|Published on Sun, Mar 29, 2020 8:50 AM|
Last Wednesday night, nearly twenty of us gathered on Zoom for Evening Prayer and a virtual “coffee hour” following. As each face popped up on the screen, the group coached them through how to turn on their audio so we could hear as well as see them. I don’t know about you, but the steep technological learning curve of the past few weeks has been nearly as stressful as the virus itself. Finally, we all made it and it was a true blessing to “be together” for Evening Prayer.
During Coffee Hour afterwards, we each checked in about how we are doing with regards to health and sanity. Many people are staying home while others are essential workers. Mostly it was just really nice to spend that time in community such as it is. At that time, I shared with the group the bishop’s decision that all churches will remain closed at least through Easter Day and probably longer. As we talked about spending this most sacred season separated, not gathered together physically in this space, I got pretty emotional. Seeing some of your faces, hearing your voices, and thinking about not being able to break bread together, sing together, and hug each other on Easter, makes me tremendously sad.
One person told me last week that this time of quarantine has already given her a new perspective. She said, “when this is over, I don’t think I will ever just skip church for no reason again.” It does certainly put many things into perspective.
Bishop Rickel issued a pastoral letter on Thursday that echoed many of these same thoughts when he said: “In many ways, we feel in exile. Adrift a bit. That is not a comforting feeling. What we know is scary, what we don’t know even scarier. And yet, even in isolated exile, we are not alone. It’s apparent now that our Holy Week and Easter Day will need to be virtual and not face-to-face. Yes, that is a huge loss for us. It will be mightily different. But hear me, please. Nothing can stop Easter. Nothing. It is coming, virus or not, packed churches or empty ones. No matter what, it is coming. That is actually the whole point of Easter in the first place, Jesus risen from the dead, and through that, complete victory over death. This virus, nor nothing else, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The psalm appointed for today is Psalm 130 which we prayed together. This is a prayer originally used by someone seeking God’s forgiveness and favor.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
People have often found that in times of struggle and anxiety, God’s help comes in the early morning after a night of praying and waiting. Lately, I find that sleep is disrupted, dreams vivid, and waking up is a brief moment of respite followed by the crashing wave of remembering our present reality. So, while I do wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; I know this waiting will be with us for a while.
And yet, our hope looks and feels so different than ever before. Our natural urge and impulse to help, to be together, to DO, MUST be drastically different than what our hearts want.
Bishop Rickel said it well in his pastoral letter:
“Our call to action right now is a hopeful call. We can flatten the curve. We can spread out the pain and loss, instead of adding to the pain and loss. That is our hope, To realize that hope, we have to act. And the action we need to take right now is so foreign to us, both as Americans and as Christians. For us, action means going, doing, being with others, walking closely, alongside.
And yet this enemy needs the exact opposite from us. The only antidote we have, the only weapon against this enemy, is separation. Please abide by it. We need each other right now, but our need is to be separated, as much of a sacrifice as that is. Every single contact is a potential for continued spread. Everyone. I am urging you to take this seriously, for with every one we not only put ourselves and those we love, but all others, especially those on the front lines, nurses, doctors, EMTs, allied health professionals, chaplains, more at risk. Our role is simple, stay home, stay apart, say your prayers, and continue, as you can, to give. If you have not lost your income, and you still can, please give, to your church, to those agencies helping on the front lines, to any we can, as much as we can.”
Three weeks ago, I sent you forth from this place saying: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!” And you responded: “Thanks be to God!” And that my friends, is what we are doing. We are loving and serving the Lord until we gather in this space again. It is holy work and it is hard work. This is ministry which makes us weary to our bones because we are also grieving. We are grieving the loss of normalcy and routine. We are grieving the ways in which we may have been careless before, taking things for granted. We are sad.
As we head into this final week of Lent, I invite you my sisters and brothers, to sit with your grief. Attend to it. And also, prayerfully consider how you can continue to love and serve the Lord during this time. What does that look like for you? Perhaps it is showing extra patience and kindness towards those whom you live with and are now spending ALL of your time with day in and day out. Or, maybe it is calling a neighbor, or family member, or friend from church just to chat and check in. Be kind to yourself as we settle into a new rhythm of holiness caring for ourselves and others during this time. Amen.