A Message from Dale, April 3rd, 2020
“Satan: ‘I will cause anxiety, fear, and panic. I will shut down business, schools, places of worship, and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.’
Jesus: ‘I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit, I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.'”
–C. S. Lewis in 1942,
during the Battle of Britain and the blitz upon London.
It’s good to be reminded we’re not the first people of faith to be tested in the very ways we experience these days. It’s good to be reminded that there is nothing God cannot use for good. That is the whole point of keeping the Cross of Christ front and center as we Christian churches often do, especially during Holy Week.
We are doing fine, everyone, if we can tolerate feeling like strangers in a strange land for weeks and months. You and I do hold each other up, even at a distance.
One church family described gathering in their family room on Sunday morning at 10 am to praise God with their spiritual home during our virtual internet worship. Just hearing your voices, they wrote, gives us confidence and hope. We feel the same as we all hear back from you, says our church staff, as it steps up big-time.
This is not an easy time for pastors. But your warm receptive gratitude has made it easy. In John ch. ten, Jesus speaks as our Good Shepherd, in saying, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
The goodness, generosity, empathy, and kindness that I see in all of you at this hour are enough to make me weep, to be perfectly candid. I have walked with you through crises before. It has always revealed what you are made of. And for that I give God thanks and praise to serve such a wondrous Christian community.
Panic can creep into us in subtle ways. I would include panic as arrogance which asserts our Christian faith has the only truth. And that every other truth outside of our Christian truth–science, government, even law enforcement–is hostile to us.
Maybe you’ve heard of Florida and Louisiana churches gathering in the flesh despite clear mandates telling us how foolish that is. I cast shade upon no one in this vulnerable hour. But we Congregationalists are not the sort of Christians who look to God to save us after we voluntarily jump out of a window. We are not the sort of Christians to put ourselves first at the expense of protecting our neighbor.
An infectious disease epidemiologist recently described how we are only in the infancy of this pandemic’s trajectory. More friends of ours will perish as hospitals become overwhelmed. This might lead us to think that protective measures like hand-washing, gloves and social distancing are not working. Then he continued:
They may feel futile.
You will feel discouraged.
This is normal in chaos. This this is also normal epidemic trajectory.
The enemy we face is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need to hold the line..
Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying.
You may feel like giving in.