Personal perspectives on faith, by members and friends of Zwingli United Church of Christ.

Religion of the Word

posted Dec 1, 2020, 6:49 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Christianity has always been a religion of WORD. The Bible begins with a creation story in which all that comes into being is brought forth by God’s word (…and God said, let there be…. and there was!). And it ends with a solemn warning against either adding to or taking away from the “words” of God’s prophecy (Rev: 22). 

Closely related to word is truth and freedom: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free….” 

I believe with every fiber of my being that faith is given to the baptized as a trust. Certainly, it is true that faith serves to benefit the baptized themselves, but any faith that is viewed as just between me and God – period – is not Biblical faith. From the time of Abraham onward, faith has been given to SOME so that those to whom faith is given might be a blessing to ALL! 

If we, the baptized, are endowed with faith for the well-being of all humankind, then we have a 

mandate to seek the welfare and good of all people – to seek TRUTH for all. 

As people of God-given truth, we have a divine obligation to oppose all that serves to divide humankind and to oppose firmly and with prayerful resolve those who seek to benefit themselves by dividing others. 

The history of humankind is littered with the detritus of trouble brought upon nations by the selfish actions of those who cannot embrace the generous will of God almighty for the benefit of ALL. It seems to me that the divided state of our nation is a warning sign and cries out for people of faith to stand up for that which is good and true and generous and to oppose all that isn’t. 

During December of every year (apparently, we are forgetful and need to be annually reminded!!) the church walks through four Sundays of preparation which we call Advent.

These are not just four weeks to get ready for Christmas. Advent is not about baking and shopping and parties; Advent is about getting clear that God loves humankind and aches at the ways we distort the good gifts of creation so that those gifts only benefit some rather than all. Advent is about swallowing hard and deciding that in a hurting and divided world, we will partner with God in working for unity rather than division; for peace rather than acrimony; for grace rather than accusation; for kindness rather than cruelty, for truth rather than conspiracy. 

In just a few weeks, we will (virtually unfortunately) “gather” around a manger to worship a baby. Our Christmas worship reminds us that the baby was (and is!) born for all. Not for just for any one race, or nation, gender, or any of the other ways humans (sinfully) divide themselves. God is for all and as children of God we are invited to share in God’s program of blessing for all. 

Yes, these are hard times. But we have no reason for despair. Just as the angels sang to shepherds near Bethlehem, so those same angels sing to you and to me: “Peace on earth, Goodwill to all!” 

May the Advent blessings of joy, hope, peace, and love be yours this month and this Christmas. And may each of us place ourselves into the service of God that we may be instruments to bring that same joy, hope, peace, and love to others. 

God is good! God is coming! Thanks be to God! 

Teaching and Preaching

posted Nov 5, 2020, 6:16 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Many clergy hate teaching and preaching about money and giving. I might be an oddball in that regard, but I’ve always considered it a privilege and a desirable challenge to do so. Jesus talked about a lot of different topics, but the faithful use of wealth is high on any list of things Jesus addressed. If Jesus talked so much about money, then I think it must be an important topic, and one that pastors should also address.

 There are many reasons to believe that money is an important faith issue. I’m especially interested in money as a “heart” issue. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously taught that “where your money (treasure) is, there your heart will be also.” In one of the 2000 presidential debates between George Bush and Al Gore (which were far more civil events than what we’ve endured this year), Gore tried to quote this passage and got it turned around. He said, “where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” That’s probably true, but it’s not what Jesus said.  

Jesus seems to be teaching that among the many ways that money can used (both for good and for evil), spiritual formation is high on the list. In essence, I hear Jesus making a very practical observation here. When we’ve invested very little substance into something, we’re not likely to be much concerned about the future of that thing. But when we’ve put a lot into something (time, energy and particularly money!), then we are much more likely to pay attention to that thing and care about how it goes.  

