By Ed Thompson
Sometimes I find myself looking at my calendar and thinking about what might have been: trips cancelled, meetings postponed or rescheduled, others shifted to Zoom. Occasionally, I’ll think, “Well, that’s a relief.” This week would have been the first of three weeks in a row where I would have been on the road and away from home at least two nights each week. That gets tiresome. But I will miss the travel (I like to drive, which is a good thing for someone in this position), as well as seeing friends, the meals we would have shared together, and the sidebar conversations that have nothing to do with the meeting at hand but everything to do with ministry and life.
I also miss Easter. Not that I didn’t get to celebrate. I watched four different worship services that morning (a new personal record and one unlikely to be tied or broken anytime soon). I enjoyed hearing the word proclaimed, listening to some glorious music, and taking part in the chit-chat both before and after worship on a couple of occasions. But I missed smelling the Easter lilies, seeing the excitement of the children, watching the smiles on the faces of the older adults as they enjoyed seeing the excitement of the children. I also missed seeing the somewhat overcrowded sanctuary with the larger than normal attendance. If I’m honest, that made me sad not because Christ isn’t risen from the dead (Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!) but because I missed what was missing.
I realize that’s my problem. Maybe it’s yours too. I need to work on seeing God at work in all this because I do believe that God is at work in all this. I hear of people reaching out to check on and connect with shut-ins and more marginal members of their congregations. I hear of people checking out multiple worship services each Sunday. Sometimes, those folks have had no previous connection to a congregation. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to worship online than it is to figure out where to park, what to wear, what door to use, and where to sit. I hear of people sending in offerings on a regular basis. (Which raises the question: if you’re watching the worship services from two different churches, do you send a check/make a contribution to each one or only to the church where you have your membership?)
Maybe our old way of being church has died and a new way of being church is being born? Or perhaps we should say the church has been or is being resurrected. That gives me hope. For all the pain, all the confusion, all the uncertainty brought by this pandemic, I have hope that God will use this time to transform us and transform the church so that we can let go of the attitudes and practices that were burdensome or perhaps unnecessary so that we can discover new ways of connecting, new ways of sharing the gospel, new ways of being church.
The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Look! I’m doing a new thing. Now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?” (Isaiah 43:19a CEB) I do recognize it Lord. Help me to embrace it.