This Too Shall Pass

The challenges of working from home are many and varied for everyone. While I’m not working from home very much just yet, when I was trying to rearrange my calendar of what was being cancelled, what postponed, and what would be done electronically, Oscar felt the need to examine it first, and then give me the look that essentially says that nothing is as important as seeing him, being with him, and offering my focus on him alone. Working from home is not a problem for my fur children, though they do not always get along very well. For me, most all my “active books” are in my library in my office. Books for me are a bit of a security blanket – seeing the cracked bindings of my favorites somehow makes me feel like everything is going to be o.k.

We are taking deep precautions at Grace, some of the staff are working from home most of the time, we have hand sanitizer stations immediately inside the door, and Carmen has purchased the CDC recommended cleaning solution and she and Lydia are continuously wiping down the door-handles after the few folks coming and going enter and exit.

I’ve never preached in as empty a sanctuary as I did when we live-streamed last Sunday morning. Kudos to Chandler, otherwise known as “tech-guy” and his compatriots, Danny and Bill. We made the decision on Friday and they were good to go on Sunday morning at 9:15. The choir/ensemble that gathered were a huge help and the three joys triple the quality and hope of any day. Walt, Shawn, Mike, and Michael were in the congregation – all staff folk I brought in to help watch doors and let people know of our suspended in-person worship. Signs on doors are one thing, a friendly smile is another. Thank you to all of you who communicated with one another as the word was well-spread by you as well as our social media platforms, thanks Karen and Mark.

It seems this will be our new normal for the next whiles, at least through March 29. Maybe and likely longer, but I’m not emotionally ready to make that call about Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. I know, I know, the mandate is 8 weeks which takes us past those high holy days, so we aren’t going to be in public worship for them, I’m just not ready to acknowledge that out loud. If I don’t say it, I can deny the reality . . . sort of. We’ll still worship, and God is flat out NEVER going to be limited by the method or distance by which we worship, I am simply mucking around a tiny bit in my own disappointment and grief. Maybe you too?

And then . . . and then there’s all of you who checked in Sunday morning to say you were participating in worship from your homes!!! Some of you admitted being in your jammies, love that! Some of you confessed your dogs were not nearly as interested in my sermon as they might have been and sent pictures as such, love that! Some of you asked to put words on the screen for the hymns, working on it and love that! I personally noted that even without a congregation, my sermon was just as long. What’s the deal with that?!!? SERIOUSLY??? I had a preaching professor once tell me he believed I could preach to any empty room and not bat an eye or maybe even realize it. That wasn’t completely true, but . . . *snort. I didn’t run down the middle aisle at the end, although Kyle was ready, but the tech guy held up his hand and closed his fist – meaning the camera was off. I know, right? Oprah ain’t got nothin’ on me! Well except maybe a million-badillion dollars and a home in Hawaii. But I clearly have production people like she does, probably even better!

One of the bracelets I often wear is from a graduated Confirmation student and the inscription says, “this too shall pass.” I will admit to wondering how long as the news has continued to change daily on protections and recommendations. I do hope that in a couple of months we’ll be looking at how “overly” cautious we were because the virus wasn’t NEARLY as dramatic as “they” predicted – it means we will have succeeded as a nation – not simply existing as a polarized country of individuals so stuck on our own ideas of what’s happening that we put each other at risk.

I don’t EVER, EVER, think God causes things – God doesn’t have to, we’re quite capable of making bad decisions about our environment on our own. I DO however, believe God is in the midst of all things offering opportunities for us to learn and grow and confess and repent and change where we need to. In that particularly peculiar way, this change we’re living in happening during the Lenten journey, if it had to happen, is oddly fitting. Might it be extra time to reflect on life, on purpose, on meaning, on where and who we are and if it’s where and who we want and are called to be as followers of Jesus? Perhaps part of the “virus” Jesus fought was the hate that came from fear and insecurity of what he was offering to all people in every walk of life. The good news of being loved without limit of the classifications and labels human beings put on each other and the self. An inexhaustible generosity that, rather than fill a storage unit full of toilet paper and sanitizer or purchasing more weapons and ammo, gave freely of self to the cross, and beyond, so far beyond that hate and selfishness could finally not conquer eternal hope.

Where do we want to live? Most especially in troubling times . . . alone and afraid and shoring up the walls of our defenses? Or connected and assured – maybe joining our voices out the windows of our lives in hope as our friends in Italy have done in circumstances more dire than our own?

Honestly? Even if I can preach to an empty room and not bat an eye, it’s no fun. I love fun. I love laughter and hugs and people getting donuts and coffee and greeting each other and talking about all things major and minor and fist bumps and high fives and even the frowns that sometimes happen when we sing hymns that are maybe a wee bit unsingable but whose words the pastor thinks fit perfectly. I miss that normal, and . . . there are many right ways to do right things. So for now, we worship from a distance and communicate electronically. We are downloading more systems today that will allow us to do our small groups virtually. Information will be forthcoming on how that will happen, and if the youngies can teach me to do it, anyone can learn! I love us together in-person, and I love us as a connected community beyond in-person.

Thanks for being Grace to and with your neighbors, your friends, your families, and your about to be formed new connections across wires and wi-fi’s and social media platforms that maybe you’ve never used. We will continue to use these times as “the mother of invention” and perhaps come out of the complexity of this situation with God’s vision of a future coming into focus even now.

The youtube video makes me smile and I love the sentiment – it’s true for me and you!!!