PASTOR MARK’S MUSING
On March 15, I celebrated worship with people in the pews at Centenary. Nothing unusual about that. For the past 5 years I have done it twice each Sunday, except for a few snow days. On March 22, that all changed because in December 2019 doctors in Wuhan, China began treating dozens of persons with pneumonia like symptoms. On January 11, 2020, one of those persons died, not from pneumonia, but from an unknown virus. Ten days later, that strange new virus was found in Washington state. On February 11, 2020, the unknown virus got a name, “coronavirus infectious disease – 2019”. Better known as COVID-19. As I write this on May 11, 2020 the U.S. has 1,380,434 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a reported 81,445 COVID-19 related deaths. From one case to well over a million cases in 112 days. Stunning!
Just as 9/11 will never be just another date on the calendar, COVID-19 will never be just the name of another viral illness. Its presence has changed our lives and turned the economy on its head. It has created suspicion and uncertainty. Questions and conspiracies abound as people try to find answers and make sense of the senseless.
On March 22, I celebrated worship with no people in the pews at Centenary. The nearly empty building (a few staff to handle worship mechanics) felt cold and lonely. The Sunday faithful were gone. Was God gone too? Where has God been as we have worshipped apart from one another the past eight Sundays?
I am happy to report God showed up very soon after the first “empty church Sunday”. I saw God in the smile of a little girl as she decorated her driveway with sidewalk chalk. I saw God in the faces of “out of school” high school kids delivering groceries to people unable to leave their homes. I saw God looking over the shoulder of an 81-year-old grandmother as she made cloth face coverings for her community care center. I saw God laughing with a group of kids celebrating a virtual prom because they could not attend their own proms. My God sightings goes on and on; both near and far.
And then I saw this. Tara Parker-Pope, a wellness writer for the New York Times, wrote, “During a crisis, the people who cope best are those who help others.” It sounded a lot like what a Rabbi from 2 millennia ago taught His followers on a hillside, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Today our church buildings may be empty, but as followers of the Rabbi, the Son of God, our hearts are not empty. All around us we see the presence of God. So, let us decorate the driveway and feed the hungry. Let us laugh with little children and care for the elderly. May others see God in us.