When one invests in the stock market, one is very likely to watch and care about the market’s ups and downs. When one invests in a business, one is likely to pay attention to the welfare of the business.  When someone invests significantly in a hobby, that hobby is likely to be important to the person. And….if one invests meaningfully in faith and church, then faith and church are likely to become more and more important to that person.  

The fact of the matter is, most Christians don’t invest very meaningfully in faith and church and not  surprisingly,  faith  and  church  are  often sideline interests for those people. But when a person begins to give so much to God that it makes a noticeable difference in their lifestyle and budget, then faith also begins to make more and more of a difference in their everyday living.

Elsewhere in this newsletter is a tear-off response form you might use to indicate your intentions for giving to Zwingli Church in 2021.  Feel free to use the form, or just include a note with your next check to the church, or send an email to our Administrative Assistant (, but do take the time to think carefully and prayerfully about your giving plans for 2021. Yes, generous giving will be good for the church. But even more, generous giving could be good for you!  Remember, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Blessings to you!

Loving God & Loving Neighbor

posted Oct 26, 2020, 9:02 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Pastor Rich
"Loving God & Loving Neighbor"
Greetings, People of Zwingli Church!
Back on October 4, the Biblical text for worship was the story of God giving Moses the 10 Commandments. On Sunday we’ll consider a story that happens nearly 1500 years (very roughly speaking!) later than the time of Moses – a Jesus story. Even though it happens centuries later, it’s nonetheless a story closely connected to the 10 Commandments. In the text for Sunday, the religious authorities are continuing to question Jesus; continuing to look for ways to discredit him with the people and to convict him of treason before their Roman overlords.
The question put to Jesus is simple enough; “Teacher, which law (everyone present understands, of course, that this isn’t a question about Roman law – it’s a question about GOD’s law!) is the most important?” Jesus’ first answer was not controversial: “Love God with your entire being.” Jesus didn’t, however, stop there. He immediately went on to assert that there is a second law just like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. Join us on Sunday as we think about the juxtaposition of loving God and loving neighbor. 
As has been the case since March, the worship video can be found (on Sunday, or later) on our Facebook page, or after the fact on our YouTube channel. A printed copy of the entire worship script is posted after the fact on the church website, and an abbreviated version can be found by clicking here.
We are soon coming up on the Women’s Guild raffle and auction. Raffle tickets can still be purchased (for yourself or for resale to family and friends) by contacting Trina Pauli (608-345-1877). You are also urged to peruse the online auction website ( and to bid generously on what you find there. I’m providing the two chocolate pecan pies. You’ll need to bid generously for those, or Ruby will outbid you!  (Smile)
A word about worship for the next three weeks: As with many of you, pre-pandemic plans that Ruby and I had made for vacation and travel didn’t happen this summer and fall. That means that I’ve only taken a little of my vacation for the current year. I’m going to take a part of what remains during the first three weeks of November and consider the remaining two weeks a gift to the church. That means there will be no worship video from the sanctuary on Nov. 1, 8 & 15. There WILL however, be videos posted from our neighbors at the two Monticello UCC churches - Zwingli UCC and Washington Reformation UCC. Or, if there’s another congregation whose worship you’re interested in experiencing, do that! There will be no midweek email the next three weeks, and no mailed mini-NL (most of those who get the weekly mini-newsletter don’t use email, so they won’t see this note!). The one exception to this break in church life is Confirmation. There WILL be confirmation on November 1, but then not on November 8 or 15. 
Your Pastoral Search Committee recently sent you a survey. Please do complete that survey. Your thoughts and hopes for pastoral leadership after I’m finished at the end of the year are very important!
One more thing: the November newsletter will contain a form you might use to communicate your giving intentions for the coming year. As you can imagine, the economic future of many organizations – including congregations – is very tenuous in these pandemic days. Your willingness to continue to support our common ministry and to tell your leaders what that support will be is a very important gift to the life of our church. Thank you!
God is good! God aches for all of us to show our love to all those around us. When we do that, we prove our love for God! Blessings to each of you!

