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

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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

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To The Point for March 24 2020

A Word about the Word 

“Be still and know that I am God…” 

“Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength…”

“The Lord will protect you from all harm…”

 Okay, here’s a little Hebrew lesson during our #StayHomeOhio time. In these days of COVID-19 dizziness, with the kids at home and the job sideways and the stock market tanking—and our collective physical health being threatened—we are in need of words of encouragement. And the Hebrew language has just the words (literally) for a time like this. Long ago, the Jewish people would sing and recite words of encouragement to each other. I want to teach you three Hebrew words to encourage us and give us hope in these crazy days. Bursting with meaning, these words describe God’s faithful dealings with his people. So, here we go:

Rapha: “Be still.” (It is very difficult for me not to make a tennis reference or joke here. One of my favorite players is Rafael Nadal—nicknamed “Rafa.” But I will refrain.)  Psalm 46:10 says: “Rapha, and know that I am God.” Rapha means to relax, to be still, to let a rope go slack. In the story of Psalm 46, everything is going berserk. The earth is trembling. Nations are raging. Kingdoms are toppling. Even the mountains are crumbling into the sea. No time like the present to get busy and do something…anything! But the Lord says to us, “Relax. I know the chaos and uncertainty that you are having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. COVID-19 is not the first crisis I have faced with my people. I’ve been caring for them for a very long time. Please, relax, and know that I am God.” 

Qavah (pronounced kava’): “To wait.” In Isaiah 40:31 we read: “Those who qavah in the Lord will renew their strength.” Waiting is a drag! And waiting with no specific end in sight is a huge drag. When will we go back to school? Worship corporately? Be out of the danger zone of catching Coronavirus? Some of your Bibles in Isaiah 40:31 have the word “trust” for qavah. There is a beautiful nuanced truth in that shade of meaning. Because of God’s faithfulness and goodness, waiting on him is not like waiting for a return phone call or for the Browns to win the Super Bowl (insert joke here). Waiting on the Lord is a much more assured thing. His faithfulness is new every morning, his kindness to us is grace upon grace. So as we wait in our homes for normalcy and security to return, we do so expectantly, trusting that he will renew our diminishing strength. We qavah on the Lord!

Shamar: “To watch, protect.” Psalm 121 (which is filled with this word!) begins with this question: “I lift up my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?” His confident answer is found in the beautiful implications of shamar (in both its verb and noun forms). Like the diligent watchdog guarding the house, the powerful bodyguard protecting his VIP, our Lord is our shomer who is always watching over us and will “shamar your coming and going both now and forever.” Rightly so, we are being very diligent to connect with and keep watch over all of our people these days (especially the elderly and vulnerable). And still we know that our God, the one who made heaven and earth, is our sentry protectively on guard watching over all of us.

As we forge through this time of pandemic uncertainty, let’s challenge each other to relax and wait and know that God our Protector is watching over us.

Close to Home

As a staff team we are operating under the mantra, “flatten the curve; shepherd the flock.” The church is a family and connectivity is vital. I have found that delivering Sunday messages via airwaves/livestream is pretty simple. (We did it on Moody Radio for years.) Delivering fellowship and community, however, is a bit more complicated.

  • Using the latest video streaming technology (I should have bought stock in Zoom), we are launching Trinity Check-In. Many in our Trinity family will be having a virtual group experience to connect and pray and be encouraged devotionally in our homes. You should have received an e-mail about this. To learn more or be a part of Trinity Check-In, contact Pastor Ty at tyw@trinitymentor.com.
  • Sunday morning worship continues this Sunday at 9:30am on our Facebook page. Join us. God is knitting us together in ways I didn’t think possible!
  • Did you know that a lot of fun content is happening for students and families in our Trinity NextGen group? You can jump on here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2035586713163903
  • Daily throughout the week, the pastors of Trinity are on Facebook with some timely words…or music. Pastor David will lead us in a bit of interactive worship on Wednesdays at 7:00pm. Be sure to join him!
  • Sue has been spurring some to write a “Silver Lining Journal” during these days. It will great to hear and read the stories when things are back to normal.

