And the beat goes on…
And on, and on, and on…
The beat. The rhythm of a new life style, new routines, new schedules.
Or the beat. The beat down of a strange life style, draining routines, wearying schedules.
Yeah, that’s it. Beaten down. That’s how I’m feeling these days. How about you? I mean, I know there is more and more talk of “opening up,” but at the same time, there is also talk of the consequences. 3000 deaths per day by August? A second – or third wave?
Look, I’m not an expert, and I don’t have some direct line to those who are in the know, but I’m not dismissing those predictions. Too much at stake to do that. Too many lives. Maybe yours…maybe mine…maybe someone I love. So I’m sticking with social distancing, wearing a mask, being very cautious with what I do and where I go. And at church we are going to be cautious, really cautious. Not for our sake, but for the sake of others, especially those most vulnerable. That’s where our calling is.
Still, though I want to be careful and cautious, to avoid unnecessary risks, I’m still anxious, uneasy, and, well, even a bit afraid. After all, I have never been through anything like this before. That’s not such a big deal – lots of things in life I’ve never encountered before. The difference is that this time WE have never been there before. There is no book to follow, no established, proven procedure. Just lots of questions.
Questions like, just how do we “reopen” safely in the midst (yes, we are still in the midst) of a pandemic? And how do we resume some semblance of normalcy? And how do we gather again as a congregation when the virus is still out there?
Those are my questions. You have yours. Maybe the same questions, maybe others. But while the questions may be different, they share one thing – they are questions without easy answers. Or worse, questions with no answers. Not yet.
So, what do we do?
Don’t know? Oh, come on now! This one is easy!
What do we do? We rely on a loving God, working through the grace of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, what else could we do?
We are here, in the midst of a life and world altering moment, having lost control of our lives (not that we every really had control to begin with), and discovering that we are totally at the mercy of some unseen virus that attacks all ages, causing widespread illness, death, and most of all, fear. Tough spot!
And in that tough spot, we lean on Jesus, rely on the Holy Spirit, and bask in the embrace of a loving God. And if that’s what you are doing, that’s great – go for it! That’s what I’m doing. Not always perfectly, but I’m working on it.
But…what if we tried a different approach? What if we came at this from another angle?
A few millennia ago someone made a rather bold assertion. “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b) It was a guy named Mordecai, speaking to his cousin, Esther, who just happened to be queen. The problem is that unknown to the king, she was Jewish, and an enemy of Mordecai had just convinced the king that Jews were a threat to be eliminated (sort of an ancient holocaust.) Fearful of disclosing that she is Jewish, Esther hesitates. But Mordecai points out that not only does she have a calling, perhaps it is no accident of birth. She is here for a reason.
What about you? Are you here for a reason?
Look, it seems to me that it is quite valid to see ourselves in the midst of a “turned upside down” world, burdened by the challenges of life as we suddenly experience them, relying on a good and gracious God to uphold and sustain us. Works for me!
But from another direction…what if I said that you (yes, you!) are here for a reason? What if I said that you have been created by God for just a moment as this.
Think about it. You are more than a collection of physical elements, coalesced into cells and other organic matter, joined together in a variety of body parts. Moreover, you did not come into being merely through, well, you know.
Instead, you are a uniquely created being. God proclaims, “(I am) your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb…” Isaiah 44:24a.
Not only that, but to Jeremiah – and to you and to me – God declares that we have a purpose, a purpose that goes way back. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jeremiah 1:5a)
We are not accidents. We are God’s intentional act of love and care for the world.
More than that, we are disciples of Jesus, and we are here for a purpose. To do “God’s work with our hands.” To be the instruments through which God loves and cares for the world.
Perhaps then…maybe…you have come to life for just such a time as this!
So what’s this mean?
In the midst of these very difficult and trying times, maybe it’s no accident that you and I happen to be here. Maybe we are here, not to try to hang on and survive, hoping and praying that God will sustain us, but instead we are here because God has brought us into being for just such a time as this.
Not because we have what it takes, not because we are well equipped to rise above our challenges. Instead, we are here because in all sorts of ways, some we can see, and some we can’t, God is working through us to boldly make a difference in the world.
And that, it seems to me, changes the picture. Yes, I am helpless and powerless. And I feel a lot like a pawn in some cosmic drama. A victim of a virus I can’t see, of the changes to my lifestyle that rock my routines, and of the fear that this has brought to all of us. All that is true.
But it is also true that I am here for a reason. And the God who has brought me here will not abandon me. My calling is to continue to be faithful, and to live life faithfully. For the sake of Jesus, and for the sake of the world that God dearly loves.
So as a pastor, but more importantly, as a baptized child of God (just like you), I will continue to move forward. I will make decisions I have never had to make before, with information that is not always as full as I would like it. I will make those decisions with a fairly high level of uncertainty and apprehension. And sometimes I will not make the right decision. My imperfections will show. Abundantly.
But I will do all of that in confidence that I am not alone. God is with me. God has chosen me. And God will not abandon me. For I am here, in this moment, at this time, because God has placed me here.
Perhaps I have come to life in this moment for just such a time as this.