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