Haunted by the Why of Things

When we are faced with tragedy, we frequently try to come up with answers and explanations for the why of things. We look for people to blame or we imagine conspiracies to explain the tragedies that have befallen us. But when we do that, it comes at a great spiritual cost.

This is a point made by author and pastor Rob Bell in reflecting on the story of the Book of Job. In that story, as Job and his friends argue over the explanation for the sorrow and suffering that has befallen Job, God appears and rebukes them all for making their great pronouncements without any actual knowledge. In the end, Job admits that he didn’t know what he was talking about and remains silent.

Bell points out that one of the oft-overlooked lessons of this story is that there is the anguish of the thing that’s happening to us, and then there’s the anguish that happens because we think we can understand. That’s a pain that’s self-inflicted.

We can often get caught up in the questions of why things happen that we overlook the question of what—that is, what do we do about what has happened. Jesus shows us what this response looks like. When encountering a man born blind he does not worry, as his disciples do, why the man was born blind, but only what he can do: bring healing and restoration.

Therein is the lesson for us. When we are faced with tragedy or live in uncertain times, we can obsess over unanswerable questions and compound our own suffering, or we can figure out how we respond, offering love, mercy, support, and the solidarity we receive from the God who walks beside us all our days, in tragedy and in deliverance.

Rev. Mark Schaefer, Pastor


Thanks to everyone who participated in worship services Sunday. Thanks to Crystal Reed, Chiara Griffith, and Cara Schaefer for helping to set up and test the online connections, to Chiara Griffith for  providing our music. And also to our dog Beny for not misbehaving during the recording for the second week in a row.
         Sermon: “The Wilderness of Tragedy,” Rev. Mark Schaefer
         Sunday’s attendance: c. 40
         Collection: $ TBD
NEXT SUNDAY SERVICES, MARCH 29, 2020, 10:00 a.m.—ONLINE (See Below)
Fifth Sunday in Lent

Sermon: “The Wilderness of Death and Loss,” Rev. Mark Schaefer
Scripture Lessons: Ezekiel 37:1–14; John 11:1–45

To Join Online: Want to help out in worship? Use our online sign-up to be a greeter, usher, liturgist, lector, or communion server.

Community Events & Information

Out of care and Christian concern for the most vulnerable members of our community, all in-person worship, meetings, and other events are cancelled through Sunday, March 29, 2020, and possibly beyond. Read our pastor’s letter about the cancellations. All our events are moving online and instructions for joining them can be found below.

A mailing has gone out with pre-addressed contribution envelopes for those who would like to make their tithe or offering. We have also recently set up a system that will allow you to do the same thing using a debit or credit card or your bank account information. You can choose which fund to contribute to, make a gift in honor of or in memory of someone, and even set up a profile to speed recurring donations in the future. To make your donation online, visit
Monday, March 23, 2020, 9 a.m.–11 a.m.?

The Monday Methodists are back in action and will be meeting online for their regular prayer meeting using Zoom from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.. As per our usual custom, Monday Methodists will be followed immediately by the Knitting Group at 10 a.m.. You are welcome to join us for either or both meetings by logging in any time after 9 a.m.  Here’s how you can participate!
  • Using Zoom on a smartphone, computer, or other device
  • Calling in on your telephone
    • Dial  +1 (301) 715 8592
    • Enter meeting ID: 306 194 066#
Contact (Monday Methodists): Lu Lawrence,
Crystal Reed (Knitting)

The Pastor’s Bible study continues this week and every Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m.  We continue our deeper dive into the lectionary texts used on Sunday during worship. Everyone is welcome to attend. No prior experience required! Because of the closure of the church building, we will be having this Bible study online. Here's how you can join!
  • Using Zoom on a smartphone, computer, or other device
  • Calling in on your telephone
    • Dial  +1 (301) 715 8592
    • Enter meeting ID: 418 392 652#
Contact: Rev. Mark Schaefer,
Tuesday, March 17, 11 a.m–1 p.m; Wednesday, March 18, 2 p.m.–4 p.m.

