What a difference a year makes! This time last year, we were a little over two weeks into a shutdown/shelter in place. Pastors and religious leaders were left reeling, trying to figure out how to create meaningful Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Resurrection/Easter Sunday worship experiences. People worked as swiftly as possible, placing a significant investment of time and resources into streaming services and online platforms like Zoom. There was much discussion on how or what could be done to aid people in experiencing the presence of God while creating opportunities for congregants to connect. Parishioners were left feeling shocked. For the first time in some people’s life, they were unable to attend worship in person. A key part of socialization was snatched away; as coming to church is the only time some see and spend time with others. To say the past year has been trying is a severe understatement. I would like to offer that, for all the strain and headaches, this past year has also revealed/reminded us of a few truths.
We are the church. So many things we value and love about being a part of the community of the faithful are connected to the edifice-worship, connecting with others, serving, learning, and our desire to simply be with one another physically. For all their beauty and splendor, it is not the building but us, our bodies, our being, that forms the church. Though we have not been in the building, we can and have still shown God’s love: we have assisted those in need, we have cheered the downhearted, comforted the grieving and rejoiced with those who have rejoiced. Showing up, being present. This is what it means to be the church!
We are resilient. Oxford Languages defines resilient as able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. We have adapted and we have learned new things. Whoever thought we would be using platforms like Zoom and GotoMeeting for worship and meetings, so that we can stay connected and continue to be the light of God in the world. We have been flexible and we remain hopeful. While this current season seemed to be one challenge followed by another and then another, the good news is seasons change! Vaccines are being administered and the weather is warming. Prayerfully, we will all continue to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by staying separated physically, wearing our masks and washing our hands. Make an educated decision about being vaccinated. With warmer temperatures, we will be able to have small physically distanced gatherings soon and we will see each other’s smiles (even if they are hidden behind masks). We will hear one another’s voice and laughter.
God is with us! In Matthew 28, before ascending to Heaven, Jesus meets with his disciples one last time. At the conclusion of this meeting, Jesus tells them, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As present-day disciples of Christ, we are inheritors of this promise. We have had some good days and some not so good days and we can testify that a bad day has never defeated us. God has kept us; God has been with us each and every day of the past year and God will continue to walk with us and be with us, leading us and guiding us.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has an encounter with his disciples. It begins with Jesus asking them a question. He inquires, who do people say the Son of Man is? After the response, He follows up by asking, who do you say I am? Peter replies you are the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus states you are right. You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The coronavirus has done its very best but we are still here and we are still together. We aren’t quite back to being in person, but we can wave palms, have the Last Supper, and celebrate the Resurrection TOGETHER! If anything, the past year has affirmed that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The One who is in us, the power that raised Christ from the dead, is with us. We will continue to stand strong and forge ahead by faith.