It’s been two weeks since I preached for the weekly video. Last week Pastor Jean, and this week the service from Lutheran Campus Ministry. I’m on again this coming weekend.
None of that is a problem, but I did have something of an unusual sensation the last time I preached. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point during the sermon, I became aware of something. I was all alone. And maybe nobody was even listening!
That particular Friday we were a bit behind schedule, so I set up the camera in the sanctuary while Pastor Jean prepared her Summer Sunday School lesson. I got the camera lined up, did a few checks, and when all was right, I began the sermon. By myself. All alone.
Well, of course. There was no one in the sanctuary. Covid, remember? And Pastor Jean was getting her stuff ready. Of course, I’m by myself.
But as I was speaking, all of sudden I gazed into the lens, and wondered (in the back of my head, hoping I could “multi-task” and not lose my train of thought in the sermon) what if no one is watching me. I don’t mean right at the moment. I mean later, anytime. What if this recording, alone right now, continues to be alone. What if it isn’t just in my time (as I’m recording) that I am alone, overlooked, even forgotten. What if in a later time, a later moment, I’m still alone, still overlooked, and still even forgotten?
A chilling moment!
But not a unique moment. For many, these are days of being alone, overlooked, even forgotten. For some it’s the inability to connect with family and friends, or the now wearying need to remain safely at home. For others it’s the milestone – graduation, wedding, new child, new job – that just can’t be celebrated the way we usually do. Will anyone notice the change in my life?
Or what about the nursing home residents? Who have had no family visits in four months, and maybe won’t for another four months…or more?
And then, what if something happens…terrible happens…and my funeral is on the horizon, and…no one shows up, because no one can show up? I mean, what if “out of sight, out of mind,” is really true?
In that light I’ve been thinking about a story I recently saw on, of all places, the Weather
Channel’s web site. A story about forgotten people, remembered.
The story is about a camera buff who would routinely check out cameras at antique stores and thrift shops. He noted that many still had film, and after he began to develop film, he started to buy the old cameras for the film inside. In the process, he has developed over 35,000 pictures, mostly of people, of people he has never met. In the clip he makes the observation that in the film era, you took pictures of people who were important to you, in a moment that had value, and which nurtured your memories of life.
Maybe the people on the pictures weren’t forgotten, but the moment, a moment in someone’s life, was a moment that someone wanted to remember. But he also notes that maybe, this is the only evidence of someone’s life and the fullness of life, at least at that moment.
You can check out the story at: https://weather.com/news/trending/video/thought-lost-forever-memories-rescued-from-forgotten-film-rolls
As I watch the clip, I see faces of children and adults, engaging in the richness of life. Sometime in the past, in some place other than my own little corner of the world, people I will never meet, lived the life that God had entrusted to them. And I have the privileged of peering into a moment of that life. A life that maybe has been forgotten, a life that perhaps has been overlooked. Maybe even people who ended up alone.
But as I gazed at the pictures in the video clip, forgotten pictures, that easily might have been overlooked, I also realized that while others (like the guy being interviewed or the thousands who have watch this clip) have gazed at those pictures, someone else has gazed at their lives. And gazed at mine too.
In the midst of these crazy Covid days, when all is turned upside down, and we might begin to feel alone, overlooked, even forgotten, a good and gracious God is still keeping watch – and not losing sight of us.
I’m writing this out on my deck. The sun has just set, the darkness is descending, and the stars about the come out. I’m really hoping I catch a glimpse of the Comet NEOWISE!
Yet, as I watch the skies, I’m remembering that the God who created the skies, stars, comets, and all of creation, is watching me. And there is a whole lot of comfort! For in these challenging days, I’m doing a lot of things I’ve never done before, as a pastor, but even more so as a person. I’m uncertain, uneasy, confused, even a bit fearful. Most of all, there are the moments when I wonder if, as I gaze at the stars, if there really is someone – anyone – gazing back. Maybe I really am alone, maybe I am being overlooked, maybe I am forgotten.
But God promises that we are never alone. That promise begins in the waters of baptism, continues as we are fed by the Word of God we hear, upon which we feast (Holy Communion), and which we encounter again and again in the person of Jesus. The promise that is backed up, not by “the full faith and credit of the federal government” (like US Treasury Securities), but by something more profound and fundamental – backed up by the death and resurrection of Jesus!
And so this evening as I look to the stars, I’m going to remember that the stars may not be looking back, and maybe Sputnik or some other spy satellite isn’t out there either. But God is. The God who values each of the persons on those long forgotten rolls of film. The God who values the nursing home resident, the hospital patient, and the grandparent separated from family. The God who values the grieving families and the family member lost. The God who values the happy couple, the eager graduate, and even the uncertain pastor.
The God whose eye is on me, even when the sanctuary is empty, and all that I can see is a camera lens.