• Rev. JC Powell

It is an understatement to say that life as we know it has been drastically changed. In a very short time, the old normal has become the new normal. During this time my family moved from being together for a baptism to having our daily lives restricted. Our jubilation turned into concern for the whole world. Most of our St. Andrew’s family has had similar experiences. As a church family we have gone from worshipping together at St. Andrew’s to worshipping via live streaming, from meeting physically with children and youth to sharing virtual experiences. This has been the experience of most, if not all other churches.


However, the new normal must not stand. God has not forsaken us, and we must not forsake Him. With the strength and courage that only God can give we will face every day with confidence. We will have peace and hope because we know to whom we belong, and we still have each other.

Can some good come out of this chaos? Sensitive hearts will grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, while words of praise will be said for those who have been on the front line fighting the virus. Joy will return when the victory is won, and it will be won and then we can again embrace one another with Christian love. But why wait?

No, it isn’t the same, but we can embrace one another with words of kindness, concern, and love. Why not use this “down time” to seriously communicate with God and others we know and love? There are many ways to reach out to others. We are all familiar with social media. Why put off doing what your heart is telling you to do? What is God saying to you? After all, all we really have in this world is God and each other. Love may not be able to cure the coronavirus, but expressions of love and concern can go a long way toward helping us deal with it. This is one of the “goods” that can come out of this chaos.

As the coronavirus quickly changed our lives, so Jesus discovered how quickly His circumstances could change. On Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd, but by Friday he was being jeered as the crowd called for his death. On Sunday he was being treated like a king, but on Friday he was treated like a criminal. Crucify him, the crowd said. His time on earth was coming to an end. He was completing His mission in the face of hate, anger, and persecution. Could any good come from this?

Yes, if we listen. The last prayer of Jesus before going to the Garden of Gethsemane was about unity and love. At least three times he asked the Father to “let them be one as you and I are one.” May God help us in this difficult time to also focus on unity and love. It is the good that may come from the chaos.

We will get through this because God is in it with us, not as a spectator, but as a participant. The new normal will not stand. I know this because God’s got this.


#godsgotthis #goodfromchaos #aplaceforgrace



  • garrettrocha4

Over the past few weeks, I've seen, heard, and read Psalm 46. Last week JC preached on it, and the Bishop shared it as a closing prayer to clergy across the conference. It is one of my favorite scriptures because it inspires me to find peace and create peace in moments of crisis. It reminds me of the mysterious and tremendous power of God. God's presence on earth shakes the mountains and troubles the seas. God is the one that destroys the objects and obsessions of war and declares that He is the God of all. It shows God’s love of God’s people, God’s city, and all those who made up the nations (once at war), so that all that is left is God and people.


It is funny, but that is where I hang my understanding of John Wesley's image of God. He described it as our being in full relationship with God. In the scene painted by the psalm, I come to see that more clearly. By the end of the psalm, humans are merely in God's presence with one another.

That must be an exciting place. In some way, that must be what holy solitude is. Our feelings of separation are all too real for us at this moment. There are gripping anxieties, and fears to be in public, touch doorknobs, or even be in the presence of others. The concern for health, following the expertise and guidance of our medical and health professionals, is essential, but it can lead to loneliness and despair for many.

I am inspired by my wife, who hosts virtual coffee dates with friends and family. Everyone is feeling the effects of isolation. I am a social person, so I have been struggling with social distancing, but the cost of going to public spaces for human interaction is too steep, and there are many other ways to fulfill that need. Her actions gave me pause to think about my needs and worries as a person and a disciple. This time of social distancing is a time in which we can discover something about ourselves and one another. Now is a time where we can practice solitude, a time of spiritual spring cleaning if you will. It is a time to lay out those fears and anxieties we harbor in our heart of hearts and listen to how God wants us to grow.

