To The Point for April 22 2020

A Word about the Word

The body is a unit…So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. [1 Corinthians 12:12–13]

If you know anything about the Corinthian church to whom the above words were written, you know that it was ripped apart by factions and divisiveness. And if you know anything about people—our time in isolation together, our season of stress, even our not being together physically as a body—you know that this season could also produce strife and discord. Don’t let it! In his caution to the church, Paul’s emphasis is that there is but one Holy Spirit and that he is the Spirit of unity. Repeatedly the Apostle urges unity by reinforcing their common bond who is “the one Spirit,” and “the same Spirit.” We have that Spirit and calling today. Let’s be sure we are staying in step with the Spirit who will strengthen our unity.

Close to Home

“So, when can Trinity do church in person again?” We are still very much “doing church” these days, but I get the drift of the question. We are all eager to return and resume our in-person fellowship with the Trinity family. And we also want to ensure everyone’s health and safety when we do. We are listening to our civil leaders and following the guidelines that they are issuing. As we all heard, on May 1, Ohio cracks the door open just a wee bit. And the President’s three-phase plan allows for religious gatherings in Phase 1, if those gatherings follow strict social distancing protocol and good hygiene. Is that a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel?

“Could we meet sometime in mid-May?” Maybe. But I don’t want to get fixated on a date that is impossible to predict at this time. Just as Ohio will have to take steps to return back to “normal,” so we should all anticipate that corporate gatherings will also need to take gradual steps back to “normal.” So, what I can tell you is that when we do re-open for worship, there will be clear social distancing measures in place and families will be in worship together (i.e., we will not immediately have children’s Sunday classes). We will also continue to support and emphasize our livestream worship on Facebook. Other ministries will restart when deemed appropriate.

Now, my mentioning of mid-May is not just because it seems possible that may be where Ohio is headed, but that is also when our Worship Center will be “ready.” Before this pandemic invaded us, we drew up plans for renovation and a number of generous people gave specifically for our worship space to be beautifully redone. So the good news is that when we do re-open, we will enjoy the freshness of a nice, new space! 

The World as It Is

One of the issues that this quarantine has highlighted is the preoccupation that our culture has with food. For some, it is just that: a preoccupation. “I’m just a foodie,” I hear people say. For others, eating is a source of delight and fellowship. “I’m Italian,” others might declare. 🙂 And still for others, it is a serious problem of control and addiction. I used to do some counseling in this area.

We interact with food many times a day and yet it can be the cause of a lot of stress and even guilt, especially during these days of quarantine. And we read endless advice on how we should diet and eat properly, what’s okay and what’s not…ad nauseum! Diane Summers of the Hope Nutrition Center says this: “Diet culture is the nearly–70 billion-dollar industry that is preying on all of us and promoting this sense of inadequacy that we must strive for another body.” To desire to eat healthily is one thing. To base our self-worth on our body image is another. And it is unwise and quite hurtful. It is not what God desires for us at all.

We have all heard about the dreaded “Quarantine 15”. Yes, let’s be careful that we don’t mindlessly overeat during this time. But let’s also not shame ourselves for desiring and enjoying that delicious meal or that wonderful ice cream. God gave us taste buds that we might truly experience and enjoy food. May this season improve all of our relationships with food.

A couple words from the Scriptures and then I’ll leave it at that:

I know that there is nothing better for people than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. [Ecclesiastes 3:12–13]

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. [1 Corinthians 10:31]

 #CultureNerd

Okay, on a significantly lighter note check this out.

And here’s the Isaac Newton “year of wonders” video I described on Sunday. Talk about a productive quarantine period! Not just gravity, but calculus and optic theories! What an overachiever! I do feel like a lug. Where’s that quart of Mitchell’s? Just kidding.

And Then There’s This…

A prayer for our day from Clement of Rome (first century):

We beseech You, Master, to be our helper and protector.
Save the afflicted among us; have mercy on the lowly;
Raise up the fallen; appear to the needy; heal the ungodly;
Restore the wanderers of Your people;
Feed the hungry; ransom our prisoners;
Raise up the sick; comfort the faint-hearted.

I’ll see you on Sunday (virtually).
Paul

Read more...

