So here we are, facing another week with our lives much different then they were a week ago. Last Sunday, like many of my clergy colleagues across the country, I fired up Facebook Live for a church service. The interesting thing about this week was that it was my first Sunday in the new Church.
I started as Interim Pastor at Second Congregational Church in Beverly, and my introduction to the congregation was via Facebook Live. I mention this because we are all doing what we must do during these unprecedented times in our lives. But I also mention it because of something I saw recently on Facebook. With Church, doors closed, it reminds us that being Church was never about the building it was and is about helping our neighbor and those less fortunate and on the margins. Being Church is about loving one another just as Jesus has loved us. Sometimes we need those gentle reminders.
I will confess to you that I was reluctant to close the Church and suspend worship services. My feeling is, in these times, people need the Church the most and that the physical manifestation of the Church is the building. People need to be able to support one another, and we do that with the weekly gathering as Church. Then it all started to make sense to me; the very thing I was advocating for could make people sick—the very act of gathering as a community could make things worse. So, we suspended worship and had to find other ways to be a community.
As I already mentioned, we fired up Facebook Live, which has been tremendous is helping to create community these last days. I sat in my home study, just me and my notes on the service, while my parishioners gathered in their homes in their pajamas and coffee, and we worshipped together. I opened the stream a few minutes before the scheduled time so folks could check in with each other in the chat room, and they did. We worshipped together, read scripture, asked for prayer requests, and held each other, albeit from a distance during this trying time. We were Church without the building!
Right now, we are in the “honeymoon” phase, and the prospect of not being able to gather in person for Easter has some folks depressed. Yes, Easter is the day when we should all gather together and worship our risen Savior. Still, whether we are on a beach at sunrise, in a church with great fanfare, or sitting on our couch watching a computer screen, Jesus is still Jesus, and the promise of the resurrection is still valid.
In a recent conversation, we were talking about that first Easter. Those closest to Jesus were in hiding. They were locked in a room because of real danger on the other side of the door. Sure, what they were experiencing is much different than our situation, but the point is, on that first Easter morning, people were locked up for their safety, and Jesus came to them with words of peace. He entered among them and bid them peace.
In my sermon last week, I preached from the story of Jesus calming the waves during a storm. For those of you unfamiliar with the story: Jesus and his disciples were in a boat, a great storm arose. Jesus was sleeping and, as usual his disciples were going crazy, so they woke him. He calmed the storm and rebuked them a little by asking if they had no faith. They point of the story is, if we are taking all the precautions, if we have prepared our families and us, then all will be well. Jesus will bring us the peace that passes all understanding and will help us settle our minds and our hearts.
None of us can predict how long we will be hunkered down, and no one can predict what life will be like after all of this has blown over, and my faith tells me it will. But I have hope. Hope is the promise of Jesus when he appeared after his resurrection to those locked in the house, peace.
My prayer in the weeks ahead for all of us is that we can find that sense of peace.