"They shall soon come home.”
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 Saturday, March 28th: Psalm 130; Ezekiel 36:8-15; and Luke 24:44-53. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
We are getting ready today for tomorrow’s third Sunday of worship via live-stream. We’re practicing social distancing and shelter in place. These are necessary to help us flatten the curve, as they say, of the pandemic. This gives the health care professionals a fighting chance to give us a fighting chance. We’re trying to buy time.
A potential vaccine takes more time. No matter how smart the people working on the vaccine, no matter how much money is now thrown at it, it takes time to gauge possible side-effects and to determine dosage. We have no choice but to be patient and to help by even doing something as painless as worshiping together, but each in our own homes, in front of our own computers.
Both the reading from the prophet Ezekiel and from Luke, are hope-filled messages. To a defeated and displaced people, the prophet conveys Yahweh’s promise: “For they shall soon come home.” Luke shares the resurrected Jesus’ words. This seems a bit anachronistic as we enter the last weeks of Lent, but the resurrected Jesus is reminding His followers of what He had said prior to the cross and the empty tomb. He’s asking them to remember. He’s reminding them of “Lent.” Then, with this as their context, Jesus calls upon them to be witnesses to others and to the future.
I’d like to ask us to think about our current situation from a similar perspective. Ezekiel’s people are living in forced exile as they hear his words. Jesus draws the apostles’ attention back to the time when crucifixion seemed real, but the resurrection did not. And in both of these readings, hope was such a gift. Jesus ascends into the heavens to be seen no more and yet Luke writes that the apostles remained filled with “great joy.”
I was on a video conference with other pastors from the area a couple of days ago. We spoke about the hope that the faith itself and the community itself offered in these times of confusion and separation. Some congregations have begun live-streamed prayer groups or simply coffee klatches during the week. We spoke about members reaching out and staying in touch with one another informally and spontaneously. We spoke about the limitations of live-streamed worship, but also the potential to bring others to church who can’t be with us physically even after the pandemic has passed, blessedly, into history. We are now in those places that Ezekiel’s people inhabited and that Jesus’ apostles remembered. And we are offered the same blessed message of hope that faith shares.
This time will come to an end. We will look back upon it as life-altering. I’m hoping and praying that the world, governments and all of us will take more seriously plans for the future rather than draining all resources into a gluttonous present. I’m hoping that isolation causes us to turn outwards, to become more accepting of others, to become more cooperative than competitive so that we can work together to combat future global threats and build a future where hope is made real. Israel come out of exile. Jesus resurrected after the cross. We can do this if we choose to alter our ways, and faith can only help with its irrepressible gift of hope.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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