To The Point for April 17 2020

A Word about the Word

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. Simon and his companions searched for him, and when they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” [Mark 1:35–37]

This Sunday morning, I will remind us of Jesus’ example of choosing to find strength in solitude, even when people and their needs are all around us. It seems counterintuitive, since the Christian life is all about caring for the Other. But in order to offer our best, we must be at our best. And that means taking care of ourselves, spiritually and otherwise, so that we can best love and tend to others. I am excited for Sunday as we start the timely message series “This Is the Way: Seeking Christ in Times of Chaos.”

Close to Home

Trinity leaders have begun “Operation Phone Call” to connect and have phone conversations with the entire Trinity family. Talk about a throwback! Actual phone calls! Alexander Graham Bell is in his glory! I have already enjoyed talking with and praying for a number of you.

Easter was the Bible app’s biggest day ever! During the locked-down holiday, 40.6 million people read Scripture on the popular app. Like churches all over the world, Trinity’s Easter service was online via Facebook Live. I want to pass along the wonderful concluding worship song so many of our musicians put together. It was clearly the hit of our Resurrection service! Check it out here

It is interesting to see so many articles in the mainstream media about the Church or Christianity. I am glad to see they are often written by Evangelicals (e.g., N. T. Wright, Tim Keller, Phillip Yancey, etc.). Newsweek published an article by Pastor Greg Laurie. In it, he observes a rise of interest in spiritual things in these Coronavirus days. I hear hopes of a coming revival in America. Maybe. But, not to be a pessimist, I frankly don’t see it. The telltale elements present in past revivals (e.g., prayer and repentance) are not very evident. I guess I see more prayer occurring these days, but there is no real indication of repentance. Quite the opposite, I am afraid.  

With both Governor DeWine’s target of May 1 and President Trump’s plan to reopen America, Trinity leaders have begun in earnest talking about our re-entry plan. Stay tuned.

The World as It Is

With everyone having more time on their hands and with everything being so politically polarized these days (even during this pandemic), I find the unkind, outrage culture only getting worse. Especially on social media. And the sad thing to me is that it is often Christian people who fuel the poisonous rhetoric. Please don’t! Our Christian calling to be citizens of a “better kingdom” means we are to display the ethics and character of Christ right here and right now. And not to put our ultimate hope in the kingdoms of man. I just read an intriguing article that reminds us of this very idea. Find it here. My favorite line in the article is “Partisan politics today among Christians is like a fistfight on the Titanic.”

 #CultureNerd

Tonight is our next edition of #LakeCountyTakeOut. Sue and I are going to Pranzo (thanks to a generous friend). How about you?

Someone alerted me of this article—entertainment for the whole family during quarantine!

If you didn’t see the Andrea Bocelli mini-concert on Easter, give it a listen. Don’t miss his rendition of “Amazing Grace” toward the end (at the 18:45 mark). And take a look—the church where Bocelli is singing is Sue’s and my favorite, the Cathedral of Milan (“Duomo”)! We’ve been in that one as much as any church we have ever served with.

 And Then There’s This…

A prayer for your weekend:

May God the Father bless us,
may Christ take care of us,
the Holy Ghost enlighten us all the days of our life.
The Lord be our defender and keeper of body and soul,
both now and forever, to the ages of ages.

[St. Ethelwold, c. 904–984]

I’ll see you in a couple of days (virtually).
Paul


Read more...

To The Point for April 14 2020

A Word about the Word 

 During those days Jesus went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, he summoned his disciples, and he chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles. [Luke 6:12–13]

We sure have a lot of “inside time” these days. We have to believe that part of this inside time is also meant for the inside of ourselves. We will need to use some of our down time to develop inner strength and wisdom from the Lord. This “soul-work” will provide the spiritual resources we need both now and later, when this quarantine season subsides and we have big decisions to make and important plans to plan. Early in his ministry, our Lord spent an entire night in solitude praying. He had some major decisions weighing on his mind. The following day he chose his twelve Apostles.