   Pastor Rich Pleva 

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Zwingli United Church of Christ 
PO Box 530, Belleville, WI 53508

"A small church with a big 
and open heart!"

Rich Pleva, Pastor
608-845-5641 – voice
608-574-9465 - text

Zwingli United Church of Christ | 1338 Cty Road PBPO Box 530Belleville, WI 53508
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Money & Politics

posted Oct 16, 2020, 9:54 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Pastor Rich
"Money & Politics"
Dear Zwingli UCC,
There are plenty of folk who’d prefer not to hear about money and politics at church. There’s only one problem with that preference: One would need to ignore Jesus an awful lot. Sunday’s text combines these two difficult topics, and it’s Jesus who does the combining.
In a nutshell, the Jewish authorities were coming to a consensus that Jesus was a serious problem and needed to be dealt with. Their own positions of privilege and power depended on keeping their own bosses – their Roman overlords – convinced that “good order” would be maintained in Palestine. Jesus was clearly becoming a threat to “good order.”
Even then, lip service needed to be paid to “due process” and that precipitated a series of set-ups – contrived scenarios by which Jesus might be trapped in his own words and then disposed of. During worship on Sunday I’ll share some thoughts about Jesus’ response to the “gotcha question” of whether or not it was legit for a Jew to pay taxes to the Roman Caesar. I hope you’ll watch or read the service script at a time convenient for you.
Speaking of….the service scripts for each Sunday can be found on our website. If you prefer reading, that’s the best way to take in the worship life of the church during these days of pandemic distancing. And if you prefer to watch videos, the weekly worship video can be found on the church’s Facebook page, or on our YouTube channel. 
This coming Sunday, our friends at First UCC in Belleville are doing a “Tailgate to Go” fundraiser. They were kind enough to promote our drive-thru breakfast a few weeks ago; let’s return the favor by driving through for hot dogs or brats from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm at their church building – 130 E. Church St.
It’s virtually certain (I’m sort of sorry for the pun) that we won’t be gathering physically for worship by Christmas (which is only a little over 2 months away!). How do we make Christmas worship compelling when we can’t be together? If you have ideas that are creative (and not technically too difficult), I’d sure like the benefit of your thoughts. Thanks!
God is with us even when we can’t be together. The love of God is not dependent on life being easy or like we prefer. Keep the faith – God is good and God is love! Blessings to each of you.

   Pastor Rich Pleva 

church closeup

Zwingli United Church of Christ 
PO Box 530, Belleville, WI 53508

"A small church with a big 
and open heart!"

Rich Pleva, Pastor
608-845-5641 – voice
608-574-9465 - text

Zwingli United Church of Christ | 1338 Cty Road PBPO Box 530Belleville, WI 53508
Update Profile | About our service provider
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Did you know?

posted Oct 2, 2020, 6:57 AM by Cameron Hubanks

There’s an election coming up!  😊

Sloppy thinking has always been a challenge for human beings! Most of us are inclined to get an idea into our heads and then hold it like a bulldog would. When the idea is well thought through, that may be a good thing, but too often we are inclined to cherish certain ideas whether or not they really make sense.

One idea of long standing that floats around in churches like ours is the notion that church ought not get involved in politics. There are actually two ways (at least) to think about this question. There is a perspective from the laws of the land and then a perspective that comes from God. When the two disagree (and sometimes they do), then obviously God’s viewpoint trumps the perspective of human law (see the book of Acts where Peter famously asserted that he and the followers of Jesus had “to obey God rather than any human authority.”)  But happily, God and human law do not disagree on this question. People of faith and their churches DO have an appropriate and necessary role to play in human politics.

First the matter of human or governmental law.  In the United States (this isn’t true in many other countries) there is a constitutional separation of church and state. The first amendment clearly states that Congress may not establish any official religion, nor may it prohibit the free exercise of any religion. But nowhere does the constitution prohibit religious entities from involving themselves in political processes. Religious entities have made a bargain with the government in one respect:  In exchange for tax-exempt status, religious entities agree not to endorse specific candidates for political office. But it is well established that religious bodies (churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and so on) may comment freely on political issues. And many certainly do!  

