Messages during Covid-19 Crises

RSS Feed

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.

Prayer for April 29

 

A Prayer for a New Normal

                                             O Lord, once again it has taken a crisis
                                                                 for us to realize
                                                                          that there are many people in our land who are
                                                                                                                  truly
                                                                                                       kind and compassionate,
                                                                                          thoughtful and considerate,
                                                                                   generous and just plain nice,
                                                               people who value community,
                                                                                                                          helping one another,
                                                                                                               supporting one another.
                                                                                                                                                             And so,
                                                                                                    as businesses begin to re-open
                                                                           and we take the first steps in resuming our lives,
                                                                                                             let us not
                                                                                          go back to the old normal,
                                                               but go forward to a new normal,
                                                                                                                                 a new normal
                                                                                                      of people being their best.

                                                   O Lord, 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,
                                                                                    respect,
                                                                                           kindness,
                                                                                                 no longer normal at all,
                                                                                                                                               Forgive us
                                                                 and grace us with the strength of character,
                                                                                                                             the courage,
                                                                                                                      the resolve,
                                                                       not to return to the way things were
                                                                              but reinforce the way things
                                                                                                                should be.

                                                    And we ask too, O Lord, that you would give us
                                                                                     the good sense
                                                                        to continue acting responsibly
                                                                   as businesses begin operating again
                                                             and do what we need to do to protect others
                                                                                              and not just ourselves. 

                                                  And we continue to pray, O Lord, for all who are
                                                                                   battling the virus,
                                                                             and those who are at risk
                                                                       caring for them day after day.
                                                                                                                           And we remember
                                                               those who have succumbed to the virus
                                                         and those who grieve for them.
                                                                                                             And we pray for
                                                                                                all who risk themselves
                                                                                          to provide for our well-being,
                                                                                     and the unemployed,
                                                                            those who aren’t sure how they will be able
                                                                                                to put food on the table,
                                                               those who have had enough
                                                                                                                   and despair.
                                                        Heal them! Comfort them! Lift them in hope!
                                                                                         And move us
                                                                                    to be there for them
                                                                               in whatever way we can.

                                               O Lord, be our refuge and strength,
                                                             a very present help in the trouble we are in,
                                                        and through our actions,
                                                                          through the research of scientists in labs
                                                                                                     around the world,
                                                                                         through nations coming together,
                                                                                                                         bring
                                                                                                                   the end of the virus
                                                                                                                                 and work
                                                                                                      the beginning of
                                                                     a new and hope-filled
                                                                                                            normal!

                                             Amen.

Announcements for Sunday 4/26

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

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

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor                                                                                                                           April 25, 2020

Dear Member,

      The Church Council has not yet set a date on which we will begin gathering for worship again but, in all likelihood, it will not be before mid-May, given the fact that many members are not comfortable venturing out before then. In the meantime, we will continue to do videos of Sunday services. To view this Sunday’s service, click on this link: Https://Youtu.be/KVgpm6jJv7Q. We hope the videos are helping you worship and stay connected to the congregation.

                  Regarding 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: i. e. 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).

             Since we have not yet resumed ministries and activities, we will not publish a Scribe in May. We will, however, email the birthday and prayer lists along with my article.

Concerning our people:

          Pastor Berkobin is stable and has not suffered any further heart attacks.

          No member of the congregation has contracted the coronavirus, I’m glad to say, and most members are doing rather well (though cabin fever has set in big time!)

          Lynn Carroll and Nancy Norris wish to thank the congregation for their cards, calls, and expressions of sympathy upon the death of their mothers.

        The sympathy of the congregation and the strength and hope we share in the resurrection of Christ is extended to Barbara Gordin and her family upon the death of her brother.

         May God continue to grace us with the good sense and patience and strength to keep doing what is needed to control the virus and bring us safely together again at last,

Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

Good Friday letter from Pastor Jeff

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

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

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor                                                                                                                                                                                          April 10, 2020

Dear Member,

     Attached is a section of the Good Friday service. I hope it will guide your devotions or prayers or thoughts on this Good Friday when we must remain apart.

     May the God who gave all for our sake and continues to deliver us from one day to the next in his love for us love us through it all unto a hope that is unfailing,

                                                                                                                                                                      Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

Good Friday Message

Good Friday                                                                                                                                                                               The Reverend Jeffrey M. Halenza
April 10, 2020                                                                                                                                                                         Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

Reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ

First Word:                                          And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

     But of course we do know, do know what we are doing, know very well what we are doing. That is our guilt. That is our shame.

     And yet, perhaps we do not know what we do. Perhaps we do not realize that with our cruel words and the prejudices we voice, with our thoughtless actions or our failure to act, with our angers and bitternesses, with our going along with our culture and our unwillingness to be shaped by and live out the Gospel, we do kill Christ, kill his love, kill hope. If people do not see in us who profess to be Christian the love of Christ, then we are crucifying him all over again.

