Welcome to Byron Presbyterian Church “on-Line”. We are also joined by our neighbors and friends at the North Bergen Presbyterian Church with their Pastor Dave Fish. As we get more used to this Zoom application we’ll find ways to add your voices, too. We’re glad that you have been able to find our service on your computer or by telephone. This is a work in progress, so if you are having any difficulties, please let us know during the coming week.
All church activities have been cancelled, but that shouldn’t stop us from reaching out to one another by telephone, e-mail or skype. We are sending out the Sunday bulletin by e-mail, and next week by US Mail to those without internet. Sunday School care packages are being sent through the US Mail to families with children. If anyone needs help, please call us. And please try to maintain friendly phone calls and cards to members and friends of our churches that may be frail or isolated.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:12
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets”
Message: (Pastors Dave Fish and Jim Renfrew)
In challenging times, we must remember the basics. In Brockport, the Baptist Church on Main Street has an electrified sign with a cancellation notice that adds these hopeful words: “Love God. Love Others. Wash Your Hands.” Basic advice that we all need to follow.
Not only good advice, it’s Biblical. The text from Matthew 7:12 has been widely remembered as the Golden Rule, and I love its simple form, in the old King James English “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I’m not sure that it is actually true, but someone suggested that every religion has the Golden Rule in some form or another. In trying times such as these, it’s important for us to remember the basics of who we are and what we’re here to do, and the Golden Rule is a good summary of that: we all need kindness, generosity and love, so that’s what we need to offer to the world around us, especially when times are tough.
I heard a more refined version of the Golden Rule in a college philosophy class. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher 220 years ago, offered this version of the Golden Rule, that he called the “Categorical Imperative”. “Universalize the maxim of your action”, he wrote, which means that if you establish a rule for your own behavior, such as “it’s OK form me to steal a candy bar at my grocery store” it becomes universal like this: “It’s OK for everybody to steal candy bars from any grocery store”. But that’s absurd, commerce would be completely ruined. No one could be trusted. So the Categorical Imperative requires you to set the same rules for yourself that you want others to live by. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Jesus is on the same track. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Help others in the way you would want to be helped. Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to.
We are in a heightened time of stress. Helping others may seem like a stretch right now. We can barely help ourselves, from getting enough toilet paper to keeping our jobs when businesses must shut down. And even if you are doing OK, of course you are mindful of many others whose situation is more precarious than yours. Jesus offers us the way forward. Generosity and love are not the last things we do after we take care of ourselves; they are the first things we do. Sharing food, looking in on isolated people, running to the store for people who should stay home because they are in a high-risk category, offering encouragement to children to keep studying at home while school is out. Offer food to hungry neighbors. What you put into relationships is what you get from relationships. Basic advice from Jesus.
It’s not easy to be a church without a building to gather in, but the building is only one part of who we are. Our church is at its best, not in here, but out there. So during this uncertain time, think less of going to church and more of being the church to each other and the world around us.
“Love God, love others, wash your hands.” Amen.