Rev. Schaefer’s office hours will be online this week for both the Tuesday in-office session and the Wednesday in-a-coffee-shop session. You can connect in a number of different ways.
  • Through Zoom Group Meeting:
    • Use the Zoom app to join the meeting via smartphone or other device
    • Or Call in to the Zoom meeting on your telephone at:
      • Tuesday: +1 (301) 715-8592, enter code: 173 570 837#
      • Wednesday: +1 (301) 715-8592, enter code: 493 671 679#
  • Use Google Chat
    • From your online gmail, initiate a hangout chat and invite him ( to chat. Once you're connected, you can talk online through chat. 
If you cannot make office hours but would like to talk with Rev. Schaefer, you can book a time to do so through a handy online tool called You Can Book Me. You can use this to book time to talk online via chat or by phone. You can also reach him by phone at (202) 486-6061.
Contact: Rev. Mark Schaefer,
A Joshua tree in the Arizona desertMarch 1–April 12, 2020

When you’re in the wilderness of want, fear, despair, tragedy, death and loss, or betrayal—where is God then? Beginning next Sunday, we will be embarking on a Lenten Sermon series exploring the experience of journeying through the wildernesses of our lives and where we encounter God in their midst.
Contact: Rev. Mark Schaefer,

Regular Weekly Calendar

  • Monday
    • Monday Methodists, 9 a.m. (ONLINE)
    • Knitting Circle, 10 a.m. (ONLINE)
  • Tuesday
    • Cheltenham Academy, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
    • Pastor’s Bible Study, 9:30 a.m. (ONLINE)
    • Pastor’s Office Hours, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. (ONLINE)
    • AA and Al-Anon, 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday
    • SLOGGS Meeting, 11:30 a.m. (2nd Wed of month)
    • Pastor’s “Office” Hours, 2–4 p.m. (ONLINE)
    • Book Club, 6 p.m.
    • Band, 6 p.m.
    • Choir Rehearsal, 7 p.m.
  • Friday
    • Pastor’s Sabbath
  • Sunday
    • Sunday School, 9 a.m.
    • Sunday Worship, 10 a.m. (ONLINE)
    • Fellowship, 11 a.m.

Prayer List

Betty McDermott, dying from COVID-19 and her daughter Martha, quarantined with her
First responders, providing urgent medical care during this pandemic
Connie, and all those working in nursing homes during the pandemic
Indigo, and all those concerned with job insecurity and finding employment
Leonard B., for quick recovery and good test results following recent surgery
The son of Pastor Denise Millett, at high risk for infection, seeking excused absence from work
The family of Dave Dargo, mourning his death
Lydia and Joe Gladstone, mourning the death of Lydia’s mother Irene
, mourning the death of her brother
, with back problems
Eddie, with lung problems
The family and friends of Judy Stone, mourning her death
The family and friends of Tony, mourning his death
Rev. Warren and his family, grieving death and family tragedy
Lucien, with foot sprain
The family and friends of Mary, mourning her death
Becky, with a back injury
Judy, mourning the death of her son
Jaime, with difficulties in pregnancy
Caitlin, with pneumonia and an ear infection
Landon, with a broken arm
Derek, deployed to Bahrain
The family and friends of Amy Mackey, mourning her death
The family and friends of Bradley Brown, mourning his death
Jenn, going through a difficult time
Leora, with increasing memory problems
Joanne, going in for a heart procedure
Bill, with gall bladder problems
Becky Flade, recovering from a stroke and going through a difficult time
Crystal’s friend, diagnosed with Parkinson's
Elsie and Chuck Tyler, in the hospital

Submit a prayer request
Have an announcement you'd like to see in the Weekly E-pistle?
Submit an announcement request.
Facebook Facebook
Website Website
Twitter Twitter
Copyright © 2020 Cheltenham United Methodist Church, All rights reserved.

Know someone who’d like to receive a copy of the Weekly E-pistle?
Forward this email to a friend

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp