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Jeff's letter for 5/13

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

P. O. Box 961690
Riverdale, Georgia 30296
(770) 997-7117                                           (770) 997-3312

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor                                                                                                                                                                                May 13, 2020

Dear Member,

     For reasons of safety, the Church Council is considering delaying the resumption of worship services until June 14. In the next day or two, Ken Foster, the President of the Congregation, will send out an email detailing what is decided.

     Attached is the prayer I will pray during our conference call tonight, May 13, at 7:00 PM. Please refer to Pastor Flanigan’s email for the phone number and access code. We hope you can join us!

     May God continue to grace us with the faith and strength we need for these days and sustain us with his love,

                                                                                                                                                        Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

Prayer for 5/13

 

A Prayer for Help in Knowing Just What to Do

                                                                          O Lord, it’s hard to know what to do these days –
                                                                                              do we stay in
                                                                                                          or do we go out,
                                                                                                                        do we dine in
                                                                                                                                       or do we dine out,
                                                                                                                   do we wear a mask
                                                                                                                                 or do we not wear a mask,
                                                                                          are we to still distance ourselves
                                                                                                      or can we get up close again,
                                                                                    should we continue to fear
                                                                                                                                 or should we
                                                                                                                           be afraid no longer,
                                                                                                                                                            and oh yes,
                                                                                                               are we to gladly die
                                                                                                          so that the economy may live?
                                                                                                                       (Any volunteers?)
                                                                                                                                                         That’s
                                                                                              how crazy it has become,
                                                                                                    so much confusion,
                                                                                                                 so much uncertainty,
                                                                                                                                     so much that is contradictory,
                                                                                                                               so many voices,
                                                                                                                                                        one advising this,
                                                                                                                                                   one advising that,
                                                                                                                                             one advising both this and that.

                                                                           O Lord, how do we know
                                                                                                                        what
                                                                                                                              we are to do?

                                                                            But the truth is, O Lord, we know what to do.
                                                                                                                           Help us
                                                                                                                                  to do it!
                                                                                                               Help us to listen for your voice
                                                                                                                      above all the others,
                                                                                             your voice calling us to use the brains you have given us
                                                                                                                  to make decisions
                                                                                                                               based on the best information
                                                                                                                                                  and not
                                                                                                                                            on utter nonsense;
                                                                                                           to use the good sense you have blessed us with
                                                                                                                               to do the right thing,
                                                                                                                                                          the responsible thing,
                                                                                                                                                                        not
                                                                                                                                             the reckless or self-serving thing;
                                                                                                      to use the heads you’ve put on our shoulders 
                                                                                                                   for the purpose you intended –
                                                                                                                          to be put together with the heads of others
                                                                                                                                                          and come up
                                                                                                                                                   with clear plans and
                                                                                                                                                                       real solutions.
                                                                                                                                      We know what to do.
                                                                                                                                                                               And so
                                                                                                 grace us with the faith and courage and strength
                                                                                                                                               to just
                                                                                                                                                       do it!

                                                                            We continue to pray, O Lord, for all those everywhere
                                                                                    who battle the coronavirus,
                                                                                                                      those who care for them,
                                                                                                                                                                     and all
                                                                                                               who are grieving for those who succumbed to the virus.
                                                                                                   And for those who have lost their jobs,
                                                                                             who struggle financially,
                                                                                        who are beginning to despair.
                                                                                                                                       Let us never grow weary
                                                                                                                                 of trying to help them
                                                                                                                            and supporting efforts to give them hope.
                                                                                                                                                            Let not
                                                                                                             compassion become a victim of fear
                                                                                                                                                                               or a causality
                                                                                                                                                                  of stupidity.

                                                                           O Lord, during these days of confusion and uncertainty
                                                                                         let your voice
                                                                                                       be the voice that calms us;
                                                                                                 let your presence
                                                                                                                      be the presence that quiets our fears;
                                                                                                               let your truth
                                                                                                                            be the truth that guides us;
                                                                                                                      so that in the days to come
                                                                                      hope, peace, even joy
                                                                                                                             will attend
                                                                                                                                                our way.

                                                                           Amen.

Pastor Jeff's Letter and Announcements 5/10/20

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

P. O. Box 961690
Riverdale, Georgia 30296
(770) 997-7117                               (770) 997-3312

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor                                                                                                                                                                                             May 9, 2020

Dear Member,

The Church Council will make a decision this week about resuming worship services on May 24th and we’ll let you know immediately what the decision is. While many of us certainly hope that we’ll be able to gather again on the 24th, the decision must rest not on what we’d like to do but on what it would be responsible to do and that means considering the latest numbers and best advice of healthcare officials so that we can come together safely.

In the meantime, we continue with our videos. To view this Sunday’s service, simply click on this link: https://youtu.be/ZgD9hV4FFLE

Concerning announcements…

          We will provide food for Calvary Refuge on Thursday, May 22. Before purchasing any items, please contact Carol Meyer (770-461-3448) to see what is needed so that we avoid duplications.

           Fayette Samaritans is in dire need of food items such as: canned goods (vegetables, fruit, spaghetti, meats, tuna, salmon) cereal; toilet paper; paper towels; and Kleenex. The items can be dropped off at church any weekday between 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM, or contact Sylvia to make alternative drop off agreements. Monetary donations are also very much needed, since shopping for food may be difficult for many people. If you have questions, please contact Sylvia McCullough (770-460-1001).

           And of course to all the mothers among us: Happy Mother’s Day!

 

With regard to our people…

          I’m glad to once again report that no member of the congregation has contracted the coronavirus.

May God continue to shepherd us through these days and grace us with the faith that trusts that all shall be well,

Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

Pastor Jeff's Message for 5/6/20

     As I write this, things are starting to go back to normal as more and more business are re-opening, people are beginning to shelter less and less, and traffic is increasing day after day. But frankly, I don’t want things to go back to normal because I really don’t care much for what had become normal before the virus struck. I want to move forward to a new normal and leave the old normal behind.

     And by new normal I mean what it has once again taken a crisis to make clear. And what has been made clear is that there are lots of people out there who are truly kind and compassionate, thoughtful and considerate, generous and just plain nice. They are people who know that we really do need one another, and value community, helping others out, being a neighbor, supporting one another, serving. That is what I mean by the new normal: people being their best, being human to one another, being real human beings.

     Somehow over the years, meanness and cruelty, fear and prejudice, anger and rudeness and a lack of consideration for others has become all too normal; people being their worst has become all too normal; truth and respect and kindness no longer normal at all. Add to that the fact that the word community has become obscene; “one nation, divided” has become our new motto as a country; the self, “me, me, me,” has become the god who is worshipped above all others. To top it all off, people have even come to celebrate the worst in others; have come to find meanness, demeaning others, humiliating others to be entertaining: have come to glorify violence. That’s the old normal I really didn’t care for and do not want to return to.

     But will we? When this current crisis passes, will we revert to form, to what has become normal? The sad reality is we usually do. Once a crisis passes, it’s back to business as usual, people no longer at their best, same old same old. It’s almost as if it’s too much of a strain to keep being our best, too demanding, too hard. And is that the truth of it?

     In a way it is because I think the reason we always return to the old normal is the fact that so many people do not have a faith, a belief, that calls them out of themselves day after day; that forms them with kindness and compassion, reverence and respect; that teaches them the wants that matter; that casts out their fear and undoes their prejudices; that trains them to serve more than their own needs, to serve others; that produces a strength of character, a love of truth, a commitment to do justice; that knows that without grace and mercy and forgiveness they don’t have a prayer. Without such a belief, a faith, that forms and shapes and teaches and trains and guides us day after day, we will always go back to the old normal. But the thing is, living out such belief, such faith, is demanding, is hard, requires a great deal of straining.

     There’s no mystery as to how we can establish a new normal. For we who call ourselves Christian it has to do with actually being Christian in a culture in which Christianity is hardly Christian at all. It has to do with being formed by the Gospel, shaped by the Spirit, following the way of Christ. It has to with obedience to God, obeying the command to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and love the neighbor as ourselves.

     Who knows? Maybe in this crisis we will hear a word of God powerful enough to bring us to our senses so that we bring an end to what has been normal for far too long.

 

 

 

     This piece, like the other piece, is about a new normal, but offers a different take on it. It has to do with sheltering in place, bluebirds, and a wondrous sight to behold. What I’m talking about is this.

     A few years ago, one of our daughters gave us a rustic, hand-made birdhouse that was built to look like — surprise! — a church. We loved it and installed it on a pole on our deck along with a bird-feeder nearby. No birds nested in the birdhouse, however, and the bird-feeder attracted only a single cardinal, two doves who were clearly in need of a weight-watchers regimen, and one very determined squirrel.

