Pastor' Message 3-19-20
In keeping with the policies instituted by our governing principalities and our desire to control the potentially devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus, we will not be holding services on the 22nd or 29th of this month. Furthermore, in compliance with the Governor's recent announcement our office will be closed until those restrictions are lifted. Lenten services are canceled for the remaining sessions and all church activities are on hold until further notice. These restrictions will be extended depending on further developments and instruction of those governing bodies who are safeguarding the nation’s health.
Pastorally, I urge you to do your part to restrict the virus’ advancement by staying away from others and by remaining at home as much as is possible. Increased contact with others increases the possibility of not only catching the virus yourself but more importantly, being a unknown transmitter.
This time of “lockdown” can be very frustrating. It is an isolating time, when for the sake of others, we are sacrificing our desires and limiting our freedoms. I would suggest that such a time, while tragically forced upon us, can also be a time of significant growth. As a congregation, we are in the midst of the season of Lent, a period of 40 days where we are to refrain from the world and reengage with God. The models for this 40 day period come principally from Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness as well as other Biblical “40s” like Noah’s 40 days during the flood and the Israelite's 40 years in the wilderness. All of these times were very trying but, in the midst of the difficulties presented they were also refining times which blessed those engaged in them with spiritual discernment and growth. The current COVID crisis has forced us all into a sort of Lenten season whether we want it or not. Fortunately, if we persevere through this season in faith, we will have the opportunity to grow and even be blessed as did those Biblical characters of old.
How are you appropriating this difficult times? Are you binge watching your favorite shows, consuming the endless and repetitive reporting concerning the virus, defiantly refusing to abide by the restrictions being suggested, or depressingly consumed by self-preservation and worry? Surely our time and energies can be better spent. It is hard to know how long our “social distancing” will occur or even increase in urgency, but we need not be more distant from God during this time. We might even draw nearer. Furthermore, via technology, we have other modes of being socially close with others. Whether via an old fashioned phone call, a written letter, email, chat streams, facebook, or snapchat; there are many ways we can stay connected and supportive of one another. The strength we receive from God and can then share with one another is essential at this time.
Some of us are on the front lines of this fight, in places where some degree of exposure is unavoidable due to the “essential” nature of your vocation. These individuals need our gratitude and prayers and when possible, our support. Many more of us have been determined to be “nonessential” and just trying to figure out the next step. It may be interesting to note that churches and thus pastors have been deemed “non essential.” Surprisingly, I agree with this designation, because while God is beyond “essential”, our heavenly Father does not need these institutions to be and bless. God only needs time with his people and this unfortunate season can fortunately provide us with such time. Our isolation can lead to greater intimacy with our Lord as we use some of the alone time we have to be in communion with God in prayer and study. The restrictions placed upon our ability to produce at work, school, or other outlets can increase in us an appreciation for our vocations and a recognition of how much we need one another. The sacrifices we are making enters us into a sort of forced fast that has the opportunity to make us more aware of what is truly important, sympathetic with those who regularly suffer want, and grateful for the plenty we often enjoy.
There are innumerable ways that this “pandemic” is awful in its scope and effect, but I prayerfully hope that our faith and fellowship will not only persevere but prosper, if not in our church buildings then more essentially in the hearts of those who hold onto Jesus through this season.
Your brother in Christ,