WEEK  OF April 5, 2020

       Tuesday            Main  Street Food Pantry opens, 1-3 P.M., located @ 115 N.  Main  Street, Fortville, IN 46040   
                                                                        Food Pantry will be opened April 7th
                                                                                      Tuesday Evening Bible Study , 6:00 P.M., Fireplace Room (Canceled until further notice)

                                                            Wednesday      Wednesday Morning Bible Study, 10:00 A.M., Fireplace Room  (Canceled until further notice)                                                                                     
                                                            Thursday           Thursday Morning Bible Study, 9:30 A.M.,  Fireplace Room  (Canceled until further notice)
                                                                                         Handbell Practice, 6:00 P.M.  (Canceled until further notice)

                                                             Sunday                       (see devotion below for Apr 5 Palm Sunday below and Holy Thursday)
                                                                                    APRIL 12, APRIL 19,  and APRIL 26 Worship Service has also been  canceled - sermons will be posted below.
Holy Thursday Meditation 
As some of you perhaps did, I watched the film "The Ten Commandments" on TV again the other night.  Wed. April 8 is the first day of Passover for our Jewish friends.  It is celebrated by eating unleavened bread and bitter herbs to remind them of their bondage as slaves in Egypt prior to the Exodus.  Of course Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover celebration when he observed it as the Last Supper with his disciples which we commemorate on Thursday of Holy Week.  It is portrayed as a Passover meal with the apostles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not in John.  The Gospel of John has a different chronology.  In John Thursday is the day before Passover, and the lambs to be eaten at the Passover meal on Friday evening will be killed on Friday afternoon at about the same time Jesus dies.  Thus John points to Jesus as the new Passover lamb, slain for the sins of the world. In John's gospel Jesus has a final meal with his apostles, teaches them, and prays for protection, mutuality, and unity among the believers since they will face difficult times.

See John Chapter 13 through Chapter 17.

            Can we trust God in the midst of dire circumstances?  Jesus most certainly did.  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, from Indiana, said this week ahead would be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives.  It would be our Pearl Harbor and 9/11 moment happening all over the country. He said, "There is hope, but we all have to do our part."  A rabbi from Long Island said, "I am no Moses, but I can assure you keeping social distance even at the expense of having limited people at the Seder table is now one of the Ten Commandments at least for the time being."  We must pray and act at the same time.

            G.K. Chesterton asked, "How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans."  Our lives have certainly been upended in a way that many of us thought would never happen.  And all this is occurring when we are in the midst of major decision making regarding the future of  our local church ministry and outreach. We must respond with both prayer and action, but even that is frightening.  If to pray means to change it is no wonder that we hesitate and fashion protective clothing to help us stay as we are.  It is no wonder that we seek quick, unproven solutions. Self chosen sacrifices are nearly always inferior to the ones existential situations throw our way.

            We can pray.  We can pray for the safety of front line health care workers and first responders.  We can assist them by social distancing.  We can pray for an increase in the immune system of people throughout the world.  We can pray that the best outcome will prevail, both globally and here at our own local congregation with decisions that confront us.  And we must believe that Christ is in the midst of us.   "This is my body, broken for you.  This is my blood, shed for you."  As our conference superintendent reminded us, "focus less on ourselves and more on Christ, speak into anxiety with truth and peace, and focus upon God's mercy.

 In God's Blessing, Pastor Joe

Devotion forApril 5 (Palm Sunday)

There was quite a scene on that first Palm Sunday.  Thousands of travelers were converging on Jerusalem to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Passover.  Passover was like America's 4th of July celebration.  It was the Hebrew Independence Day.  It was a celebration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt under the domination of Pharoah.    And it is in that context as a new Moses, a liberator, that Jesus entered Jerusalem that day from the Mt. of Olives on the east as Pontius Pilate would have been coming into the city from the west.  It was customary for the Roman procurator, who lived on the coast at Caesarea, to come to the city for festival days.  Luke tells us Jesus entered the city on a colt that has never been ridden.  Cloaks were thrown on the ground before him as he entered the city.  Contrast that with Pilate's procession which would have been filled with symbols and soldiers emphasizing the might of Rome.  Pilate himself probably entered the city riding a stallion.

       A cowboy who heard this story commented, "Jesus must have had wonderful hands."  He explained that if Jesus could sit on a colt upon which no one had sat, if he could soothe it and control it and guide it while people were shouting and running all around him, Jesus must have had wonderful hands.