     But then this spring my wife Kitty read that if we put out a different kind of birdseed as well as dried mealworms, all kinds of birds, including bluebirds, would find their way to us. And they did. To our great delight, one bluebird couple even took up residence in the birdhouse. One day we happened to notice that mama bluebird was getting a bit plump and, sure enough, it wasn’t long before we heard little chirps coming from inside the birdhouse. We then watched as the parents started to fly back and forth from bird-feeder to birdhouse non-stop, no let-up, no coffee breaks. This went on for two weeks and more until one wondrous morning.

     As I was sitting at the kitchen table, I happened to look outside at the birdhouse and I couldn’t believe what I saw — a little beak was poking out. I called to Kitty to come and look and we became mesmerized as we watched the little guy stick his head out again and again getting up his nerve to leave his cozy nest behind. Finally, he squeezed out and plopped onto the platform protruding out at the base of the birdhouse. He stood there for the longest time, looking this way and that, taking in the strange new world all around him. He flapped his wings a few times as if to test them. Suddenly, he lifted off and flew somewhat erratically across to the neighbors’ house where he attached himself to the brick, clinging desperately, it seemed, to a tiny outcropping. After a few minutes, he apparently decided that he’d be far more comfortable sitting in a nearby tree rather than gripping a wall and so off he flapped and crash landed into the branches. He immediately began chirping very loudly, announcing his location to his exhausted parents to let them know in no uncertain terms that he was hungry again and, since he had no idea where the refrigerator was in his new surroundings, he expected them to bring him lunch.

     So what’s the point? Just this: if I hadn’t be sheltering in place, not allowed to hit the road and make visits, had the time to take time, I never would have seen the wondrous sight I saw, a sight I had never before seen, the sight of a baby bluebird venturing out into the world, taking its first flight. Normally, I would have been in a rush to get out the door, get on the road, get into the day. That was my normal: never enough time, always in a rush, scurrying here and there. It’s a normal that I don’t want to go back to. I like my new normal in which I have time to see and marvel at and be enthralled by some wondrous things.

     Now if you’ve been around for a good while, you’ll know that I often preach about noticing, seeing, looking — or rather, not noticing, not seeing, not looking. You’ve also probably figured out that I’m preaching to myself on those days and you are basically eavesdropping as I talk with myself. These sermons to myself work for a while but then it’s back to the old normal, the old normal I no longer like.

     But who knows? Maybe the crisis we’re in will speak a more powerful word of God to me than I preach to myself and, even as I start hitting the road again, I will actually take the time, make the time, each and every day, to see wondrous things that grace me with joy and lead me to give thanks to God.

     What a wonderful new normal that would be!

Prayer for 5/6/20

 

A Prayer to the Shepherd and Guardian of Our Souls

                                                                           O Lord, like a good shepherd you watch over us
                                                                                                                          and guard us
                                                                                                        and keep us safe.
                                                                                                Help us to trust that in your care
                                                                                          we lack nothing.
                                                                                                                    Restore our weary and battered spirits,
                                                                                                                                   and calm
                                                                                                                                         the chaos of worries within.
                                                                                                                Guide us along right paths,
                                                                                       and when we go through deep and fearful places,
                                                                                                                               go with us,
                                                                                                                                       comfort us
                                                                                                                                                          with your presence.
                                                                                                            Let hope and gladness overflow,
                                                                                                                                                                        and help us to see
                                                                                                 that your goodness and mercy accompany us
                                                                                                                     through all our days
                                                                                                                                                    until at last
                                                                                                                                you shepherd us home
                                                                                                and we dwell in your house
                                                                                                                          forever.

                                                                              O Lord, we continue to pray for all those everywhere
                                                                                            who battle the coronavirus
                                                                                                                                           and for all
                                                                                                                        who have lost someone to the virus.
                                                                                                                  And for those who have
                                                                                                           risked themselves,
                                                                                                                                            exhausted themselves,
                                                                                                     pushed themselves to the limit
                                                                                        to care for the stricken,
                                                                                                                                      we pray.
                                                                                                    And for those workers who have risked themselves
                                                                                                                       to make sure
                                                                                                                                           there is food in the stores,
                                                                                                                                     hospitals are cleaned,
                                                                                                                  packages are delivered,
                                                                                                                                                          and many other things
                                                                                               are done for the sake of our well-being.
                                                                                                             And we remember
                                                                                                                                              the millions who are unemployed,
                                                                                                                          those struggling to put food on the table,
                                                                                                         all who are hurting and who despair.
                                                                                            Move us to do what we can
                                                                                                                        and support 
                                                                                                                                       efforts to bring relief and hope
                                                                                                                                                                  to them.

