People are still worried about COVID-19, people are unemployed, there are still food shortages, recent deaths have sparked protests that unfortunately some have used as an excuse to loot. We are in very difficult and unprecedented times. We have been through many of these things before, but never like this, all at once. At least it seems that way to me.

So where do we turn? We should be turning to God. Recently, George Floyd’s family held a memorial service for him in North Carolina. I saw that it was live on Youtube by numerous stations, so I decided to watch. It was wonderful, beautiful and spiritual. It was held in a Baptist church. They were praising God at the beginning of the service, including his family members. Many people came to speak on George’s behalf. Even some of the non-clergy speakers still expressed more faith than I have heard many people speak at a funeral. I really appreciated how the Rev. Clinton Stackhouse said that while man might speak initially, God would have the final word and He did through Rev. Dr. Christopher Stackhouse (son of Clinton).

You can find the entire service online if you search for it. Rev. Stackhouse reminded us over and over again of personal things, to help people remember that was not just another statistic, but a man, a good man, a “gentle giant,” a “banana-and-mayonnaise sandwich” type of guy. He had the nickname "Perry Jr." We can’t forget George and we need to do something about the racial problems that plague us.

St. George’s sang this hymn, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,” a few weeks ago. I had preached that day as well and normally I look at the hymns for the day to see if they might help me to illuminate God’s Word. I did not feel that it would, but that day was also a NationalDay of Prayer. We are a praying church and we spent more time in prayer than we normally do.

This hymn was our recessional. As we processed out, it hit me how appropriate this hymn is for us at this time. We often just sing the hymn and enjoy it for the moment, but how often do you meditate on the words? Consider it sometime. It is a worthwhile exercise.

1 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore, feed me now and evermore.

If you are a Christian, you have a dual citizenship.

Philippians 3:20 (ESV) But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

In addition to being an American, you are also a citizen of Heaven. Therefore, in God’s eyes, you are only a pilgrim in this land. We must seek his guidance on a regular basis. Some days will be better than others. Sometimes you will be weak, but it is good to remember that God will get you through the tough times. Paul had many tough times to deal with.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV) For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was strong, because God is strong. Likewise God through the Holy Spirit will help us in this pandemic. He will help the nation through this time of social strife. I am white and many of the people in St. Georges are white. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see what God would have us do at this time? We have raised money in the past for good causes. Do you remember the black churches that were burned over 10 years ago? No, well here is the list.

Evil is present in this world and we need to pray against the forces of darkness that would divide us along racial, ethnic, or any other lines. Remember that the hymn says: I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand.

We know that in the end, God wins. In the meantime, we need to persevere, we need to pray. For our elderly, we need to pray for protection. We seem to be past the worst of the pandemic, but with all of the protests, people are gathering in large numbers and we must pray that they stay safe. Hear me in this, our nation is founded on the right to assemble and protest, so I applaud them for doing so, because they are risking their health. But, I also hope that they are being careful. With the protests, we need to pray for real change. We need to pray that this time we get it right. Let’s turn back to the hymn:

2 Open now the crystal fountain, where the healing waters flow. Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through. Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer, ever be my strength and shield, ever be my strength and shield.

We need healing, especially as a nation. Pray for guidance. Pray for healing. While we don’t have the pillar of fire and cloud, we do have the Holy Spirit who is with all of us, no matter where we are. He is a Strong Deliverer. This reminds me of:

Psalm 91:7 (ESV)

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

This is called the Soldier’s Psalm because of the language and while it might not have been written by David, he certainly chose to include it in his psalms. This can be our prayer at this time, especially at it seems that the number of cases might be going up in states other than our own. We can pray that we are spared this virus.

3 When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside. Death of death, and hell's Destruction, land me safe on Canaan's side. Songs of praises, songs of praises I will ever sing to you, I will ever sing to you.

I am sure that many are praying that their “anxious fears subside.” What will tomorrow hold? I cannot guarantee that you will not get the virus or that there won’t be looting in New Jersey, although I think we are past the worst of it. I cannot guarantee that things won’t get worse economically.