         But Jesus was far more than a horse whisperer.  He was a teacher and healer and miracle worker.  He was the incarnation of the coming kingdom of God.  He challenged oppressive systems that denied the aims and goals of that kingdom.  He wept over Jerusalem and said in verse 42, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.  But now they are hidden from your eyes."  Luke tells us Jesus then gave a prediction of the coming destruction of the temple by the Romans, which did occur in A.D. 70.  He then entered the temple and drove out the money changers, saying that what was designed as a house of prayer had turned into a den of robbers and thieves.

       We need to understand that the temple in the first century was both a place of worship and sacrifice as commanded in Hebrew Scriptures as well as a national bank.  It was the center of both a local and an imperial tax system.  The taxes were on agricultural production.  There was also a temple tax paid by Jewish men over a certain age.  The temple was also the center of the Roman government tax system, and temple authorities had responsibility for choosing tax collectors who would collect and pay tribute due to Rome.  Remember Zacchaeus? Records of debt were stored in the temple.  Rome even had a hand in choosing the local high priest, which at this time would have been Caiaphas.

        There was nothing wrong with worship and sacrifice.  They had been mandated by earlier Hebrew scriptures.   And as individuals, the high priest and temple authorities were probably honest, hard working, and faithful to family and friends.  The issue, as one scholar has pointed out, was not their individual virtue or wickedness, but the role they played in the domination system of collusion with Rome.  They shaped it, enforced it, and profited from it.  Jesus was opposed to religious collaboration with injustice.

           God never rejected justice because of lack of worship.  God frequently rejected worship because of a lack of justice.  See Amos 5: 21-24, Isaiah 1: 11-17, Hosea 6: 6. etc.  Jesus invites us to use what power and privilege we have to say no to dominant and oppressive systems that do not reflect the values of the kingdom of God.  

         What about us?  We are caught up in various systems as well.  Funding had previously been cut for a national pandemic task force and the CDC.  Why?  To save money and apply those funds elsewhere to what were believed to be in all honesty higher priorities.  Who would have thought that our modern nation could be subject to such a scourge as a runaway virus?  But this has happened before in history. We experienced the devastating  "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918.  I lost my biological grandmother on my mother's side of the family to that when she was in her early 30's.  Scholars think that over one third of Europe's population perished during the Black Plague.  

         Matthew Continetti, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that "it's a noble and frightening future we're facing.  A society long driven by the pursuit of happiness at all costs may have to rearrange its social and moral priorities.  But it may also give us a newfound sense of national solidarity."

        The historical destruction of the Jewish temple changed the religion of Judaism forever.  Ritual sacrifice ceased and the focus centered on scripture and synagogue.  Jesus called us all to repent and believe in the good news.  To repent is to go beyond the mind we presently have and not only contrition for sin.  It means to trust in the news that the kingdom of God is here and to commit to that kingdom via our words, actions, and choices.  A virus knows no political party.  God does not favor one political party over any other.  

        It is important to note that although Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the cleansing of the temple at the end of Jesus' ministry, John's Gospel places it at the very beginning as sort of a framework or bookend to the mission of Jesus. (John 2, verse 13 and those following).  Jesus knows that we are all sinners, loves us unconditionally, comes to redeem and save us from our sins, and invites us to follow him to promote peace, equity, righteousness, and justice.  That is the meaning of the first Palm Sunday.     
                                                                                            God Bless, Pastor Joe

Luke 19:29-48 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”[a]

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45 Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46 and he said, “It is written,

‘My house shall be a house of prayer’;
    but you have made it a den of robbers.”

47 Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.​​​​​​​

Our Food Pantry will be open every Tuesday each month from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM at 115 North Main Street, Fortville, IN in the basement.
                                                                                                (Food Pantry will be opened April 7th)

 APRIL 2020
 April 7, Food Pantry will be open
April 12, Worship Service 10:00 - EASTER Sunday (CANCELED)
April 19, Worship Service 10:00 - (CANCELED)
April 26, Worship Service 10:00 - (CANCELED)
May 3 - TBD (Check our website to see if we will have public service) 
There are 2 Adult Sunday School classes offered on Sundays at 9am; 1 in the Fireplace Room and 1 in Friendship Hall.  The lower level can be accessed from any side of the building.  Also we have 2 Children Sunday School classes on Sunday at 9am; Kindergarten to 5th grade in the Junior High Room and 6th grade to 8th grade in the Toddlers Room.
We have a Children's Moment during our 10 am worship time then children ages 3 through 5th grade may go to Children's Church for a Bible lesson and craft.

Office Hours -- Open Monday and Thursday from 8am-4pm and Wednesday from 8am until Noon. 
                   Should you have an emergency need, you can leave a message
              at the church office @ 317-485-5418 or at the parsonage @ 317-485-5012.