Lenten blog | March 31, 2020
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 31st: 2 Kings 4:18-37; Psalm 143; and Ephesians 2:1-10. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is the end of a rather long and eventful month. We started off March with the regular practice of Sunday worship in our sanctuary. We end it by holding worship Services, Bible study and church meetings via live-stream due to the shelter in place restrictions caused by the pandemic.
We started off the month with our teenagers coming together for the Association Youth Group meeting in Southampton. Now schools are closed until May and maybe even until September.
We started off the month beginning to worry about what COVID-19 may entail. We end the month hearing Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Corona Virus response coordinator, commenting on the projections of Dr. Anthony Fauci that U.S. deaths could range from 1.6 million to 2.2 million. She sees this as a worst-case scenario if the country did “nothing” to contain the outbreak, but she said even "if we do things almost perfectly," there could be up to 200,000 U.S. deaths!
March is a transitional month. In normal times, it’s the move from Winter to Spring, from snowstorms to those special, occasional warm and sunny afternoons. This year March is transitional in a far more consequential sense. For one, I think we have transitioned from bluster to humility. We face the daily reality of this pandemic and how susceptible we are to a virus so small that it would take 750 of them to reach across the width of a human hair. For as advanced as our medical technology and infrastructure are, we remain locked in our homes for months so that we can help “flatten the curve” and give our care providers a chance to provide for us.
We can set dates for a return to normalcy. We can ignore the evidence that COVID-19 is ten times as deadly as the seasonal flu (1% vs .1%) and that it spreads much more casually and effectively. But the reality of all this doesn’t much care about our pronouncements. And that is humbling.
This humility has forced us to work together. We take precautions for our own health and safety, but at the same time our precautions help keep others from contracting the Corona Virus. By practicing preventive measures, we are not only thinking about ourselves, but people we know and complete strangers. We need to trust the advice of experts. We need to count on frontline medical professionals. We need to trust that companies will care less about short term profits than they will about manufacturing ventilators, masks, shields, and the such. We don’t, and we can’t, survive this alone.
And that humbleness has been a core Christian proclamation from the beginning. Ours is a faith meant to be shared and to be practiced as community. At the Last Supper, Jesus condenses all of the 613 Old Testament laws, and even His own Two Commandments of Love, down to the singular “‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’” (John 13:34) We are stronger together and it takes humility to realize this. And as it is said in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
In this month of transition, let us take another look at this idea that salvation is not our doing, but that we are the humble recipients of “the gift of God.” And let us look to the cross to see how costly that gift is.
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