I have learned that my business of being a pastor has affected my spiritual practices. With this unstructured time, I am remembering the importance of art, literature, and cooking as sources of my joy and catalysts for prayer and scripture reading. With the extra time for prayer, I am seeing my limitations and seeking God's hand in those areas. Also, I remember that I am a person who needs to spend more intentional time amid God’s natural creation. Tending to those spiritual practices is unraveling knots of stress and offering me a more flexible and creative mind when working alongside you all in ministry.

Spiritual solitude can sound like an odd practice to undertake. To some, it may seem like an ancient monastic (monk) practice that would have no space in modern society. I would point you to Henri Nowen’s small book The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry. He describes solitude as the furnace of transformation. Without it, we are yet slaves to our society and the selves we fashion to fit into it. Solitude is a place of the struggle (against that false self we create) and the encounter with the loving God. In scripture, we see Jesus go into the wilderness and be tempted. He was tempted with the needs of the body, with power, and with grandeur. We can relate to those same motives in our lives today. Unfortunately, it can be a ground of identity for some. Sometimes we can strive to be the most powerful, the most relevant, the perfect mother/father, or the most excellent pastor. We can quickly lose the self that God created in the pursuit of excellence. Jesus rejects those temptations and finds his identity in God. Jesus is no less relevant, compelling, or grand, as we see in the rest of the gospels. Jesus is humble and seeks to live fully with God. The challenge is knocking our idols and ideals off the sacred places in our hearts and minds that are reserved for God. It is to be fully who God created us to be. It prepares us to be vulnerable and face our greed, anger, lust, fear, or whatever else and turn to God for transformation.

In a practical sense, what does that mean? Perhaps, if you are like me, you have forgotten something in your daily prayer and devotional life. Or maybe you are struggling with following God's prompts in your personal life. Whatever it may be, God is present always to love and guide you. I encourage you to read through the Lenten devotional that the church put together. There are lovely focusing prayers to help you in this practice of solitude. Music is another powerful tool that allows us to meditate on scripture. You may have noticed the beginning of many psalms include instructions that hint that they were sung in worship. I encourage you to share psalms, hymns, and other music that comforts or inspires you with others this week.

May you grow in surprising ways during this time. May you be filled with inspiration to act on those things you discover. And may those actions bring connection, hope, kindness, and grace in this time of social distancing. Here is a psalm, a hymn, and a song! I hope they bless you.

Psalm 121


Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown – Charles Wesley

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfVUGob7Uvw

Hand of God – Jon Bellion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYdmI0o3XNQ

I hope to see you online Sunday at NINE45, or 11:15 for worship. Blessings upon you, and I cannot wait to see you!


Blessings

Pastor Garrett


#Lent #sacredspace #solitude #socialdistancing #hope #godmoments #aplaceforgrace #placeoftransformation




Before I left the house today, I looked in the counter where we keep our medications, and noticed that I have several prescriptions that are still current if I should need them. I don’t think I’m that different from most of you, in that, your medicine cabinet or storage place probably has bottles of unused pills waiting for a time when you might need them.


In preparing for this Sunday’s message, I realized that the Bible is full of prescriptions that God has left for us to take—but so often we don’t open this container either. In the Gospel of John, God has offered to everyone a full prescription for life. The question for us to ponder together on Sunday is what are we prepared or willing to do with this prescription.


After most of our visits to the doctor, we receive a prescription to help with our healing. We then have a choice to pick it up at the pharmacy of our choice or not. And if we pick it up, the bottle has clear directions on how it should be taken—but we each still have a choice as to whether we will follow those directions or not. Generally included is that these should be taken unto all the pills are gone.


Much the same is true for God’s prescription for our lives —it has been filled through the life and death of Jesus Christ, but what will we do with this prescription? Will we receive it, take it into our lives or leave it unopened?


Come and join us Sunday as we discuss this prescription, and your response to God’s most generous gift. See you in His house Sunday.


#aplaceforgrace



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3315 S. Bryan Rd. | Brandon, FL 33511 | 813.689.6849

Sunday Worship: 8:15, 9:45, 11:15 a.m.