Matthews)
Matt Matthews
* * *
No movie tonight. It’s Good Friday.
(See you on Easter: FirstPres.Live  )