Praying the News
Greetings to all! Often when I sit down to write this weekly message, I want to talk about something in the news, but it's hard to know where to start. Just today, there are residents of Kauai Island in Hawaii who are waiting on a volcano to blow, the immigration debate continues to rage, public school teachers continue to protest over wages and education funding, and the intrigue over Russia's apparent attempts to meddle with U.S. elections continues to occupy the news cycle. Add to that the fascination this week with a royal wedding in Britain, along with all the other things either intriguing, heart-rending (or both) in the world, today, and the whole bundle of what we encounter each day in "the news" can be overwhelming. It's difficult for a caring person to know where to begin in responding.
Which calls to mind a short article I read recently in the Presbyterian devotional booklet, These Days. Perhaps you saw it, also. It was an introductory article by Ginna Bairby, who is a young Presbyterian pastor in Taos, New Mexico. Ginna gets complete credit for the excerpts I'm about to share with you, here. See if her words resonate with you.
"I have a love/hate relationship with reading the news...I care about and want to know what is going on...on the other hand, learning each day about another mass shooting, another devastating storm, another bombing of innocent people can quickly drain the soul. How do we remain faithfully engaged with the world around us without sinking into despair? I have recently tried to answer this question by 'praying' the news. I start my day...browsing through the major news headlines and articles that catch my attention. After each, I pause for a moment, close my eyes, and whisper a short response: 'Lord, hear our prayer,' 'Lord, have mercy,' or 'Thanks be to God.' It's a simple, ritual attempt to lift the life of our world to the hands of God. And then I stop. I turn off my phone, shut down my computer, turn off the TV. It would be entirely possible...to stay tuned in all day long. But prayer is not just talking; it's also about listening to God. In order to hear a word from God, I need to turn off those other voices. As a pastor, I have watched this practice start to change the way I pray in worship. Regularly praying with the news means I come to the Prayers of the People with more on my heart than just whatever disaster has gripped us that week...as one of my members put it, 'It's important that we pray for the whole world; if we are the body of Christ, those people are our brothers and sisters, too.' Reformed theologian Karl Barth has famously described the faithful Christian holding the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other...I believe that means holding the places where Christ continues to be crucified today in the light and promise of resurrection, trusting in the God who is in the business of transforming death into new life."
Connie again, here. What do you think about Ginna's idea of "praying the news?" Is this something that would help you, as you encounter the unsettling stories you see and hear each day? Maybe you are already doing something like this. It's a faithful and powerful alternative to simply feeling fearful or angry or discouraged, or to disengaging entirely from the stream of information that may feel like more than you can bear.
A few reminders of upcoming events:
This Sunday, May 20th - It's Pentecost Sunday! This is the day we celebrate the coming of God's Holy Spirit upon early believers in Jerusalem, as described in the second chapter of Acts. You are invited to wear the colors of flame (red, yellow, orange) to worship this Sunday, in remembrance of "the divided tongues, as of fire" that rested upon the believers that day as they testified. I'll be sorry to miss this first Pentecost Sunday with you since my arrival, but I'll be happy to be gaining another sweet daughter-in-law as our second son is married this Sunday, in Raleigh, NC. Please make Mr. David Frost feel welcomed, as he returns to preach and lead worship again at Hebron. We'll also be commissioning Grace Alford for her summer work during worship this Sunday.
Fiesta Lunch & Talent Show - You have another great opportunity to help support our youth for their summer trip to Kentucky, just by eating lunch! Our youth will host a fund-raising Mexican meal after worship this Sunday (May 20th). Please consider staying for this meal and donating to this good cause. A few of our youth will also be sharing their talents, so be sure to cheer them on!
In three weeks, on Sunday, June 10th, we'll enjoy outdoor worship at Dover Lake at 10:00 a.m. There will be no Sunday School that day. Plan now to come on out to Dover Lake for a casual worship service in a lovely outdoor setting.
Vacation Bible School is just over a month away! You may register a child for VBS by going to our church website: www.hebronpresbyterian.com.
On Sunday, July 8th, we'll welcome the Rev. Mai-Ki Kadade from the Evangelical Church of Niger. Plans are in the works for a potluck lunch after worship that day, with an opportunity for Rev. Kadade to give us an update and answer any questions you may have. We hope to continue the strong support from our congregation in helping to meet some of the needs in Niger.
Don't forget! Sunday, October 21st, will be a special Heritage Sunday at Hebron Presbyterian Church, as we celebrate the congregation's 175th anniversary!