There is a quote attributed to philosopher Soren Keierkegaard that says: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” I think this is a very apt saying in these days. In my pastoral visits and talks with people over the past few days, the conversation has often paused around current events for a time. Top among these events, of course, is the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and it’s related happenings: – Should school resume? If so, how? In person or online? – When will we all be able to come back to church? As it used to be? – When will this (virus, time of caution, etc.) be over? – What will life (ministry, work) look like post-virus?
Many of these questions are forward looking. But they also carry a yearning for understanding that may only be available in hind sight – that is by looking backward. This makes me ponder the relationship between the choices we make to move forward, and how they will be judged when at last we can look backwards. Do you follow?
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to cause major disruptions to normal life, I have been thinking about the importance of community. Community and connection are vital aspects to our Christ following faith. I cannot recall how often in my ministry career a person who has missed public worship due to illness or recovery for a few weeks, upon return has said, “I really missed being with the church family” or “my week was just ‘off’ because I wasn’t able to be there on Sunday”.
Well, none of us are able to “be there” on Sunday in the ways we have been used to now. So, how do we stay connected to Christ and to the body of Christ (the church) during this time of social distancing? Here are some thoughts that have come to me:
As a Protestant, and Baptist at that, I have only participated in an Ash Wednesday service where I received the imposition of ashes one time. It was a sobering event. The minister shared the words of Genesis 3:19 as she put the ashes on my flesh, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Could any verse more fully capture the morbidity of our condition? And that’s the point, isn’t it? To be reminded, as we begin the Lenten journey, of our humanity and it’s limited length of days. We are to be reminded of our complete and total dependence upon a Savior who provides us with both a newness and wholeness of life, even as he prepared to lay down his life for we dusty disciples.
Do you know the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, written by Laura Numeroff? It was one of my favorites to read to our kids when they were little. The premise of the book is that giving a mouse a cookie will set off a chain of events. First he will want a glass of milk. Then a straw. Then a mirror to look in, to make certain he doesn’t have a milk mustache. Then a pair of scissors to give himself a trim . . . . . . And on and on it goes in domino fashion, one thing very much leading to the next.
The humor of the book, beautifully illustrated by Felicia Bond, is found in the pictures and rather unpredictable twists and turns those dominoes take. The truth of the book is found in an adult reader’s real life experience that often has seen one thing lead to the next.
Often the clearest messages from God come to me while I’m doing something mundane or routine. Such was the case at the close of last year as I was helping paint our newest grandson’s room. I was simultaneously listening to the Christianity Today podcast, Quick To Listen and moving my hands and arms in rhythmic motion from paint bucket to wall. I cannot tell you what the topic of the podcast was because I tuned out of the interview early on to focus on one comment made early on by the interviewee. Mark Galli, recently retired editor for CT, commenting on his forth coming book , shared the following:
After years of working in this world, (I) believe that evangelical Christians’ strong suit today is the love of neighbor, be it prayer gatherings to evangelism to social justice to acts of mercy. We talk about God a lot and worship him and pray to him regularly.But on the other hand, relatively few Christians take with equal seriousness the command to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. If we do talk about the love of God, it is said that we love God by loving our neighbor. (From the introduction to the Jan 2, 2020 Quick to Listen podcast)