We have all seen them. Perhaps you are one of them, one of those peculiar individuals we see driving down the road in their own car all by themselves wearing a facemask to combat the Coronavirus. Of course, we know the benefits of wearing a face mask in public. In some places it is not only suggested but required, not only for employees of essential businesses but those who choose to use those businesses as well. But alone in the car seems to be a bizarre and unreflective take on things.
Last week, my good friend and colleague, Rev. Paul Koch, wrote an article on this site entitled, “The Church’s Failure in the Crisis”. I’ve known Paul for almost 18 years, and I’m certain that his passionate desire to faithfully serve God’s people led him to write this post. But as much as I respect Paul as a man and fellow pastor, and although I’m confident of the sincere intentions behind his words, I couldn’t more passionately disagree with him.
As we are beginning to see the signs of our economy opening up (well not here in CA, but in some others states), and as we catch glimpses of life beyond this crisis, our thoughts begin to settle again on the future. I, for one, have been thinking a lot about the lessons we will learn from COVID-19. What will be the takeaway for the Christian congregation that tried to navigate the waters of uncertainty and fear while striving to be faithful to their confession and mission?
I have a difficult time viewing safety as a virtue. Resilience perhaps, fortitude to be sure, but not just safety. I want my kids to be safe, of course. I want them to take reasonable precautions when doing dangerous or risky things. Safety serves the risk; it serves a life marked by danger. It is calculated and reasonably weighed out. But danger, why, danger is the stuff that makes life worth living. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As soon as there is life, there is danger.” To elevate safety above engagement is a cowardly and timid way to engage this world.
After our last episode of Saints and Cinema, where we talked a little bit about movies for watching during a pandemic, one of our brothers commented that The Seventh Seal was the best plague movie. I had watched three or four Ingmar Bergman movies in the past year, but I had held out on The Seventh Seal.
Many have lamented the fact that Easter has fallen during this global pandemic. Plans have been ruined, celebrations are cancelled, and reunions get pushed off to a later date. I do not get to preach to your faces and miss seeing the reactions, the smiles, the tears, and the confusion at times, as I proclaim the Word of God.
He is risen! Now is the time to rejoice and celebrate. Although it might seem a little strange today, to attempt a celebration of victory over death when everyone is isolated in their own homes, for fear of a deadly virus. Church gatherings are replaced with individuals streaming at home. Family dinners are reduced to lonely leftovers. Laughter of the kids in their new Easter clothes hunting for eggs now looks like antsy children in their pjs, bored with the at-home schedule just like yesterday.
Saturday is the pause between the dark pain of Good Friday and the bright joy of the resurrection. Hazy shadows stand between Friday and Sunday, between night and morning, between despair and comfort. Saturday may be the most overlooked devotional opportunity of Holy Week, possibly because it is the unrealized in-between.
“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” This cry of Jesus sounds from the cross before he gives up his spirit. The darkness deepens, the Light of the world falls silent. Tonight on this Good Friday, we will ponder the death, the good death, of our Lord and Savior.
For years the call of the pastor has had an element that always plays out behind the scenes, something most people assume a pastor does but never really know what it is about. It is wrapped-up in one of the vows he makes on ordination, the one where he promises to, “Minister faithfully to the sick and dying and demonstrate to the Church a constant and ready ministry centered in the Gospel.”