(Written on the day after the first Sunday we were closed for worship).
The empty church on Sunday made me aware of how much I miss you all! Church is family, Church is home, Church is intended to be a place to show love to God and His children. And even with the key to the building in my hand, it felt so strange to have the church locked and empty on a Sunday morning. It’s something I have never known before. It tears me apart that we couldn’t get together, and find comfort with each other. It made the troubling times of our days more troublesome. How I missed the blessing of singing some great hymns, hearing the good news again. I was looking forward to preaching on the wonderful, dramatic story of the “lost soul” Samaritan woman whose encounter with Jesus transforms her. But I felt like a lost soul. We were going to sing that old favorite “Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord,
come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven feed me till I want no more, fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”
But a tiny, invisible-to-the-naked-eye virus got in the way. Church is my life, and it was suddenly taken away from me. Oh, I feel we were right to not gather and risk even one person’s illness or even death. We did the difficult thing, but also the best thing when we gave up something that we value and enjoy: worship, fellowship, and Bible study, so that we could keep one infected person from unknowingly infecting a crowd of people with the virus. As one board member said, tongue in cheek, when boards and church leaders gathered for prayer and deciding what we should do, “We’re giving up church for Lent.” Well, two weeks of Lent, I just found out (Monday 3/17). As I was writing these thoughts, the drastic shutdown of all non-essential activity for two weeks begins tonight.
This pandemic has us feeling weary and worried, needing community, but facing isolation; needing control of what’s going on in our lives, but feeling like it is spinning out of control; needing a safe place, but filled with fear. How long is this going to last? How devastating will the world wide economy be? Who has lived through something like this that can point the way?
Read Psalm 46 and read it again, and again. Turn it from a statement about God, to a prayer’s yearning for God. For God is our Refuge. A refuge is a safe place when the storms come, like the tornado shelters in the plains states. God is our Strength to enable us to lift heavy loads of burdens that we could never lift on our own. God is our ever / very present Help in troubling times, and so we need not fear. It’s time to keep our eyes on the One who is our Refuge, Strength, and Help, for God offers these gifts freely and fully through Jesus Christ. We don’t have to ask God to be our Refuge, Strength, and Help. God already and always and in all ways is our Refuge, Strength, and Help. It’s just that we need these gifts of His presence more than usual right now. God is good, all the time – even when it hurts… even when fear and anxiety overwhelm us. So we can be still and knowing who is God, we know that the hosts of heaven is with us, the God of our ancestors is still the God we have today, our Refuge, Strength, and Help.
Trust God anew.