Do not be afraid.
These 4 words have been on the mouths of pastors and Christian leaders a lot over the past few weeks. Some have said you can find this phrase (or a variation of it) in the Bible 365 times – one for each day of the year. I don’t buy it, but you’re welcome to count for yourself!
Because I am becoming pretty adept at social distancing (stay at home people!), washing my hands multiple times a day, and not touching my face, catching COVID-19 is not one of my top fears these days. But can I tell you what is?
I’m afraid this time of drastic change in our society isn’t going to translate into any real change in me.
I went on a number of mission trips when I was younger, always to return home confident I was going to live differently. I would care more about the poor. I would live more simply. I would be passionate about justice and spend more time each day in prayer. And most important, the friends I made on these trips were surely going to be my friends for life.
I would be hard pressed to tell you where even one of them is living right now (ok, Kevin lives in Holland, but that’s all I know. Where are you now Al? Greg? Kate? Kat? Andrew? What were your other names?).
Change is hard. It takes unwavering desire. It takes a willingness to adapt to new routines and create new rhythms. It takes remembrance and repetition.
What change are you hoping God brings about in you these days?
One thing a lot of people are doing now is cooking more at home and sharing pictures of their meals on Instagram (or insta or gram for the kids out there). They use the hashtag #covidcooking. Something like this:
I think this is awesome. Food plays a big role in God’s story as well. Lives are changed around tables. Which is why God’s greatest acts are remembered with feasts – every year. You see God knew the people would forget the wondrous experiences they had with God and one another. (Did you know the word “remember” is used in the Bible more than “forgive,” “grace,” or “joy?”). So they reenacted these stories every year. Remembering God’s power. Remembering God’s grace. Remembering God’s presence, generosity, and love for humanity and all of creation.
These festivals and their prescribed feasts were often a week long or more. Work was forbidden (like, “if you work, I kill you” forbidden!). Families were brought together around a table to tell stories. But these stories weren’t just about what God did in the past. They were meant to quicken the senses to see how God would act now and in the future. In Lois Tverberg’s book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, she quotes the Jewish historian Josephus who reminds us on Passover night the Jews would say, “In the night they were redeemed, and in the night they will be redeemed.”
What is it in this day, in this culture, in this climate, in your personal life do you need to be redeemed and rescued from?
Perhaps it’s busyness. Perhaps it’s anxiety. Perhaps it’s stress. Perhaps it’s apathy. Perhaps it’s idleness or indifference.
For me, it’s forgetfulness. Forgetting all the ways God has shaped me. Forgetting all the experiences God has given me. Forgetting those the rest of this world has also forgotten. Forgetting in such a way I am not changed to become more like Jesus Christ. And instead, going along with life as usual.
And so I need to remember and to repeat. Maybe you do too. What new healthy habits will you form? What life draining routines will you have to lay down?
We are about to enter Holy Week. This week marks the time Jesus entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Festival with his disciples and feast with them at what we call the last supper. What if we celebrated that with them? At Christ Memorial we have a Good Friday service at 7pm on April 9. At this service Lois Tverberg will teach us more about this supper and the sacrament of communion. What if you made a Seder dinner and ate like Jesus did before the service? And then what if you made your own matzah to celebrate communion at home? And what if, while you did, you read the Seder liturgy by yourself or with your family? Who knows, maybe a new life-giving rhythm would capture your spirit. Then you and I can both find the change we hope for.
Read Lois Tverberg’s chapter on Passover here, complete with Seder preparations and liturgy.
Grace and peace everyone.