The pandemic drags on. We are blessed here in Venango county to have had a very few cases and only one death. But life has been changed dramatically. You are no doubt tired of masks, hand satirizer and stepping back when talking with a friend on the street. I know I am. We need to continue Covid mitigation practices. They do reduce the spread of infection. And we’ve see spikes in infection rates after summer holidays when large numbers gather without masks or distancing.
The pandemic started me thinking about Biblical records of impatience within God’s people. I thought of Israel during the Exodus. They ran out of water in the desert, but God provided (Ex. 15:22-27). A little later food began to run short and God miraculously feed them with quail and manna (Ex. 16:1-15).
Day after day manna appeared on the ground each morning. The people simply gathered it up. God provided their daily bread on a daily basis.
But after some time the Israelites began to wish for something more, something different. “O boy, what I wouldn’t do for some of the fish we used to eat in Egypt. It was free too, remember? You just pulled it out of the Nile. And the cucumbers! The melons, onions and garlic! But I’ve lost my appetite: we never see anything but this MANNA. Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna at dinner. Always MANNA! AAAGH!” They started to despise God’s provision. (Check it out in Numbers 11:4-6. If I’m lying’ I’m crying.)
Manna was miracle food, directly from the hand of God. And yet the people of God began to wish for the cucumbers they had eaten while slaves. They would have returned to slavery for an onion rather than eaten manna under God’s promise.
I sympathize with their fatigue of a one course diet. I like cucumbers too: but to give up a daily miracle because it had become familiar, to despise the gift of God as if it were not good enough.
One of the great challenges of faith is to recognize God is faithful in every circumstance of life. It is only in times of struggle, that we learn he is always faithful. It is only when we get through to the other side that we recognize the he was with us in the valley of the shadow.
Sometimes the life of faith requires stick-to-itiveness. We have to be patient in the present because God has good things for us in the future, if we believe.
So don’t give up! Hang in there and you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Dear Friends – On July 19 Grace suspended in person worship for the second time. This was in response to Gov. Wolf’s renewed restriction of group meetings to 25 or less. I know many are missing in-person worship, and want very much to return to our sanctuary. The Worship Committee adopted a plan to do that on Sunday, Sept 27.
Here is an outline of the reasoning behind the suspension of in-person worship and the proposed date of our return:
At this writing, I haven’t received any additional instructions regarding C-19 from Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi. Congregations have been urged to make their own decisions based on all the risk factors and mitigation practices.
The plan to resume in-person worship on September 27 is based on the Oil City Area School District’s plans for the beginning of school. OCASD students will be separated into two groups. Beginning September 1 half of the students will attend in-person classes for two days while the other half attends cyber classes. Then the second half will attend in-person for two days while the first group attends cyber classes. If this plan successfully limits COVID, OCASD will resume in-person education 5 days per week for all students on September 28.
The Worship committee felt that if OCASD can successfully resume in-person education, it will be safe enough for Grace to resume in-person worship at the same time. Therefore, the first in-person worship is set for September 27.
We will, of course, continue televised and online worship each week. I am so grateful to our TV team for their diligent work.
Thank you for your understanding and support. Continue to pray for an end of this pandemic. God hears even BIG prayers. And continue to support one another. Make a phone call to members who may be experiencing loneliness. Pay special attention to shut-ins and anyone who is ill. And please continue to support your church financially.
We will get through this with God’s help.
~ Pastor Byron
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