The World as It Is

There are a lot of heroes in our world these days. Those in the medical profession are on the top of the list. The hospital personnel and physicians and nurses are working endless hours. Thank you! Thank the ones in our fellowship, please!  

We may not think of this, but those who are working in the financial services industry are heroically bearing the burden of the stock market tanking—and our spirits along with it. Many of them are taking our insecurities and frustrations personally. They want to work for us and are spending long hours trying to “fix” things and give us better news. Thank you!

Governor Mike DeWine is getting national attention and praise for his bold leadership in trying to keep Ohio ahead of the virus curve. He even makes me think a bit of Winston Churchill in his candid honesty of not sugar-coating the reality, as well as in his tenor of hope being somewhere on the horizon. His medical colleague, Dr. Amy Acton, deserves a lot of kudos as well. Thank you both. Proud to be a Buckeye.

Dr. Francis Collins is head of the National Institutes of Health. The Atlantic published an article profiling his life and the burden he is facing today as leader of the NIH. Grab a tall cup of coffee and read this rather long article that describes his work in light of our present pandemic and his conversion from atheism to Christ. You can find it here: https://bit.ly/PYCollins

#CultureNerd

With all of this extra home time, alone or with family, we asked our Facebook followers last Friday what people are binge watching. Here are some of the answers: Frozen I & II, The Godfather (all 3), The Office, Parks and Rec, Star Wars (new and old), Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Deal or No Deal, Anne with an E, Star Trek: Enterprise, Better Call Saul, Father Brown, and Phineas and Ferb.

Keep watching…but don’t forget to balance it with some good reading as well.

And Then There’s This…

Creating livestream worship is not as easy as you think. Pastor Stephen Beach accidentally set himself on fire filming a worship service from his home. Be careful of the candles! Can I say “holy smokes!” Sorry! Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55csVSFoXW4

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

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To The Point for March 19 2020

A Word about the Word 

The Lord is good to everyone; his compassion rests on all he has made. [Psalm 145:9]

Give Psalm 145 a read. It is a classic, one of my favorites, and a real encouragement in troubling times.

As COVID-19 is spreading and shutdowns are disrupting and stock markets are crashing, it is good to be reminded of God’s character and of the possibility of our healthy responses. Future generations will even benefit from our responses. After calling us to praise our good God (vv. 1–7), the psalmist tells us why it’s right and healthy to do so: God’s character is so good (vv. 9–13); his care is so kind (vv. 14–16); and his protection is so near (vv. 17–21). How should we respond to this crisis? It ought to be in keeping with the character of our God, reflected in our thinking and in our communicating. The future generations (and the kids) are listening.

Close to Home

I’ll say it—I miss you, Trinity family en masse! While we are trying to navigate ministry adjustments between the two rails of “flattening the curve” and “shepherding the flock,” we are experiencing the withdrawal of personal interaction and fellowship. I wonder if God has suddenly imposed upon us a sort of Sabbath. This moment of confinement and slowdown could well be ordained to be a spiritually centering moment for each of us. As I said on Sunday, “In this time of social distancing, we must also seek to practice spiritual deepening.” And in our alone moments with the Almighty, we may find he is inviting us to substitute busyness and hurry with solitude and silence. I seem to have so much going on in my head, trying to think creatively and industriously about ministry and life in this new normal, that I easily miss God saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” You too?

The World as It Is

I once worked in the restaurant business. I was a valet—which meant I got to park really fancy cars! Penny was a hardworking waitress and single mom. She used a phrase I never forgot: “tip to mouth,” describing how she was living and the importance of her regular wage. It got me thinking about the plight of so many in our community who are part of the food business whose work has suspended. One study I read estimated that 4 million restaurant workers in America have lost or are at risk of losing their jobs. 

File this under “Great Minds Think Alike”: Pastor Ty and I both thought it would be a beautiful way for Trinity to love Lake County by ordering food from local establishments. Here’s the idea: Every Friday night, we encourage you to go out to one of our local Lake County restaurants, order take-out or drive-up service, then enjoy a nice meal in your car or take it home. Snap a picture of your adventure and comment on the relevant post each week on our Facebook page. Every Friday, we will randomly select one of those photos to win a $25 gift card to the restaurant where you ate. Let’s call it “#LakeCountyTakeOut”! Those living tip to mouth will be very grateful.

