Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
As we wrap up what is for most of us the second week of staying at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, I hope to offer a little encouragement. The combination of scary and troubling and sometime gut-wrenching, heart-breaking news, the loss of close, in person contact with friends and even family, the anxiety of whether or not we or someone we love falling ill, and the complete reworking of our calendars overwhelms us. We feel powerless. We want to scream. We want to cry. We just want this all to end. Swept up in all of this, it is easy to lose sight of the many good, right and true things that are happening in our lives and in our community, and it is difficult sometimes to notice what we are learning about ourselves, our world and our place in it as Jesus' people.
This week, I've been particularly aware of this: The first step of faithful discipleship, a faithful and fruitful following of Jesus, is learning to wait on God. Sometimes the most faithful, loving response to the promise of God's word is to practice watching and waiting for God to fulfill God's promise. In other words, the Holy Spirit teaches us first not to do anything, but to learn to sit and wait in deep trust with hope-filled patience ... and perseverance. I think we know this, but that knowledge isn't always accessible. Even though we confess that we are saved by God's grace apart from our own works, we often fall victim to the world's false call to work, work and work some more to prove our worth and justify our existence. Yet, the first call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to give up those works and in their place fill our hearts and mind with trust and love for God alone. For it is the work of God in Jesus Christ that has saved the world.
For the past couple of weeks, we have set three things before us a community as ways to faithfully bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus: Slow the spread; Protect the vulnerable; Sustain the mission. All three actions call us to first do nothing but learn to sit in deep faith with hope-filled patience. To slow the spread and protect the vulnerable we have resolved to stay at home, to clear the calendars and to adjust the way we live we worship and work; play and communicate; socialize and interact. As Jesus' disciples, I have found it helpful to remind myself -- and now you, too -- that these are purposeful, meaningful and important actions that are done out of deep love and even admiration for the people of our community. If you have done nothing else but stay inside your home, you have done something purposeful, meaningful and loving. It may not feel like it. We aren't used to thinking that way. Yet, somewhere hidden in the back of our soul we will find and remember that as Jesus' people we are a people who are waiting and watching for Christ to return, for God's kingdom to come and will to be done, for the fulfillment of all that God promised. We watch and wait. We wait and watch ... and we pray.
As we look to sustain the mission of this congregation and its people, we are called to adapt and adjust to the situation so that we can always be ready to quickly respond in love, not fear, to each other and the people around us. Once again, the call here is not so much to action first, as it is to receiving and participating in the many ways the Holy Spirit is at work to strengthen our faith, deepen our love and inspire our hope. One of the frequent tips that experts give to thriving in a time of social distancing is to establish and keep a schedule. God's people have used their deep longing to be in communion with God and their concern for the people and world around them to call them to prayer at various times during the day -- morning, noon, night. Since Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples have met on the first day of the week for worship. By gathering for worship, we wrap up the old week and begin a new week in God's presence, under God's reign. Daily prayer and weekly worship can provide structure to your life, renew you in your sense of purpose and give you what you need to go about your day in love.
In our newsletters, on our Facebook page, YouTubeChannel, Instagram, and on our Web site, you can find a number of invitations and links you can use to gather for prayer and worship. With phone calls and video-conferring technology we are staying connected, reaching out to love, care and support each other. Through our ongoing generosity and the outreach of our food pantry we are serving people in our community, following Jesus' example to love all people. Yet, all of this happens while we watch and wait in faith and with hope-filled perseverance. We know and trust that the God who loved us and made us God's own through Jesus Christ is in control, working to bring life out death. We stand by, we wait and watch to do God's will.
In closing, let me share a poem that has been a favorite of mine for years. Its concluding line came to mind one morning this week and has stayed with me and strengthened me. I pray it does the same for you. In this poem, Milton wrestles with his own blindness and God's call to make fruitful use of time and talents. In a similar way, we struggle with our own restrictions and limitations in this season, but we struggle in prayerful conversation with our Lord.
Pastor Jim Krombholz
by John Milton
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
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