     Father, forgive us.

 

Second Word:                               And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

     And that is our hope: that someday we shall be with Christ in Paradise.

     But if our hope is based on our own goodness or religiousness or even faith, then we have no hope. For we are no different than the thief on the cross who pleaded for Jesus to remember him: our hope rests on God’s grace and mercy alone. That is the stark truth of the cross. The cross was made necessary by the way world is, the way we are.

     And our only hope and prayer is that of the thief’s: “Remember me.” 

 

Third Word:                                   And Jesus said, “This is your son… This is your mother.”

     At the end, Jesus spoke to his mother’s deepest need and gave her a son to be the son he was never able to be to her. Jesus said that his true family were all who believed in him and he put that family above Mary and his own family and it must have hurt her deeply. But her greatest pain was to watch him die – it was like a sword piercing her heart. And so, Jesus gave her another son to love and a son who would love her and take care of her.

     At the end, Jesus forgot his own pain and spoke to Mary’s pain. As believers who are part of his family and who are to be like family to one another, we are to do the same: we are to forget ourselves and look after the other, love one another.

     Love with the very same love seen on the cross.

 

Fourth Word:                                    And Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

     And we ourselves know something about that – what it is like to feel forsaken by God, for God not to be there when we need him most.

     The Bible speaks as much about God’s absence as it does God’s presence and Jesus himself experienced that absence in his worst moment. But still, he held fast to God, cried out to God. Faith describes what we do in our worst moments, what we do when God is nowhere in sight.

     To cry out to the absent God is faith, the very faith of Jesus that carried him out the other side of death to life.

 

Fifth Word:                                           And Jesus said, “I thirst.”

     And we too thirst – thirst for love, peace, joy, something to fill the empty place down deep inside. Spiritual thirst can be as bad as physical thirst. Both can lead to death, whether it be the death that is despair or the death of the body. So powerful is thirst that we will do most anything to quench it and much of what we see in our culture today is just that: people filling themselves with everything they can in the hope that it satisfy their longing. 

     Jesus once said that whoever believes in him will never be thirsty, because he was like a spring of life-giving water that can quench our deepest thirst. And yet, he himself thirsted.

     He is a Savior who chose to know our thirst so that he would be a Savior in whom we could believe and thirst no more.

 

Sixth Word:                                        And Jesus said, “It is finished.”

     But did Jesus mean that his life was at an end or that he had fulfilled his purpose? Both: for by being obedient unto death he completed his work, fulfilled God’s purpose of redeeming his creation. He did what he set out to do, what God called him to do. In John’s gospel, they are the last words Jesus spoke and they are words of triumph.

     And you and I? What will our last words be? Will they be, “If only…” or “I wish…” or “I regret not doing…”? Or will we say, “I have lived my purpose, I have obeyed God’s call, I have completed what I set out to do”? As with Jesus, so too with us: the choice is ours.

     What Jesus finished was the working of our salvation, setting us free to be what God calls us to be. If we choose to live in the power of that salvation, then our last words can be words of if not triumph, certainly words of thankfulness and praise.

 

Seventh Word:                               And Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

     As death approached, Jesus commended his spirit to God, entrusted himself to the God who had promised to see him through death unto life. It was his final act of faith.

     And as death approaches, that is all each of us can do: entrust ourselves to God’s grace and mercy, commend our spirits to his care. We die as we live: in faith, the faith that trusts that we will be safe in the hands of God and that God will raise us up also at the last. 

     The cross of Christ is ultimately a love story: the story of a lover giving all for the sake of the beloved. Because God gave all for the sake of our salvation, we can dare to trust his love for us and, like Jesus, love him through death unto life.

Maundy Thursday Letter from Pastor Jeff

 

Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

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

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor
April 9, 2020

Dear Member,

     For years, the way we observed Maundy Thursday was to gather in the Fellowship Hall for a simple meal of soup and crackers. Following the meal, I would deliver a sermon and then we would commune one another as we sat around a table made up of several tables arranged to be one. The service then concluded in the sanctuary.

     The attached sermon is one I did nearly every year and I’m passing it along in the hope it will help you observe Maundy Thursday at home in some way. The characterizations draw heavily from the writings of Frederick Bucchner and I gladly acknowledge my indebtedness to him.

     Not being able to gather for Holy Week services makes this not only a very strange but also very difficult week, but I hope you will make time each day to remember the story of those days and what it says to us today.

     We continue to pray for all those everywhere who have contracted the coronavirus and for the families of those who have succumbed to it. And we pray for all those who are risking their health to assure our health and protection and well-being. And for all who are struggling financially and worried about putting food on the table. Move us to do whatever we can to help and give us the strength to keep sheltering in place for the good of all.

     May the God who is a very present help in trouble be with us in this trouble and lead us beyond it,

                                                                                    Pastor Halenza

JMH/nvn

Posts