Close to Home

These are disorienting days. We are all sailing in unchartered waters—physically, socially, and psychologically. How do we respond? Just as our kids may be acting out at times, so we are, too; though we may be trying to carry on like business as usual, we sense a bit of irritation, quarantine fatigue, anger, and perhaps even depression. I believe all of this is normal, even though we are not exactly sure how to respond to our unusual stress in a manner that feels appropriate. To help us with this, I have asked our friend Dr. Linda Dakwar to give us sound counsel. As a licensed therapist, Dr. Dakwar—through videos made available on our social channels—will give us timely advice on maintaining our mental health in these stressful days. Be looking for these.

The World as It Is

Not sure if it was hyperbole or speculation or hypothesis, but on Monday I heard a medical expert suggest that we may all be wearing masks a year from now. Now, I am grateful for scientific data upon which public decisions and policies are being made. And I pray for containment and ultimately for a vaccine to put a stop to this menacing enemy. I also pray that we will not let fear win the day and our social distancing become the norm in the seasons ahead.

When we are confidently told that COVID-19 is contained, will we courageously return to eating out and going to ballgames? I sure hope so. Don’t get me wrong: I know there will be a time of tentative re-entry into social life. And there will be some permanent changes. But our schools and colleges can’t become socially distant, online learning institutions just because that might be efficient and safe. And shopping online is quite convenient, but I’m pretty sure we don’t want Amazon Prime to completely replace our own going to local stores and interacting with other shoppers and store clerks. Certainly, we are gaining benefits from our online communities. But there is no replacing our real, physical interaction with other people.

The church, too. We are just starting to discuss and pray for wisdom as we seek a “re-entry” plan. We will want to offer appropriate venues of meeting when we begin receiving the gradual green lights from the authorities. We realize that there will be a transition period and that we may even keep some of the “Zoom” options that we feel are beneficial in the long run. But we are still a community of people who need to be with other people in real and physical ways. We long for that.  We promise to be patient and wise. But oh, how we all pine for the day when we can take Communion together and sit in home groups with our peers and hear the laughter and learning of children in our classrooms. We will carry out the admonition in the Book of Hebrews which tells us to “not neglect our meeting together, as is the habit of some, but be encouraging to one another…” And we promise to lead the way there, wisely, with all the best data, and not by fear.

#CultureNerd

What movies are you watching in quarantine? Sue and I have recently been watching some oldies but goodies. Try these if you like: Casablanca (perhaps my favorite movie of all time!); Gandhi (really long, but Ben Kingsley does an amazing acting job portraying this brilliantly humble yet powerful man); and Swing Kids (a riveting story of the Hitler Youth and the choice of some not to conform).

Movies and shows friends have suggested range from The Mandalorian (watch for a direct allusion to that show this Sunday in our next message series) to Ford vs. Ferrari (great for us car geeks) to The Shack (an intriguing parable of the triune God and his comfort of the grieving).

If you’re really ambitious (or bored) watch this (a 1903 silent on the life and passion of Christ). https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/life-and-passion-of-christ-1903?fbclid=IwAR15FVzOprTGO3FWiUAL835qexLuJwyMioXElcIxj0S1kY9JRSbIS_Z9ZCA

I’ll see you on the other side (virtually).
Paul

Read more...

To The Point for April 7 2020

A Word about the Word 

“And they went out and fled from the tomb, as fear and amazement had come over them. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” [Mark 16:8]

And so Mark ends his Gospel. And now we prepare for Easter Sunday. The women fled in astonishment, speaking to no one. Though their silence was only temporary, what Mark’s abrupt ending suggests is the stupefying reality of the resurrection! No myth or hallucination here. The women were somewhat paralyzed by the experience. And yet their initial fear gave way to an opportunity to believe and to act on their faith. May it be the same with us in this oddest of Resurrection Sundays: Amidst the fear and uncertainty of our days, let our astonishment return. He is risen indeed!

Close to Home

Healthy disillusionment and good grief!

In my message on Sunday morning, I suggested that Jesus, in setting up the rowdy Palm Sunday crowd only to disappoint them, was actually dealing with their disillusionment (or better yet, their illusion). And ours too. So, whether it’s in not immediately conquering Rome or not always making all of our problems vanish away, our Lord destroys our false expectations and idols and illusions about Him, about life, and about the world. And as he did on the following Friday (and Sunday!), Jesus shows us a glimpse of what he is really like and really doing. This is far greater and eternal than we could ever imagine. May God use this pandemic and our myopic illusions to free us up and see him and the world in a whole new way!

