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Beloved Members and Friends of MLC,

As I write this, March 29, 2022, over 1,000,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States. It did not have to be this way, but bad actors in our government and featured on entertainment shows masquerading as news programs have politicized the two primary ways we have of combatting the virus: vaccines and masks. Politicizing the virus is one weapon they've used to try and achieve their goal of  subverting our Democracy and turning the U. S. A. into an autocracy. In that form of government, the elite few hold all the power and wealth - actually at the whim of one all-powerful leader, usually a male, at the top. The old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it," comes to mind.  

As a person of faith, I know that God is close beside us during this time. He is Emmanuel, God with us. When the Lord was born, he stepped into our shoes. There is life and hope in the midst of carnage, because the risen Lord walks through this pandemic with us. When I declare, "Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! it takes on a new resonance. It is a lament, an affirmation of faith, and a prayer, a hope. Psalm 23 has never been dearer to me than in the past two years. 

I certainly feel more hopeful now because of the vaccines and the greater scientific knowledge we're gaining about this disease; and a little more concerned in some ways because of the greater medical knowledge we're gaining about COVID-19 and its devastating long term consequences. Even a "mild" bout can leave people with heart and lung issues and more. There are thousands of cases of people who seemed fine, yet a month or so after seeming to have recovered form COVID-19, they drop dead.

As disciples of the risen Lord, there are many things we can do to help as COVID-19 continues to rage: GET VACCINATED AND BOOSTED, if medically cleared; wear N95, KN95 and KF94 masks in public, such a simple, yet important thing to do to protect others, to "love one another;" donating good masks for those who can't afford to buy them, if you have that ability (the church has bought some for use in worship and to share); practicing physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home as much as possible; donating money and food to food banks and housing agencies, and the list goes on.

It is heartening that the fight for racial justice has taken on new life and more white people have joined Black and Indigenous and other people of color in working to identify and put an end to systemic racism. More of us, too, are protesting the machinations of the corporate world and their control of self-serving politicians who were elected to serve "we the people," but only serve themselves. We're realizing how close we came to losing our Democracy in January 2021, and how crucial it is that voting rights be protected by federal law. The complete and utter faithlessness of many in high positions in our government and influential media personalities who tried to overthrow our Democracy, and the depravity of the world political situation is discouraging, yes - Ukraine, fighting to save their Democracy, their sovereign nation, has been under attack by Russia and their autocrat ruler for a month now; but the promise of Romans 8:31-37 is ours. God will prevail, and we will prevail, for we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. We keep in mind, though, that faith without works is dead: so we march if we're able, we send e-mails and make phone calls demanding action and reform from our government reps, we call out news anchors, journalists and media personalities when they "both-sides" the news, skew information, and outright lie, we register people to vote, and we vote for those who promise to fight for justice, equality, and equity, and hold them to it!

Here are some resources, should they be needed: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255; Anew (formerly South Suburban Family Shelter), which provides services for victims of domestic violence, 708-335-3028 24-Hour Hotline; South Suburban Housing Center, 708-957-4674; Together We Cope, 708-633-5040.

Let's also pray for: those who are already sick with coronavirus, including the longhaulers who have been ill for months, many of whom are also suffering from heart and lung and other diseases brought on by COVID-19; those in quarantine due to exposure/possible exposure; the vulnerable (the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, prisoners, those in group homes, the marginalized due to poverty, even homelessness); those who can't avoid putting themselves in potential danger, especially care-givers, health care workers, and first responders, and those who must show-up to work other jobs in order to keep our country running, such as supermarket employees, and those who cannot not work, because not working means not eating and/or having a roof over their heads; those who have lost their jobs and homes and health insurance, if they had it in the first place; those who are undergoing treatment for diseases other than coronavirus, and women who are pregnant; those who have had to postpone weddings and public funerals/memorial services; those who are working on producing more tests and medical supplies. 

We pray, too, for the obstructionists and disruptors, some of them in our own Federal government and the highest offices of the Land. We ask protection from the predators, again, some of whom occupy high office, who have enriched themselves while COVID-19 rages. We pray for the people who, less wary, could potentially be harmed by listening to falsehoods, and for those who, wise enough not to pay them any mind, will still be hurt by their actions and inaction. We thank you for the office holders who have not forgotten that they are public servants, and who are working hard to fulfill the will of the majority of the people who believe in liberty and justice for all and a government of the people, by the people, for the people. 

Let us pray: Gracious God, it is good for us to gather as your beloved in community. We treasure your presence with us in word and meal, song and prayer. Be with us in those days when gathering together as often as we would like may not be possible. When we must be apart for reasons of safety, we trust that you will surround us with your sheltering wings. Encourage us in connecting as we are able, reaching out to our neighbors in need and being persistent in prayer. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our constant companion. Amen

Love to all of you as we prepare for the great festival of Easter, 

Pastor Larry