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Religious organizations have a really bad history when it comes to setting prophetic dates. In fact, there are so many misses and false predictions that it’s easier to identify the proper and acceptable prophecies that were legitimately fulfilled: there are none (outside of scripture). Paul the psychic octopus had a better track record of picking winners of the World Cup soccer tournament, and he was nevertheless chopped up and served as hors d’eouvres.
We are warned in Scripture about the pitfall that comes from date-setting. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Paul makes reference to Christ’s instruction when he assures the church in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” And in Acts 1:7, some of Jesus’s last words on Earth were to state, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
And so, I would therefore like to think that my inability to firmly establish dates and times for our upcoming Lenten services is driven by the testimony of Scripture. Sadly, I don’t think that argument holds up to the scrutiny of biblical exegesis. All attempts at humor and levity aside, we do face difficult times that are making attempts at scheduling more challenging.
I have greatly struggled to plan events in light of the restrictions we face as we struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Various mutations of this virus have been identified in the country, including one discovered in Columbus, Ohio (I can only assume this was a result of its disappointment that the Buckeyes didn’t win the national title…). According to epidemiologists, this mutated strain is identical to the new strain in the UK, and it appears to be more transmissible as well as more intense. As such, another shutdown is highly possible.
Throughout this ordeal, we have sought to be good and wise stewards of the ministry of God. I fully understand that many folks do not have access to the electronic versions of sermons and Bible studies. And of course, I eagerly yearn for us to worship together, but I certainly do not want to put anyone at unnecessary risk. Many folks who have struggled with this virus agree with this sentiment.
After long consideration and prayer over the matter, I believe we are called to move forward trusting that those who feel uncomfortable attending will keep themselves safe. Of course, if we find out that someone who was in attendance comes down with COVID we will again shut down for two weeks. In the meantime, however, we are going to plan to have an Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7:00 pm, which will include the anointing of ashes for those who so desire. We will also have a Good Friday service at 7:00 pm on April 2, but at this time I’m not sure if we will try to have an Easter Sunrise service. The children’s ministry is also planning to have a Vacation Bible School in July. As we get closer to this and more events, we will try to keep the congregation informed through announcements, Facebook, and this newsletter.
Now comes the hard part: we need everyone to continue being patient and filled with grace – not only for these events but for our efforts to keep everyone informed. We may very well need to cancel various activities, perhaps even in a last-minute fashion, so please help keep everyone informed through phone calls and conversations.
And finally, please continue to lift up all of the ministries of the church in prayer, that we will not have further outbreaks or cancellations.
May God bless you richly as we enter the Lenten season!
All for His glory, Byron