Author: pastormatt

Community & Covid

Church family,

1) A Word on Biblical Community & Sunday School: 

Two of the first verses I ever memorized were from Hebrews 10, verses 24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I believed those verses 20 years ago, but after a 12 month dance with Covid-19, I feel the truth of these verses personally. I’ve seen just how hard it has been on individuals to be away from their church family. I’ve seen how disorienting it is to lose regular encouragement from God’s Word and God’s people. 

Losing Biblical community is like severing body parts; the body and each part can’t live long in isolation. Many of you have worked through the challenges of the past year; you’ve been creative in finding ways to press on together. Still, it has been a time of sorrow and grief.

Thankfully, we’ve been able to regather with some ministries in 2021. One in particular that relaunches Sunday March 7 is our 11AM Sunday School hour. What a gift to meditate on God’s Word and Christian theology with brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s like reoxygenated blood pulsing throughout the Body.

2) An Update on Cornerstone Church & Covid Protocols:

First off, I’m thankful to see plummeting Covid-19 cases and positivity in our county, state, country. They say anything under a 5% 14-day positivity is a watershed mark, and we’re at 4.3% statewide and 3.7% in LInn County. (For comparison, I read a Sept. 2020 NBC news report that the seasonal flu is normally around 19%) So too, I know a number of you have had a least one vaccination shot, and others have even had their second. 

How will Cornerstone respond to these positive changes? First, let’s remember forbearance is a virtue and fruit of the Spirit, so let’s be open to each other’s convictions on the losses/benefits of masks. Second, we will continue to provide a mask-required live-streamed worship space in the overflow area in our lobby on Sundays at 9:25AM. The general stance on the rest of the building, Sundays and throughout the week, will be that masks are optional. Most of the sanctuary will continue to have socially-distant places to sit. We also will wait a bit longer before we provide coffee or have any family meals. Lord willing, if these trends continue, we can open up more down the road…

All in all, it looks likely that Easter 2021 will not be Easter 2020; and yet the good news stays the same, Christ has risen from the dead!

I love this church family,

Pastor Matt

Pastor Post: 1/28/21

Dear Church family,

On Monday, I went on a ride along with a police officer who expressed how challenging policing has become in recent years. On Tuesday I sat in a hospital room with a mid-30 year old man in constant pain (the I.V. pain killer hardly helped). On Wednesday, I heard a retired pastor express regret on how he handled a teenager struggling in sin 30 years ago. Every day I hear about the anxiety and tension that covid, politics, and family dynamics create.

The more I listen, the more I sense that people are buried in burdens. Fear seems rising. Hope fades. A sense of paralysis grows.

I believe the devil hopes to exploit the pressures we face. He wants us to divide. He wants us to create an “us versus them” mentality so we can hate “the other.” He wants us to become self-protective. He wants us to be hostile toward those “not like us.”

Yet, into a world of worry, Jesus says, “Be not anxious about anything; your heavenly Father knows…your heavenly Father provides.” Jesus says, “love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love as your Heavenly Father loves.” How did Jesus combat hostility in the 1st century? He took whips, ridicule, and death. He cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

I believe the church is poised for great things in the year to come. We have a compelling gospel, a beautiful community, and a tangible alternative to the vitriol that rules the day. I’m excited to be on this journey with you. It starts with us drinking in God’s forgiveness together; it continues as we pour our grace and forgiveness to the world around us.

What’s ahead…

#1: I’m preaching about Intimacy, Sexuality, and Marriage January 31-February 28. My main text is Song of Songs (check out this video for a fantastic overview of the book, Some parents wonder if this is kid-appropriate. I’m confident that my message will be PG (I’ll not be more explicit than the biblical text itself). Hopefully, if I say something that requires some explanation, it opens a great door for you and your kids to have a great conversation.

#2: Nursery and Children’s Church during the worship service plan to be open every other week in February. (Lord willing, Sunday School starts in March.)

#3: Small groups are available and beginning to meet again, some in person, others via Zoom. Let me know if you want to join a group.

Onward and upward,

Pastor Matt
-Pastor Matt

A Christmas Reflection and Call to Action – 2020

As Christmas Day 2020 nears, and the year 2020 moves to its close, I write this reflection and call to action…

An unplanned pregnancy, trip, birth, and departure. Those are just 4 pieces that cloud the birth of Jesus Christ in chaos. Mary didn’t expect to get pregnant. A Roman census forced late pregnancy travel to Bethlehem. The birth arrived in an inconvenient location. Soon after the birth, a crazed, King Herod hunted the newborn babe. Only an angelic warning and a forced migration to Egypt rescued the young family. Unplanned. Chaos. Merry Christmas Joseph. Merry Christmas Mary.

