The blessing of community
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Tuesday, March 17th: Genesis 29:1-14; Psalm 81: and 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is usually a day of boisterous celebration. It is St. Patty’s Day. I have friends in the adult beverage business. They have said that some of the bars in Holyoke can earn up to 80% of their annual sales in conjunction with this day. Parades are held. Queens and courts are elected. Green is ubiquitous. Politicians hold breakfasts that are reported in the news. But not this year. This year we are practicing “social distancing.” By local, state and federal decree, people are prevented from gathering in large groups, and bars and restaurants are ordered closed. We are in the midst of the Corona Virus pandemic.
If there is any silver lining to this crisis, it is a renewed appreciation for community. I am watching people come together to help each other. I received an email from a young family yesterday asking how the young people could be of assistance during this time of school closure. We are calling one another to make sure everything is all right. The town is increasing wellness checks on seniors. People are purchasing gift cards to local establishments to help them through this lull of business. I think the political pendulum has begun to swing back to center. I think we realize that government is not necessarily evil. We are asking government to help with their expertise and financial assistance in ways that only the government can, and can only with our investment.
I hope and pray as well that this renewed appreciation for community extends to the church community. I literally cannot remember the last Sunday that I did not go to church. If I go away on vacation, I go to church. Church is as much a part of Sunday as green is for St. Patty’s Day. Then, a couple of days ago I had to stay at home on Sunday and lead worship from in front of my computer screen. I would have loved to have led worship from our church building, but we have no internet connection there. We are still church, and we are still worshiping, but boy do I miss the worshiping community and the sacredness of place. Watching a sporting event without anyone in the seats is not the same. That’s the way I feel about church. The community makes such a difference.
I hope and pray that you feel something similar.
And may I point out a remarkable line from the Psalmist? God is not only admonishing His people for their disloyalty. God almost groans out the anguished words: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” God speaks, and no one cares to hear. These are words of God’s isolation: “If you would but listen to me!” Ours is a God who is not distant and aloof, but one who cares about us so much and so desires to be a real part of our lives that Jesus came to us, and Jesus died for us.
If the silver lining of community extends to the community of the church, I hope it also extends to include a renewed and holy desire to be close to the God who desires to be close to us. And in this time of unpredictable disruption, let us remember the words of today’s Psalm: “Sing aloud to God our strength.” God is stronger than any crisis. Turn to Him and listen.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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