The Third Sunday in Lent
Mar 15, 2020
It is not only those with the virus who suffer its consequences. This is so obvious as to be self-evident, but the nature and extent of those consequences are what we begin to feel over time.
Last night Pastor Mietlowski and I were supposed to be at Trinity Lutheran Church in Rocky Point to celebrate their 75th anniversary. This morning I was looking forward to preaching and worshiping at Our Savior in Patchogue. One of the experiences I have found so life-giving and inspiring has been the opportunity to worship with you and share the good news. What a blessing to see the faithfulness and joy expressed in worship and the love and care that you have for each other and for your communities. This Church is strong! This Church is loving! This Church is filled with the Spirit of God! As I knew, you show over and over again that you are God’s beautiful people. And I have hope!
Then along comes the Coronavirus. Events get cancelled. And our anxiety and concern increase. Questions that before were only minor become so much more important. How do we share Holy Communion? How do we pass the peace? Should we even gather in the same space if that creates risk? How do we continue to be Church when so much feels threatening and uncertain?
In the past month I have been on nine plane flights. I have commuted to the office and to events using public transportation. And while I feel fine, (even though, at 62, I am in the at-risk group!) am I a carrier? Could I make someone else sick through casual contact? I think of our treasured older members and their vulnerabilities. What is the “right” thing to do? We make our best decisions, seek the advice of “experts,” and then “sin boldly” (to quote Luther). As Pastor Justin Johnson of Our Savior, Croton shared on Facebook in the midst of the concern of whether or not to worship in person, “I don’t think there was a right choice.” So we choose anyway and move ahead in hope, fingers crossed, hand to heart, leaning on those everlasting arms that never let us go!
And you rise, dear siblings! You rise! Livestreams, YouTube worship, ZOOM worship, plans to care for the vulnerable, checking in on the isolated, gathering together with courage as appropriate, praying and praying some more, pastors and councils planning and working together. Making the hard decisions. All out of love for this Church! This Church that is God’s gift to the world!
This is our Lenten time. This is our formation time. In stress and anxiety, we will follow the Spirit and find a way. And in finding that way, we will discover again who we are, who God has created us to be, who Christ formed us to be through his own death and resurrection and by breathing on us the precious Holy Spirit.
It’s not fun but we are learning something. I am learning something… again. How good God is. How beautiful you are. How we are Church together. How blessed I am to be your bishop.
A Baptist preacher with the enviable name “Shadrach Meshach Lockridge” once shared a sermon whose repeated line was, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” I cannot wait for our celebration of that greatest of Sundays when we celebrate the victory of life over death, love over fear. In the meantime, I am so grateful for who you are, for your flexibility, joy and grace.
God loves you and so do I.
In the risen and rising Christ,