Trinity’s global missions partner Erika Tello shared some important thoughts on her Facebook page about grieving during this time of quarantine. Erika and her family are in Italy experiencing first-hand the bludgeoning assault of COVID-19.

From an article in Psychology Today, Erika reminds us that “in addition to celebrating the gritty human drive to rise above our circumstances, we need to give each other permission to grieve. To be afraid. To sit with our emotions. To slow down…There’s nothing wrong with being productive or creative…But we must also allow ourselves space to not be ‘amazing.’ Our world has not faced anything like this in over a century. It’s big. It’s OK, and even appropriate, to not be OK.” You can find the article here. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/202003/covid-19-it-s-ok-feel-overwhelmed-and-be-unproductive?eml

Indeed, whether it’s not being able to literally hug my mom or my granddaughter or not celebrating Easter with so many of you in grand and creative ways, I/we have to allow ourselves to express that disappointment and grieve. That goes for your children, too, and all of the losses they are presently experiencing. In responding this way, I believe we can experience the comfort of the resurrected Christ afresh!

The World as It Is

I am seeing so many people walking around my neighborhood these days. People who barely knew each other and had no time for one another are now laughing together and shouting kind words from across the street. These days of staying home may be reminding us what is truly important in our lives, including the necessary extra efforts it takes to connect with our neighbors.

Last night Elton John gave a livestream concert. Bruce Springsteen is giving one soon. Andrea Bocelli will stream a special live concert at the Duomo in Milan on Easter Sunday to send “love, healing and hope” to Italy and the world during this crisis.

Have you seen “Some Good News with John Krasinski” yet? These episodes are fun, uplifting, and worth watching.

#CultureNerd

Okay, so it’s hard right now to go out on a date with the one you love. A little creativity may solve your dateless drought:

What if you cook a fancy meal together? Or not so fancy. Sue and I have gone back to our college days and have started making pizzas from scratch together. If you are simply dating or your beloved is far away, you could FaceTime each other and cook the same meal from your own kitchen.

After dinner, or on another night, you and your date can proceed to the art museum (this section of TtP is called #CultureNerd, don’t forget). On the convenience of your laptop screen, you can see the masterpieces at the Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.clevelandart.org/visit/plan-your-visit/tours/online-tour Or if you’ve always wanted to visit the Met in New York, here you go. https://artsandculture.google.com/streetview/metropolitan-museum-of-art/KAFHmsOTE-4Xyw?hl=en&sv_lng=-73.9624786&sv_lat=40.7803959&sv_h=101.02430709363125&sv_p=-6.243791599414635&sv_pid=KeFx8oXHzeuY8L5rfepHaA&sv_z=0.6253222631835358

Or with this being Holy Week and all, why not take your date on a virtual tour of the Vatican Museum? http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.html 

And Then There’s This…

We have attached a roster of health workers that are all related in some way to Trinity Church. Thank you for praying for them.

Our gracious Father, we pray for all of the heroic physicians, nurses, and healthcare workers who are sacrificing so much for us in these days. Please give them extra strength and protection and even a shield of physical immunity as they serve so tirelessly. And may your comfort and peace be with their families as well. We pray for the proper medicines to be tested and approved and especially for a vaccine for COVID-19 to be discovered. We also pray for the scientists and epidemiologists and others who are researching and working towards this end. And thank you for those who are generously giving of their money and resources to try to find scientific solutions and an end to this pandemic. Father, you are the Great Healer, so we pray for healing on behalf of the many victims of this coronavirus. Give us your peace and your presence in these days. In the Name of the risen Christ we pray. Amen.

I’ll see you on the other side (virtually).
Paul

Read more...

To The Point for March 31 2020

A Word about the Word 

Hosanna!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven! [Mark 11:9–10]

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday! (We were planning to pass out palm branches to all Trinity worshippers, but alas—can you say, “virtual palms”?)  “Hosanna!” is the traditional shout of the Church, echoing for 2,000 years the shouts of the crowd in Jerusalem as Jesus rode into the city on a borrowed donkey. “Hosanna!” literally means save us now. I have been mulling over the implications of this plea in light of our present pandemic. Those in the original Palm Sunday parade were crying for the Lord to “save” them now from their oppressors.  Our pleas today are similar. But now? Seems like nothing doing. For them. For us. Sure, one day… and total salvation (five days later Jesus would accomplish that!). But now?  Unlikely. Why not? That is the question of the ages!

We’ll unpack that on Sunday. For now, our sure hope is this: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). My favorite writer on this issue of suffering and God is Philip Yancey. Two must reads from him are Disappointment with God and Where Is God When It Hurts?

Close to Home

Meals, masks, and ministry…that’s what Trinity’s loving Lake County has looked like in part during this social distancing time.

Friday nights have been designated as a time to support our local businesses by ordering take-out as part of #LakeCountyTakeOut. Your comments and posts (from pizza to BBQ to Mexican and beyond) have been outstanding!

One establishment, Ridgewood Kitchen in Concord, sent Trinity a heartfelt thank-you note: “We wanted to thank everyone… Many local businesses are working extremely hard to just stay afloat during these trying times and it is communities of faith like yours that can and do make all the difference in the world…We and all of our fellow Independent and locally owned restaurants truly appreciate your efforts and support!  THANKS TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!”

Sue has mobilized a team of women who are connected with local facilities (nursing homes, health centers, etc.) who desperately need the non–N95/1860 masks. These women are making hundreds of masks. Word got out and more requests for masks have come in (from food handlers, police departments, etc.). If you are an experienced seamstress, they can use your skills. Contact Sue at shwafini@gmail.com and she’ll put you to work. Thanks!

Also, Trinity is launching a COVID-19 update website where we will be posting a number of local ministry opportunities. Yet, as we are clamoring to somehow help in these days, remember that this crisis is not like a hurricane that happened to someone else. This is happening to us and our calling is certainly to love our neighbors in unique ways—and by staying at home as well.

The World as It Is

Though we are calling it “social distancing,” what is really meant is physical distancing. We are all in need of plenty of social and relational connections during these days!

It’s not all about us…but it is interesting that Trinity Church’s major areas of global focus (China and Italy) have been the epicenter of this pandemic. Mark my words: India (our other partner nation) will be the next nation (aside from the U.S.) to dominate the COVID-19 headlines. This could get ugly fast:  https://m.timesofindia.com/india/coronavirus-lockdown-sea-of-migrants-wave-of-tragedies/amp_articleshow/74868770.cms

When this quarantine time is over, I’m guessing we will see two significant pastoral activities on the rise: baby dedications and marriage counseling. I’m just sayin’. J

I am trying to curb my calories these days and walk a lot. I find myself drinking more kinds of coffee (espresso, French press, Starbucks drive-thru). I found this article comforting to my habit: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/4-cups-a-day-4-surprising-health-benefits-of-drinking-that-much-coffee?fbclid=IwAR2GUPSAlXAmn2v1G8Hj2uiMVuh44PayV4oFxDVImBg6OtZr51JAfSeG3Kg

#CultureNerd

This is a good time to catch up on some reading. Online book sales are up 400 percent! What are you reading these days? I am finishing Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and soon will start re-reading Mere Christianity (also by my favorite Oxford author). Before all of this quarantining started, a group of us were meeting monthly to discuss Lewis’ writings. I must keep up. I have also been reading If This Is a Man by Primo Levi. Levi was an Italian Jew and his work describes his horrific experience in Auschwitz. Can you tell I’m making a plug for reading books? I’ll let Groucho Marx do it for me: “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

And Then There’s This…

These words are somewhere in Jeremiah: Harvest has passed, summer has ended, but we still have not been saved. Whatever else comes from this time, it would be a shame if it does not create in us a greater heart for prayer in all of us.

And here is an idea: Let’s start praying specifically for the frontline medical workers in our midst. If you or a family member work in the medical field, the Trinity community wants to pray for you. Send us your name and where you work to trinityoffice@trinitymentor.com (subject line: Medical Personnel). We will compile and email out a prayer list. Thank you! As a reminder and for your enjoyment I close with this heartwarming video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JcBJTzXo4g

I’ll see you on the other side (virtually).
Paul

Read more...