An Easter Faith is Our City of Refuge

by Pastor Pete Panitzke on April 17, 2020

Joshua completes the distribution of the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel in Joshua 19-20 (click here to read). Then he established cities of refuge, places of safety for someone who killed a person accidentally.
 
In James 5 (read it here), the author reminds us that we also need a place of refuge. While accidentally killing someone may not be on our “rap sheet,” James mentions many things that are: hoarding for our own benefit, impatience with each other, grumbling. Sounds like our natural reactions to the “Safer at Home” order!  
 
Where is the New Testament City of Refuge?

“The Lord is full of mercy and compassion.” We find that compassionate and merciful Savior by confessing our sins to a trusted Christian friend who can assure us of forgiveness because Jesus’ tomb is empty. “Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
 
We can help others find their City of Refuge as they face the frightening prospect of COVID-19. We may not be able to be physically present to give them the best medical care. (Anointing with oil was the medical care of James’ day. See Luke 10:33-34.) But we can talk with them on the phone and remind them that in the risen Savior they have the assurance that this is not a punishment for sins. And we can lead them to our City of Refuge by joining with them in prayer. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Rather than end your conversations with a simple, “I’ll be praying for you,” perhaps God is opening a door for you to pray with them to end the call. For example, here is my prayer for a friend whose son has COVID-19.
 
“Compassionate and merciful Lord, we place _____into your hands as he battles COVID-19. How desperately we want to be by his side in this battle! But You have promised that our prayers are powerful and effective. And so we join with him by prayer. May it be your will to rescue him from this disease. Provide him with the medical care he needs. Assure him that You died for all his sins, that he is not facing this illness alone, because You are there with him. Give strength to his mom and all who love him as their hearts are heavy with fear and concern for him. You came out of the tomb victorious on Easter morning. There is nothing that you cannot do. Hear us and help us, gracious Savior. We flee to you, our City of Refuge. Amen.”
 
Details, Details, Details
 
Often in our Journey to the Empty Tomb reading in the Old Testament (see attached reading plan), we come across what I call “skimming sections.” Place names or individual names by the dozens. We don’t know where they are or who they are. 

But these details help me on my Journey to the Empty Tomb. If someone were making up this “story,” why add all of these details? As you skim, notice that it reads like someone who was there. You see, our faith is not in a “once upon a time” story. Our faith is in a God of history and geography. Details like this assure me that the details I see in the empty tomb are true as well.

This Weekend

Remember the Food Drive this Sunday. We pastors are looking forward to seeing many of you, even if it is just saying "hi" from a safe social distance. See the attached flyer.

You will receive an email when the Traditional Service is available for online worship. We will live stream The Bridge on Sunday at 10:15 am. 

God bless your Friday!

Pastor Pete 

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