March 19, 2020

Occidental Community Church family,

Yesterday started out as one of the saddest days of my 54 years of ministry, as I tacked up notices on the doors of the church building informing the public that we are suspending Sunday worship services for three weeks until Easter.  I was feeling sorry for myself  (yes, selfishly and foolishly!) and looking to God for some consolation in His Word.  I was led to Psalm 30.  Please read this Psalm today.  Perhaps it will provide for you the same encouragement that it did for me. It was written by King David for the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.  He was never to see the Temple, because God chose Solomon, David's son, to build it after David was dead.

Let me quote a few verses from this glorious Psalm, and then read all 12 verses for yourself when you can.  Psalm 30:4."Sing to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His holy name. 5.For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning. 11.You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy  12.that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever."

God here is reminding us that sadness is a necessary part of our lives, otherwise we could never really appreciate the exhilarating joy He wants to bestows on us through His mercy.  I was immediately lifted in my spirit to thank God even for what we are all going through right now in this dark night, knowing that it will all end soon in a morning of rejoicing!  And then, added to God's timely gift of Psalm 30, two things happened yesterday that reminded me that even as we shut down the church building for a time, we aren't shutting down our opportunity to minister  the love of Christ to others.

First, four staff members with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship from Sonoma State U. who were passing through Occidental on a hike to Fort Ross needed a place to sleep cheap overnight.  We opened our building so that they could stay, and they found some soft pew cushions in the sanctuary as a bed for their sleeping bags.  After a good night's sleep and a cup of hot coffee in the morning they were off again on their hike.  They thanked us profusely!

Next, as I was preparing to put up the notices, an elderly, gracious woman named Emily who had been in church last Sunday stopped by the office.  She had no food, no house, and was living in her truck pulling a small trailer.  I was able to give her a generous grocery voucher so that she would have something to eat before it became dark.  She thanked me again and again and again as she left with tears in her eyes!

I know that these are small things, but they reminded me that the opportunity to bless others through Jesus' love are all around us always, no matter what our circumstances.  A day that started out sad for me, ended with joy!  During this trying time of "sheltering"  look for small ways to share with others this love.  The storehouse of God's love is always open for business!

Trusting in Him,
Pastor Rick

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