September 11, 2020

Dear Prairie Avenue Family,

As you read this note, I’d like to invite you to pause for a moment to remember the events that unfolded 19 years ago today, those who died, those who were injured, and the trauma and pain that occurred on 9/11 and its aftermath. Pause to pray for the family members of those who died, and all survivors who continue to be directly affected by these events all these years later.

Worship This Weekend - Learning to Love Our Enemies
This weekend we continue to explore scripture to gain better understanding of loving the unlovable we encounter in life. Last week's sermon addressed the question, "When someone does something bad or wrong, how does God want us to respond?" This week's sermon addresses, "When someone does something bad or evil, how does God respond?"

Returning to the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 50, we encounter the aftermath of Jacob/Israel's death and the brothers' response: they deceive Joseph one final time. Fearing long-delayed vengeance or retribution, the brothers create a statement made by their father to plead forgiveness for their previous betrayal and suffering experienced by Joseph. Oddly, the brothers do not say "Our father requested," but rather "your father said," and identify themselves as "attendants of the God of your father, " rather than family.

The deception is effective: Joseph weeps and declares forgiveness. What had harmful intentions and caused pain and suffering in Joseph's life led to the salvation of the family in a time of famine. God is recognized as transforming greater good from evil acts. Joseph places ultimate judgment before God rather than himself. No additional act of vengeance is needed.

Can we discover the greater good possible even in the midst of evil? Terrible events often become the starting point of terrible consequences and futures. God is not the author; broken humanity, in its guile and evil intent, is the origin. God does not use abuse or punishment for some "higher plan." What is remarkable in the story of Joseph is how little we see, hear, or feel God's work in the story: God does not speak, nor demonstrates some supernatural action while Joseph goes through experiences of pain and suffering, whether at the hand of his jealous brothers, the desires of Potiphar's wife, or the forgetfulness of his fellow dream-riven prisoners. There seems to be limits to evil's aims: Joseph is sold by his brothers rather than killed, he is imprisoned rather than killed by a false accusation, and he is remembered when Pharaoh is struggling with his dreams.

The trauma and tragedy experienced in life is not evidence of God's uncaring, selfish or unloving nature. Perhaps no greater expression of love, selflessness, and care was demonstrated by Jesus Christ in being falsely arrested, tried, convicted, and suffering death for our sake. The ability of God to transform our worst days and crises into good enables us to have hope in where God is leading us into tomorrow.

Join me this Saturday at 5 pm worship-online, or Sunday at 9 am.

Other News This Week
Solar Equipment Update Work continues this week on the installation of our 183 solar panel array on the Van Lear Education Wing and Sanctuary roof. Weather has been generally keeping work on time and on schedule.

Daycare Exploratory Committee If you would like to be part of the exploratory effort, please e-mail me or call the church office 428-3327.

Regional Church Assembly The FREE online only assembly for the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin will be held on Saturday, October 17, 10 am to Noon. You can register to participate in the public activities and worship. I was nominated and consented to serve as secretary of the Regional Church Council, the administrative board of the regional church that I have served on for the past year as an at-large delegate. I will be formally elected to this position during the business meeting.

Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser We are awaiting confirmation for our second annual pumpkin patch fundraiser in October. Given that many of the usual venues will be restricted on attendance, we expect our event may be a popular alternative site. We are also looking at holding the youth group garage sale sometime in October, depending on COVID-19 guidelines.

See you in worship in the sanctuary on Sunday morning at 9 am or Saturday online at 5 pm this weekend!
As a church family, we care for and pray for one another.

As a matter of online privacy, we will only disclose public sympathy to a church friend or family member whose passing has also been publicly disclosed.

If you would like prayer, please submit your prayer request online, and Pastor Jason and prayer team members will pray for you.
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