                                                                                      O Lord, we are so ready for all of this to be over,
                                                                                                           so ready
                                                                                                                         to hug our families again,
                                                                                                                                                                hug our friends again,
                                                                                                                                                  go to church again,
                                                                                                                                    go where we want,
                                                                                                                             be free
                                                                                                  from fear and worry and anxiety.
                                                                                                                                                             And so we pray
                                                                                                                                                that you would work
                                                                                                                                         the miracle we need,
                                                                                                                                   the miracle
                                                                                           of people and businesses and leaders
                                                                                                                                                                   acting responsibly,
                                                                                                                                                      doing the right thing,
                                                                                                                           not the self-serving or political thing,
                                                                                                         and be part of the solution
                                                                                                                                                  not part of the problem.

                                                                                     O Lord, in these circumstances,
                                                                                                                                                      in all circumstance,
                                                                                                                                    help us to give thanks
                                                                                                                                                                    for your love
                                                                                                                                                             that casts out all fear
                                                                                                                                                                                and from which
                                                                                                                                           nothing can separate us.

                                                                                    Good Shepherd, let hope and peace
                                                                                                                                                             attend
                                                                                                                                                       our way
                                                                                                                                          as we trust
                                                                                                           that all shall be well.

                                                                                    Amen.

Letter for Sunday, May 3

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

P. O. Box 961690
Riverdale, Georgia 30296
(770) 997-7117                               (770) 997-3312

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor                                                                                                                                                      May 2, 2020

Dear Member,

As I announced in my Wednesday email, we are targeting Sunday, May 24th, as the day we will resume worship services and come together again at last! Whether or not we can hold to that date, however, will depend on a decline in the number of coronavirus cases. Above all, we want to be able to safely gather and not put anyone at risk. We will carefully monitor the situation and the moment the Church Council makes a decision we will let you know. To view this Sunday’s service, click on this link: https://youtu.be/c3RU9BwD1Cl. We hope the videos are helping you worship and stay connected to the congregation.

Concerning announcements…

         We will provide food for Calvary Refuge on Thursday, May 22. Before purchasing any items, please contact Carol Meyer (770-461-3448) to see what is needed so that we avoid duplications.

           Fayette Samaritans is in dire need of food items such as: canned goods (vegetables, fruit, spaghetti, meats, tuna, salmon) cereal; toilet paper; paper towels; and Kleenex. The items can be dropped off at church any weekday between 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM, or contact Sylvia to make alternative drop off agreements. Monetary donations are also very much needed, since shopping for food may be difficult for many people. If you have questions, please contact Sylvia McCullough (770-460-1001).


With regard to our people… 

It is still the case that no member of the congregation has contracted the coronavirus.

 Carolyn Herche wishes to thank the congregation for their cards, calls, and expressions of sympathy upon the death of their mothers.

May God continue to uphold us with hope and gladness during these days and give us the strength to do the right and responsible thing,

Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

Letter for April 29

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

P. O. Box 961690
Riverdale, Georgia 30296
(770) 997-7117                                      (770) 997-3312

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor                                                                                                                                 April 29, 2020

Dear Member,

      Sunday, May 24th, is the target date, the date on which we hope to resume our worship services and come together at last! Now I say “target date” and “hope to” because it all depends on whether the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase or begins to decline. That’s the problem: determining when and on what basis we can safely gather depends on what happens in the next week or two. As matters clarify, the Church Council will set a firm date and we will let you know immediately what it is. In the meantime, however, I wanted to let you know that it won’t be long now!

      Concerning the conference call we will do tonight, April 29, at 7:00 PM, I have attached the prayer I will pray at the conclusion of the call. As always, please refer to Pastor Flanigan’s email for the contact number and access code.

      May God continue to be our refuge and strength during this time and lift us in hope and gladness day after day,

                                                                                                          Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

PS: If you are in need of a mask, Judy Cable has offered to provide a handmade mask to anyone without one. Please contact the church office (770-997-7117) to place your mask request.

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