This past year has been a series of unplanned and unprecedented events. Chaos that required quick decisions, regular change, and intense pressure on persons, homes, schools, churches, and governments. Throw in a political quagmire, racial tension, and a lurking virus, and it’s no wonder that most people I know have serious soul whiplash. 

The God-trusting Christian knows full well that there was nothing “unplanned” about Jesus’ birth, and my guess is, most in our church family have little doubt that God is sovereign over derechos, Trumpism, secularism, and the like. 

But I want to go one step further; could we as Jesus-loving, hell-believing, gospel-hoping Christians realize that any and all chaos is when it’s ripe to trust in God? Just think of what happened on the back end of growing perseuction and the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Read Acts 11:19-21: “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

The first major movement of Gentile evangelism and Gentile church-planting came out of the seeming chaos of persecution and death. And who did this work? Look again at the text. No names are listed. A bunch of unnamed saints spread the word of Jesus Christ. They were on mission with God. They did not yield to the chaos. 

That’s my prayer as we transition from 2020 to 2021. That we don’t let “chaos” knock us off mission. I’m personally guilty this year of wanting to have things a certain way to be most beneficial to myself or my family, whether it’s how school should be or church or my Menards shopping experience. I need help to remain committed to Jesus Christ, my local covenant-community, and being on mission to make disciples.

So, who is with me?  I believe the best days of Cornerstone Church and our mission locally and globally are ahead of us, but it will be for those ready to shoulder the load together, ready to put personal preferences aside for the sake of the gospel. Who will come with me? Who will remember our fight is not against flesh and blood, but the rulers and principalities of darkness in this world? Who will embrace our given identity as ambassadors of the gospel?

Shakespeare captured well the heart of what I’m seeking, when he put these famous words on the lips of Henry V: 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother [and sister :)]

Amen. I love you Cornerstone Church.

Ways to Engage this Week:

Remember to tune in tomorrow at 12PM for a mid-week pastoral encouragement via Zoom:

An in-person Christmas Eve Service will start at 6:30PM Thursday (streamed also via FB Live.)

Our prerecorded Christmas Eve Meditation is already posted to be shared with any family and friends:

At Home Christmas Special

Please gather your family and friends around to watch this prerecorded Christmas meditation…

12/15/20 Covid/Mask Update

Dear Church Family,

As the covid-19 boxing match enters its 9th round, we’re all feeling battered by its many blows. I’ve seen this divide our church in ways I never thought possible; my heart aches. My prayer for us as we move forward is to live out the truths in Romans 14-15 that discuss “disputable matters.” (A “disputable matter” is a moral or wisdom position that the Bible does not specifically address.)

Romans 14 and 15 teach us that wherever we land on “disputable matters” we’re to remember “we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8) and we must “make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). So too, we should prioritize pleasing our neighbors over ourselves (Romans 15:2-3). This means that regardless of where your conscience falls on whether masks are helpful and loving or unhelpful and unloving, this must not become an issue that divides the Christian body. Satan is all-too-happy to see us forsake Christ’s mission and the assembly of believers over this disputable matter. 

Amid this journey, the elders have sought counsel in and outside our body to make our decisions without claiming any position has the “right” or “biblical” view on this disputable matter. 

All that to say, we think it’s an ok time to slightly change our covid protocols this week…

With a continued drop in positive cases for covid-19, fewer hospitalizations, and the 14-day positivity rate across Linn county at 9.7% and trending down (well below the 15% 14-day rolling average deemed significant), effective Wednesday December 16th we’ll step back our church-wide protocols to as follows:

1) The overflow area in the foyer will be reserved as a “mask only worship space” for the 9:25AM worship service. The Facebook Live service will continue for those with health concerns related to corporate gatherings.

2) The sanctuary will go back to being mask-optional/encouraged. If possible, please wear a mask entering and exiting the foyer, particularly in the overflow area. *People with breathing problems, non-school age kids, and those who can’t remove the mask without assistance need not wear one.* 

3) Small groups using the building throughout the week can make their own mask-wearing determinations based on group dynamics and concerns. As of last week, the youth group has transitioned to mask-optional/encouraged on Wednesday evenings.

Please do not forget to consider the Marion Mayor’s proclamation and the governor’s disaster proclamations as you seek to honor your governing authorities (see Rom 13:1-7).

I still love pastoring this church, and I love you. Admittedly, I’m a weary pastor at the end of 2020. Pray for me, pray for your elders, pray for one another. Thank you for your many efforts to carry one another burdens…
To God be the glory.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Matt