And Then There’s This…

I close with what has come to be known as the “serenity prayer.” This prayer, which has been amended and perhaps overused to the point of being a bit “vanilla,” was written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr with more depth and, quite frankly, more Christ than the “gift store” versions. Here it is in its entirety:

“God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is—not as I would have it—trusting that You will make all things right, I surrender to Your will. I do this so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.” 

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

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To The Point for March 11 2020

A Word about the Word

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later.” But the disciples did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him. [Mark 9:31–32]

We are always afraid to talk about death. We ignore it. We send it away. Science has reduced life simply to biology—a brainwave, a heartbeat. Consequently, there is no meaning, no purpose, no eternal significance in life or death. But it is not so for the Christ follower, for our Lord spoke of his death as purposeful (“I give my life a ransom for many”) and as the gateway to his resurrection. His disciples, blinded by the mention of death, missed it. We mustn’t.

Close to Home
Recently, comedian Jim Carrey joked, “In the near future, we’ll only be able to communicate through devices. Actual human contact will be outlawed by the Apple iCourt.” 

Wow, if that doesn’t hit home. 

In Israel, we experienced Trinity’s worship service live on our tour bus. How fun! Listening to the sermon, our guide was impressed with the relevancy of Pastor Ty’s message. 

How convenient technology can be—and yet, as Carrey cautions us, how potentially impersonal and harmful…I think. There are virtual churches all over the place now. More effective, they say. Reach more people. There are people who may never go to a physical church, but they will watch a video. Churches are creating “venues” where people can watch their pastor in the convenience of their home or at Starbucks or wherever. And yet at what cost?

I am not trying to sound old here. Yes, I grew up with phone lines and snail mail and Trip-Tiks from AAA (ask someone; it’s the Stone Age GPS). And I love that we connected with Trinity’s worship service when we were halfway around the world. But the key word there was connect. Church is about connecting relationally with others. The digital world is about individualism. Ministry is about the slow process of spiritual formation and maturity. Technology is about speed and instantaneousness. 

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but let’s be wise. May I remind all of us that Christianity is first and foremost “incarnational.” Christ, the Eternal Son, joined us down here—really, not virtually. Trinity must be about community and presence and participation when we share the Word and the sacraments and our lives. Connect. We must. 

That’s why we do church and small groups. To connect—really and meaningfully.

The World as It Is
With COVID-19/Coronavirus hitting close to home, our workplaces and schools affected and taking strict measures, I want to assure you that Trinity is prayerfully and thoughtfully taking steps to ensure the health and physical wellbeing of our church family. From doubling up on cleaning and disinfecting all hard services, to warmly greeting with smiles and waves instead of handshakes, to serving pre-packaged communion elements when the time comes—we want everyone to have health confidence when coming to the Trinity campus.

As Christ followers, let us neither panic nor be dismissive in this moment. For such a time as this Christ has called us to shine as a light in a dark society. With our hope in Christ, let’s pray for the health workers, for our neighbors, and for the elderly and weaker among us. And, as opportunity allows, let’s let our light so shine before others that they see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

Did you know that the early Church made quite a reputation for themselves because of their care for the sick and diseased? Those Christians risked infection and even death caring for the sick among them. Roman Emperor Julian, no friend of the Christian Church, frustratingly described how many of his people were being led away from their devotion to the Roman gods by the caring witness of the Christians:

“Atheism [Julian’s slur against the Christian faith] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans [that would be the Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”  

Lord, compel your Church today to act similarly in the face of this Coronavirus!

#CultureNerd
Alright, this exhibit looks really cool (and not just because it includes some Beatles pics). Check it out here.
 
And Then There’s This…
Presently in Cincinnati the courts are arguing over the legality of aborting a child simply because it has Down syndrome. How sad! It makes me think of Brian, a young boy with DS that I met early in my ministry. I was his hero. And he mine.
I’ll see you on the other side.
Paul

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