The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for all of us. One day we are hit with the stress of trying to figure out how to manage work responsibilities from home. The next day we find ourselves enjoying the chance to work in our PJs and have a less demanding family schedule. Then we pick up our phone, scroll through our newsfeed and anxiety begins to pulse through our bodies. Constant stories of the relentless, devastating pandemic take over our imaginations and infect our hearts.
This up-and-down, back-and-forth roller coaster can feel like a painful whiplash in the soul.
In times like these, I’m reminded of how much we need to see our lives as part of something much larger than the unfolding news of the ever-widening impact of COVID-19. Our lives are actually part of a great sacred story, one that began with the Spirit of God hovering over the dark waters of chaos and the voice of God speaking, “Let there be …” light and land, animals and flowers, sea and sky, humanity and love, work and rest.
As the story unfolds, this same God calls Abram and his descendants to travel to an unknown land. It’s a disorienting journey, but through it they will become a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. Generations later, these same people wander in the wilderness, hoping for a Promised Land, while learning to trust God in their struggles.
“Even now, we are all part of God’s great unfolding story of creation and redemption, death and new life.”
The story continues in the person of Jesus, who calls his followers to a similar path. Then and now, Jesus invites us to know and trust God in the wilderness, to discover what God is creating out of the chaos of life and to find ways to create beauty, love and joy out of the chaotic waters of life.
In our shared moment of crisis, we need more than ever to remember that our lives are part of a great sacred story, one that has been unfolding since the beginning of time. It’s been playing out in every generation and is still being played out today in the particular story of each of our lives. Our sacred story grounds us and holds us, guarding the soul from any lasting damage that the whiplash of life amid a pandemic can cause.
This is one of the great gifts of the Church’s worshiping life and the rhythms of Liturgical seasons. We’ve been in the season of Lent for weeks now. We began with Ash Wednesday, before the pandemic began to consume our hearts and shut down our society. Soon we will enter Holy Week, which moves from crowds chanting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday to shouting “Crucify him!” on Good Friday. This familiar story always ends with the emptiness and loneliness of Silent Saturday. Only then, after weeks of wilderness spirituality, will Easter come.
It is a rhythm that shapes our worshiping life each year and gradually becomes woven into our soul. It creates a lap bar and seat belt, holding us securely in place, whenever the roller coaster of life sends us plummeting down another steep hill or careening around another sharp curve.
As the weeks of this pandemic continue and the staggering death toll climbs, the Church of Jesus Christ will remember again what life looks like on the other side of the cross and resurrection, death and new life. Of course, worshiping together as congregations during this crisis is far different than anything most of us have experienced in our lifetimes, but we need our communities of faith now more than ever. So, for the sake of your soul, be sure to engage fully in whatever your church is doing in worship, discipleship and ministry, even if it feels strange.
There are also things you can do on your own. As you shelter in place in your home, find a way to observe Palm Sunday. You might put a branch of something green on your door or table. Then, watch it begin to wilt and dry out as Holy Week progresses. On Good Friday, light a candle and reflect on the crucifixion.
On Easter morning, our sanctuaries may be empty and silent, but you can find a blooming crocus, daffodil or tulip to put on your table as a sign of the new life that always comes bursting out of the empty tomb.
In this unusually quiet, low-key Easter all of us will experience, we can remember that the first Easter took place hidden away in a quiet garden with no one around.
As you navigate the wildly fluctuating emotions and unsettling uncertainties of these days, allow the great sacred story we share to hold you, sustain you and guide you. Even though this feels like an unprecedented time, remember that we are in a familiar rhythm. Even now, we are all part of God’s great unfolding story of creation and redemption, death and new life.
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