Then there is the matter of God’s perspective. If God truly created the entire universe, then it is silly to imagine that God chooses to be indifferent to any part of human affairs, including government. The old saying that “All truth is God’s truth” certainly applies to government as much as to religion. In fact, God is deeply interested in government and the social and legal affairs of humankind. And invariably God comes down on the side of those who are disadvantaged, poor, sick, displaced, discriminated against and more. God’s attitude in a nutshell seems to be that the rich will be able to take care of themselves, but the institutions of human society (and certainly that includes government) ought to be ever and always looking to advance the welfare of the poor, and the displaced and disadvantaged.  Undoubtedly God doesn’t much care about fine detail of tax policy or environmental regulation or immigration policy, but God certainly cares very deeply about whether immigrants are treated with care and respect, and whether tax policy doesn’t unduly burden the poor (and make life even easier for the wealthy!) and whether the interventions of government serve to protect and restore the environment rather than to allow its degradation. Racism and structural inequalities of all shapes and sizes are certainly abhorrent to God.

As Christian people prepare to exercise their free right to support a particular candidate, the vows of our baptisms demand that we ask important and deeply faith-based questions about how we will vote. God cares both about the morality of our leaders and God cares about the morality of the policies they will enact. If God cares about those questions, then so must we.  

The people of the New Testament – Jesus and his followers – could never have imagined a form of government in which the citizens of the nation would choose their own leaders. That’s why the matter of voting is never addressed in the Bible. No Bible writer could have imagined such a thing. But we have that freedom and right – and as baptized followers of Jesus, we have an obligation to use our votes to advance the kinds of values that Jesus would have supported – the one who time and time again came down on the side of the poor and oppressed while warning the wealthy how dangerous was their moral state. In the end, Jesus agreed that the wealthy might enter the realm of God, but only with difficulty – like getting a camel through the eye of a needle.  Yikes! Most of us, from the perspective of Jesus are certainly wealthy. I hope we use our votes in ways that would make Jesus smile!

In fact, my ballot is upstairs lying on the kitchen counter. I’ll think I’ll go and try to make Jesus smile (or least not frown)!

Blessings to each of you!

From the Pastor's Desk

posted Aug 28, 2020, 11:07 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Like most schools, churches tend to begin their new program year in September. And like most schools, churches – including Zwingli Church – are figuring out how to begin a new program that will be unlike anything any of us have ever seen before. How do we worship and how do we train our children and young people in the truths of the Christian Gospel, and how do we give feet to our convictions through mission out-reach in a time of COVID-19 pandemic? 

Obviously, these are challenging questions. Even more than a business or a school, the fundamental values of a Christian church dictate that we take care of the welfare of our members: particularly our most vulnerable members. Jesus taught the necessity of never forgetting the needs of “the least of these” when we make everyday decisions about life and work, and obviously that includes church life. 

The church is not a building, it’s the people. 

Even so, our mandate to care for each other doesn’t invalidate other responsibilities. We still have a mandate to worship and to educate and to engage in service. These three – worship, education, and service/mission – are at the very core of any church’s reason for existence.


In a context of a communicable disease that is harmless for many, but potentially fatal for some, this is a challenging mandate. Without getting into much detail, suffice it to say that the work of Zwingli UCC will continue this fall, but in ways different from what any of us have ever known. 

For now, worship will continue online and in print. A combination of Facebook Live, YouTube, documents posted to our website, and paper documents mailed to a few members, seems to be a way to continue our worship life that works well. In addition, drive-in worship has been well received and the Church Council is considering the purchase of our own transmitter (they’re not very expensive) so we might do this a bit more frequently. 

Our de facto Sunday School Superintendent (Kriss Ace) and I have been speaking about ways to resume Sunday School in ways that use more online learning and more parental involvement. And there will be a Confirmation class this fall, probably unlike any confirmation class in the history of the church! (If you know of someone who’d like to be included – please have them contact me!) 

