Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 28:16-20.
Devotional Scripture ~ Jonah 2:9.
This Sunday South Shore UMC welcomes Rev. Mark Becker as our guest preacher. Mark is an ordained Elder in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church and currently serves as the President of The Florida United Methodist Foundation. Mark is a veteran of the United States Navy. I am grateful for his service and leadership - for our country and in our church - and I am looking forward to the good word he will share with our church this Sunday!
Two phrases are really starting to get on my nerves...
These are unprecedented times... and Welcome to the new normal...
And as much as these phrases are getting on my nerves...they are on my nerves because of the deep and haunting truth they speak. We are living through an experience that few, if any, of us have lived through before now. It is not something we can escape...as we wear masks out in public, restrict our personal activities, continue washing our hands even though the skin is so parched and dry, wince when we hear someone cough or sneeze, shudder when the person coughing or sneezing is us! The whole world and our place in it feels dissociative...out of sync.
Uncomfortable circumstances tend to prompt uncharacteristic behaviors in us...tempers can become shorter, patience can all but evaporate, snarkiness and sarcasm - or worse - usurp the sweetness of spirit God desires that we have. Some turn to coping mechanisms to help - some are healthy, while others are not. Some people invest deeper into relationships, while others find themselves alone more and more.
I have found myself sighing... A lot. That exasperated release of air like I am just plum worn-out even though the day has just begun. Andrew is even picking up on it now, and is quick to ask how I am or how he can help. His questions have made me more sensitive to my own behaviors, identifying the moments where acts and thoughts that are uncharacteristic of me - and the me God wants me to be - manifest so that I can course-correct to my true self...
My true self who is not weary and worn. My true self that is not full of complaints and fear. But my true self that practices - literally practices what I preach - walking in faith, rather than by sight, towards God's intended future, come what may, pandemic and all.
The prophet Jonah lived in unprecedented times... to my knowledge no one else has ever lived three days in the belly of a fish. Welcome to the new normal, Jonah! Complete with fresh fish smell!
Jonah ran from God rather than attend to the work to which God called him. Swallowed up in the fish, a consequence of his own choices - his own willful uncharacteristic behaviors - Jonah could have continued his complaining. His whining. His prejudices against the people of Nineveh. But deep within the bowels of that fish, Jonah reconnected with his true self and took an intentional-accountable-reconcilable step in faith towards God. The movement of the prophet would later be mirrored by the people of Nineveh. He, too, practiced first hand (first fin?) what he preached.
Our devotional Scripture is the closing verse of Jonah's Thanksgiving Psalm to God. Even in the midst of unprecedented times and his difficult new normal Jonah worshipped God. Jonah was moved in gratitude towards God. "As my life was ebbing away," Jonah said, "I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord” (v. 7-9).
Jonah could not bring himself out of those unprecedented times, out of his new normal. But God could.
And God did. Jonah's psalm ended and the Lord spoke to the fish, which spat the prophet onto dry land.
I trust that God is bringing us through this season. I trust that deliverance does indeed belong to the Lord. And I wonder...I wonder...what would happen if all of us - collectively - united our hearts and heads and hands in prayers to and praises of God...if this behavior - of which we are all capable - supplanted uncharacteristic behaviors that we have adopted or succumbed to in this season - was our only behavior. It is in our power to do this. It is in our agency to choose prayers to and praises of God over complaining, over short tempers, over lack of patience, over destructive behaviors. Friends, it is possible that God is waiting on us to make this change! And since this is in our power and agency to do, then friends, let's.do.it.!
Reflection: We can praise God for who God is, even when life feels overwhelming. How and for what are you praising God for during this unprecedented time? During this new normal? Share your response with a trusted family member or friend.
Prayer: “Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest, wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are thine; teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.”* Amen.
*“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” The United Methodist Hymnal 89.
Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal