Pastor’s April Message

Dear Church,
There is, as you know, a challenge afoot. We are called to be apart and yet still to be Church, Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

It is a rather strange and trying call. How do we serve one another and remain physically apart?
Individualism in the USA, perhaps the world, has become a core value. We have made self-happiness, self-awareness, self-

gratification part of our ethic in choosing pretty much everything. This is not the call of the Bible; it is not the gospel message. The good news of Christ is about relationship. Trinity is about relationship, the perfect balance of Eternal, Carnal, and Ethereal. In Matthew 22, we hear Jesus say to the lawyer, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” We are given the command to love interconnectedly.

For these days, I find it a deep challenge to determine who will be in my six-foot space. Everyone is to be outside of that range.

Everyone is to be apart one from another. Gatherings are limited by space and number. It is prudent to be self-contained, to allow only your housemates inside that six foot bubble. So perhaps, as we struggle with the limitations, we get to look more intently at the gifts and passions we each have been given. What talent have you neglected? What passion have you ignored in the busy-ness of your life? I chuckled the first time I went to the store and discovered yeast was not on the shelf! It made me smile to recognize that bias tape and fabrics were being purchased at a great rate as people decided to take up sewing projects. Puzzles are newly displayed on social media…a task that requires one to be calm and focused. For me, puzzling allows the thoughts percolating on my back burner to simmer and coalesce, offering new insights and a meditative calm.

What does loving yourself in this time mean to you?

It seems to me that we cannot love others with out loving ourselves. We can only love ourselves as God gifts us an awareness that we are deeply and unconditionally loved. By God’s grace, we receive God’s love, forgiveness, and hope. We are then compelled to share that love, forgiveness, and hope out to the world.

As Messiah Lutheran, we are posting, daily, a Lenten devotional with two thoughtful questions. We are posting, daily, a hymn with a reflection and the lyrics. We are offering people worship as is typical, using shorter settings, sharing a gospel message. These are for you, individually. These are for the collective, our community. Call one another to talk about them. Zoom or Skype or video Messenger with each other in order to be together in safe ways.

As we look towards Holy Week, I have been both grieving and excited about the potential to try new things in video format. The ancient practices we have lived into for so long have given us constancy and familiarity. At Messiah, your traditions and consistent practices are different than other places I’ve served. The Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Triduum are for us the very heart of our belief in God’s work in our world. Changing them to a format that works digitally, with only a few in the sanctuary (gathered in compliance with the restrictions we’re under), is a challenge I both loathe and am trying to embrace. In my lifetime, there has been no time the palms were not waved in gathered community.

What does this mean? What can I learn about myself as these challenges come to me? What does this mean for you? What can you learn about yourself as today’s challenges come to you?

Luther was challenged by the Bubonic plague in his lifetime. He wrote what he termed a “pamphlet” about how a Christian might respond to such rampant illness and resulting deaths. He asks people to “be cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate.” We are called to new ways to be faithful in this time of apartness. We are called to continue to worship individually as well as corporately, apart. We are called to hear what God offers to us in our unique selves, to receive the love God has for us personally so that when we gather anew, we can be confident in God’s faithfulness to each of us and share that confidence with all we encounter. Today, we can practice this awareness digitally, by igniting our internal passions, and through awareness of God’s presence in our lives even as we simultaneously grieve and rejoice in the new ways we are called to live for this time.

Church, may this Lent be a true time of repentance, of renewal, of reclaiming who God calls you to be, such that the Church might be invigorated to serve God in new and creative ways, claiming all the gifts of every person for the sake of the world.

God loves you. You are not alone. You are fearlessly and wonderfully created for such a time as this.

Christ’s peace be with you, Pastor Amy