Grace, mercy, peace, and good health to us all!
I’m writing yet again to alert you of recent directives’ changes that influence our church. The Federal Government’s directive for the nation and the Commonwealth’s directive for all 67 counties is to Stay-in-Place until Thursday, April 30, 2020. Though religious institutions deemed “essential” have guidelines that say a maximum of only 10 people may gather while practicing social distancing protocols. Therefore, we’ve suspended all church-related and non-church-related activities until after April 30, at the least. One directive’s exception is broadcasting weekly Sunday services at 9:00 a.m. and, next week, a Good Friday Tenebrae Service at 7:00 p.m.
Several people are working diligently to keep the church’s ministry on track. Their commitment is inspiring to me. Gratefully, two Zoom Meetings this week have resulted in a plan for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Details will reach you in an e-mail tomorrow, April 2. Please be in prayer for the exceptional people who put themselves at some health risk to produce live stream services to keep our connection secure in this uncertain time.
One way you could express your gratitude for provisions and blessings is to keep your contributions and donations flowing to meet expenses. I sympathize with those who are currently laid off, furloughed, unemployed or underemployed and are not able to meet pledges or intentions to give. Reach me if you need assistance! We have limited resources to share on a case by case basis. Otherwise, please help your church. Giving at https://www.lansdaleumc.org/tithe/ is quick and efficient! Thank you!
If you’ve accessed news sources recently, you’ve found stories of two pastors arrested for violating their states’ virus mitigation regulation to limit groups to 10 people by defiantly holding worship services. They each cite dubious understandings of constitutional law (neither pastor is a lawyer) as well as dangerous theologies (I could find no credentials for either pastor to suggest divinity or seminary training). People with influence must be held accountable for long-established norms, customs, laws, and traditions. The pastors’ actions will be judged by the law and the community–and by God. And so it is for all of us!
I bring this up to reaffirm God’s preference for health in this life. The biblical witness on this point is vibrant and unequivocal. Let’s look at one vital text:
“That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.” –(Psalm 67:1-2 KJV)
The King James Version (1611) made a radical choice to assign the English word “health” to translate the Hebrew word “Yeshuah” (yeshu-ah), which is ordinarily rendered “salvation.” Some protestants use the word “salvation” to describe “winning souls.” Some Christians press people ardently, asking, “Are you saved?” “Have you found salvation?” But notice carefully that the KJV Bible–the preferred translation of many traditionalist and conservative Christians–opted to render the Hebrew word “health” and not “salvation” more than 500 years ago.
That’s fascinating, at least to me.
Even more fascinating is that the Hebrew word “Yeshuah” has the same root as “Yehoshuah” (yehoshu-ah), which is the Hebrew word for the name “Joshua,” which is usually rendered as “rescue,” as in “God rescues.” The Aramaic form of the name “Joshua” is “Yeshua” (yeshu-a, “which in Greek is “Iesous,” which is rendered into Latin as “Jesus.”
Christians could more accurately inquire into the status of someone’s soul by asking, “Are you healthy?” “Are you healed?” “Have you found health?” There is no single Hebrew or Christian conceptualization of “health.” The reason is that there’s no unique concept of health in the Scriptures. The Bible does not reveal prescriptions on how to live a healthy life in ways we might recognize in today’s “health market.” But if we take Psalm 67:2 seriously, then God’s way upon the earth is health! Health is the way! Perhaps in that sense, the entire collection of books we call the Bible is a book about health. The Bible, then, prefers health. The two defiant pastors could have preferred health over preening for admiration. They could have valued the health and lives of their flock before valuing their “rights.”
LUMC is following the directives. We are keeping to a maximum of seven people. We value health at LUMC. We value the community. We value our witness to the community to be exemplars of healthy living. To do so, pleases God. And it pleases God when we seek to please God. Be healthy! It’s the way!