Our mission and service also continue – at this point mostly through support of the local foodbanks, but we will also participate in the Belleville CROP Walk and are open to other mission and service projects. 

So many aspects of life are different than what any of us have ever before known. But change is part of life and being flexible is essential in times of stress. As a church, we are seeking to be flexible. I think God approves. Your support is essential. Please try these new things and don’t hesitate to make suggestions. I can’t promise we can do everything you might suggest, but every serious suggestion will be fully considered. 

Blessings to all of you! 

Does anybody presume

posted Aug 1, 2020, 10:06 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Does anybody presume to listen to God in angry, fearful, divided times?   

I am sure that back in the late winter when the “novel coronavirus” first began to get some press, not a one of us could have imagined in our worst nightmares how life would be disrupted for months and months and months starting in March, continuing into the summer and now with no end in sight.

Obviously, life goes on. People must eat and be housed and more. We attend to these human necessities as best we are able under the circumstances. But we aspire to more. We crave physical company and recreation and enjoyment.  And it is precisely many of those beneficial activities that have become problematic for the welfare of the whole community.

Humans have evolved in such a way that when things go wrong, we instinctively want to know why and who to blame. This is not new – it is as old as the human race itself.

But just because we want a thing – relief, enjoyment, escape or even a scapegoat – doesn’t necessarily mean we can have it. I think it is precisely this reality that strongly contributes to so much stress in our nation.  For many people like you and me, life has been good for so long that we have come to believe that the freedom to come and go as we please and to order our lives with little concern for others has come to feel normal – as a “right.”  

I’ll set aside for this conversation the reality that not all Americans experience life in as privileged a way as we do. The fact is people like you and me have been blessed. But one of the dangers of blessing is that over time it comes to feel like something we’ve earned and deserve rather than something which is a gift.

The ancients were more acquainted with this hard reality than are we. People in ancient times were less shielded from the ups and downs of weather and disease and war than are we. They more frequently experienced wrenching loss and undeserved tragedy. This doesn’t mean it was any easier for them; it only means they had a little more experience in grappling with it.  

 The story of Job in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures) may be the oldest literature in the Bible.  Job was a wealthy man (a man of faith, by the way!) whose life came completely and utterly undone.   Job had friends who attempted to comfort him in his grievous loss, but their comforting seemed to boil down to suspicion and accusation that Job must have sinned, or things wouldn’t be going so bad for him. His friends were unhelpful, and they were wrong. Eventually God came and spoke directly with Job. I imagine Job figured that at least God would explain why this life had taken such a painful turn toward disaster. But God gave no such answer -- God only offered awesome presence.  

I am planning a short sermon series based on the story of Job starting Sunday, August 9. I’m certainly not God – so don’t expect any earth-shattering explanations for why life sometimes turns toward disaster – but hearing the story of Job may help us nurture faith and each other in difficult times.  

Remember this, my friends. We are loved. We are loved by God and we are loved by each other. This is a very good thing – it is precious. Hold on to it tenaciously.

With Great Hope!

For everything there is a season, Ecclesiastes 3

posted Jul 6, 2020, 12:48 PM by Cameron Hubanks

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

…. a time to weep, and a time to laugh 

…. a time to mourn and a time to dance. 

The writer’s full list of things for which there is a time is much longer – it consists of 14 pairs, and I suspect the list could have been even longer.  If I were writing this list, I might have added, “A time to say hello, and a time to say goodbye.”

I did not expect just 4 months ago to be saying goodbye to you as soon as the end of this year, but to be honest, I didn’t think it would be much more than a year past that. In January of 2022, I will turn 70 and when I accepted your kind offer to become your pastor, I told myself that age 70 would be the limit. As it turns out, I’ll be one year short of that intention.