What I can assure you of is that Jesus has destroyed death. He had paid the sin price that would have kept us out of heaven. Because of that we are citizens of heaven if you believe and confess like it says in Romans 10:9. Songs of praises should be our response. God has us. Stay the course. Keep the faith. Be a witness to your faith especially now.

Matthew 5:3-10 English Standard Version (ESV) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

Most people think of Memorial Day at the beginning of the summer. Beaches officially open up and people head there whether the weather is good or not. People have barbeques and you can often walk around your neighborhood smelling all kinds of good food cooking.

Those are all fun things to do, but how many will do anything to honor our veterans? Our town always had a parade, but how many towns will be doing that? I imagine not many in New Jersey, maybe in other states that have not been affected by the pandemic?

So let’s take this time to remember all those who have served and have fallen. I feel like we should also not forget those who are still with us. We still have several veterans amongst our members and at least one who fought in World War II.

In my youth, I loved to watch TV shows like Combat or Rat Patrol, which were both about WWII. Later when MASH came out, I watched it for years. I remember my father telling me that war was not all fun and games like MASH made it appear. This reminds me now of the following song:

Where to begin? Let's start with the end This black and white photo don't capture the skin From the flash of a gun to a soldier who's done Trust me grandson The war was in color © 2006 Carbon Leaf

War is not fun. It is not funny. Those that live and died for our freedom may not even be buried where their family can visit.

We live in a wonderful country. We have a Bill of Rights, unlike any other nation. We have a Constitution that protects us from the abuses of power that many other forms of government have. We are a truly blessed nation. Men and women have died for those things. They have died young and old for our flag, for our nation, for our right to say the name of Jesus (Free Speech). They have died so that we can worship in our own way and not according to the government (Freedom to Gather). People of many different heritages have fought and died for our nation. Some of them did, even though they were not yet citizens. Imagine that for a moment. How many of us would die to protect our religious rights and our rights in general?

Even now men and women are in harm's way, so let’s take some time to pray through Psalm 91.

Please click here to read Lord God Most High we thank you that you have been our refuge and fortress. Thank you for all the men and women who paid the ultimate price to stand the watch for you. Thank you that we as a nation do not live in fear of the evils we see elsewhere in the world. We pray that as a nation we do not lose sight of the place you have put us in, A bastion of freedom. We thank you that even though there is pestilence in the land, you have not forsaken us. We pray that you safeguard our troops.

Give them the courage to serve. Give them the knowledge to do what is right. Draw them closer to you. Help us to remember their sacrifice. They do not always get paid well and yet they have paid that ultimate price. Their families have gone without fathers and mothers or sons and daughters. Be with those who are reminded of a loved one that is no longer here. We pray that those soldiers who have died and known you Jesus have a new duty in heaven. We pray that like them, we who still are alive, soldier or civilian, will soldier on until our time comes. In Jesus'name we pray. Amen!

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

James 4:13-17 (ESV) Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then

vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

If you asked anyone a year ago that we would currently be in a pandemic, they would likely have not taken you seriously. If we had really thought it would have gotten this bad, the past two administrations would have done more to stockpile the things we are short on now. We might also have not dismissed Doctors, Scientists, and at least one businessman who said we were not prepared for this pandemic. It is always easier to be a backseat driver. It is always easy to say what we should have done in hindsight.

We can take this passage of scripture above as advice. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I believe that almost everything we have done in New Jersey has been based on the best information available at the time. Whether we open the state up slowly or quickly, we don’t know for certain, how things will turn out. None of us can be certain about whether this virus or something else will be our ultimate demise.

Verse 14 says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Take any spray bottle or aerosol and spray what is inside. As it moves through the air it disperses and seems to disappear. You might see little droplets appear on a surface, but if the droplets are small enough, you won’t see anything.

More advice to follow is verse 15, “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” I am very thankful that I have not been sick during this pandemic. I am thankful that I still have a job. My sister, who lives in North Carolina, went through two 1-week furloughs before they finally fired her. I am sure that some of you may know someone who has been furloughed, fired, or has to work reduced hours. Let us keep them in prayer. If you have, try to share with those who do not. Let us also reach out to friends, families, and neighbors and help in whatever way we can. Even if it is just to call them.

Remember that no matter what happens, God is with you. It may seem like you are being tossed about in stormy sea, but Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is in the boat with you.