Between now and then, we have work to do together. I do not intend to be a lame duck pastor. Even though it is undeniably true that learning new structures for pastoral ministry in a time of pandemic has been challenging and tiring for me, I do not intend to coast to the end of the year. Fundamentally I have understood my calling among you to be one of teaching, challenge, and encouragement. Even though it is not yet clear to me how/when we might again gather for face-to-face worship, encouraging you to consider the call of God upon our church and our individual lives is a mandate we can still observe together. We can continue to grow whether we worship in person, by virtual means, or the written word. So, expect my preaching and worship leadership to continue to invite you to grow in your faith, love of God and love and service of the world.  

Toward the end of the year, we will take intentional steps to say goodbye to each other. Saying goodbye is important, because when we say goodbye well and don’t leave things unsaid, we are better able to let go of the past with gratefulness and embrace whatever new is to come into our lives. But for today, we will focus on living and worshipping faithfully during a fading (or perhaps resurgent?) pandemic. We will focus on living and worshipping faithfully amid a divided and troubled nation and world. We will focus on living and worshipping faithfully amid personal joys and sorrows – the kind of everyday gifts and losses which have always characterized human life and always call for growing love and dependence on God.  

I’ve served as pastor for two years (on July 10!). Not a very long tenure, but long enough to have come to love you! Thank you for this privilege which you have given to me!   Blessings! 

From the Pastor

posted May 29, 2020, 7:42 AM by Cameron Hubanks

 Never before in the history of American Christianity have so many faith congregations chosen not to physically gather for worship as has been the case since mid-March. The people of Zwingli UCC last gathered for worship on March 8. Concern about COVID-19, the disease caused by the “novel coronavirus,” was beginning to focus the attention of large numbers of Americans, and during worship on March 8 I suggested that we not shake hands during the sharing of Christ’s peace.  We did not, however, keep a distance of 6 feet from each other, we still passed the offering plate, nor did we choose not to sing. I doubt it had occurred to any of us that singing and close physical proximity might be risky behaviors. As the week went on, it started to become clear that close physical contact was risky. About mid-week we cancelled the chili/soup lunch planned for the following Sunday, March 15. By the end of the week it was decided to cancel worship itself.  Even then, however, I doubt anyone thought that over two months later we would not yet be worshipping in the sanctuary.

Not gathering for worship raises many questions, not the least is the question of what it takes to actually be a church.  If a church doesn’t physically gather, is it a church?

That’s a somewhat interesting question, but the answer seems fairly obvious to me. If a community of people (however that community be defined) have committed themselves to a mutual journey of faith in order to follow and obey Jesus – I am convinced they are a church whether they gather physically or not.  Zwingli UCC is a real and even vibrant church – even if we do not physically gather for a long time.

The question that is far more interesting to me is the question of WHY we do or do not gather.  It seems to me that there are many suspect reasons for not gathering. High on the list would be convenience (perhaps better put as “inconvenience”). Certainly, our reasons for not gathering are unrelated to convenience or inconvenience.  

But are we choosing not to worship for reasons of fear? Some probably imagine that to be the case – that we are afraid of becoming ill (or even dying) and therefore we are “sheltering in place.” Fear is a natural and powerful human force. People often make life-changing decisions out of fear.

I do not, however, believe our decision to stay away from the sanctuary is based on fear. I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to die later rather than sooner (to invert a common expression), but neither am I afraid of death. My reasons for supporting a cessation of public worship are not mostly related to my own welfare.  

 In popular thinking, love is opposed to hate, and fear is opposed to confidence. Naturally, there is some truth to those two pairings.  But in I John 4:18 the writer teaches that “perfect love casts out all fear.” I do not think most of us would ordinarily think to imagine love and fear as opposites, but John is quite insistent that that is exactly what they are. For John hate is not the opposite of love, fear is, and confidence is not the opposite of fear, love is. 

And I would suggest that our reasons for suspending public worship are clearly and indisputably love-based rather than fear-based.  How love-based? You see, Jesus teaches that the essence of right religion is love of God and love of neighbor – and if gathering for worship jeopardizes my neighbor, it is best to give it up.  

I am sure that some of you are eager to resume public worship. I get that and sympathize.  Leading worship in an empty sanctuary is stunningly unsatisfying. I realize that radio and TV preachers have led worship from broadcast studios for decades and I agree that doing so is perfectly legitimate. But it’s nothing I’ve imagined myself doing. I’d rather not worship apart, given my druthers.

But Jesus commands love of neighbor and I cannot in good conscience support bringing those of you I have come to love into a situation of jeopardy just to fulfill my own druthers. 


So…. for how long will we continue to worship apart? I wish I knew, but I have no idea. That answer may be known to God, but it is not known to me. And to be clear, just because it may become “legal” to gather, that does not necessarily mean it would be loving to do so.  Until we can gather in ways that advance love, we do better not to gather.

Ultimately, this decision belongs to all of us – not exclusively to me or even to the Church Council.  And eventually a consensus will develop to again gather in person. But until that day, love compels us to practices (and sacrifices!) we could never, never have imagined.  

And even in the midst of an unimaginable present, God is good, and God is caring, and God is present. Not only that, but God calls us to practices of love. So, let us love each other even as we stay apart.  

Blessings….and God’s love to each of you!


From the Pastor

posted May 1, 2020, 1:43 PM by Cameron Hubanks

Among the most famous of the ancient moralist Aesop’s fables is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”  We know the story – the shepherd boy repeatedly sounded a false alarm that a wolf was menacing the flock of sheep for which he cared, and at each alarm the nearby villagers came running to help.   All they ever found, however, was the shepherd laughing at their foolishness.  After about three instances of this little game, a wolf really did set upon the flock, but when the shepherd boy called for help, no one came.  Aesop stated the moral of this story in these words: "this shows how liars are rewarded: even if they tell the truth, no one believes them.”

Trust is fundamental to the building of community cohesion.  And honest communication – truth-telling – is fundamental to the creation of trust.  There is a mirror image situation to that of the wolf-crying shepherd – it is the inclination of some to announce rosy and sunny days in the face of real trouble, and the bottom-line for that one is no different than for the wolf-crying shepherd.  Eventually no one believes them.

In our now month-and-a-half-long travail of social distancing, there is a deep longing among all of us for a return to normalcy.   And among us there are those assuring us that we will soon be there.  

I’m neither a scientist nor a prophet, but I am possessed of some experience and some common sense, and I’m doubtful that life really returns to “normal” for a very long time.  I’d like to be wrong about this, but I doubt that I am.

So…what does faith have to say to people whose lives are on hold, or turned upside down, or falling apart?  Faith isn’t here to tell us that everything will soon be like we would prefer it to be.  What faith teaches us is that God’s faithfulness continues unabated through both good times and bad times.  The idea that God exists to make my life comfortable and easy is a lie straight from the devil.  For reasons no human – from the day of Adam and Eve to today – has ever really understood is why there is evil in the world.  But even though we are never given an answer to the problem of the existence of evil, we ARE assured that God never abandons us to evil.  We are assured that God’s love and God’s light never fail – even in the darkest of days, each of us can choose love and kindness and compassion – and the only reason we can continue to choose love, kindness and compassion is because God never abandons us.

But I’m also convinced that humans can only really know and experience God as they commit themselves to honesty and truth.  God is not a god of fantasy and make-believe – God is a god of (sometimes brutal) truth and reality.  As your pastor, I’m also committed to speaking honestly and truthfully with you – even when the words I must say are words I’d rather not say.

My friends, we are in this COVID-19 crisis together.  And so long as we hang together – not just Zwingli UCC, mind you – but hang together with all people of goodwill and honesty, then God’s love and light will accompany us day by day by day.  It may be hard, it may be unpleasant, but God will be with us.

And better days DO lie ahead – we just don’t know how FAR ahead.  The Biblical prophets have always been clear about that.  So, my friends, comfort each other with these words.  God is good.  God is good, indeed!

With great hope!

Pastor Rich Pleva

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