Different. That’s a word I have been contemplating lately. So much is different than it was this time last year. We have all experienced many changes in the last six months, some easier to adjust to than others.
We have learned new technologies, new computer programs and apps. We have found new ways to gather and celebrate for family events, whether via a “drive by” party or an online zoom fest. We come together for worship in a different format.
School has changed drastically for teachers, students, and parents. Some for some kids the changes are working, and for others the changes are exceedingly stressful and difficult to cope with at best. Teachers are just trying to do the best they can in a new reality for which they were never fully trained. Parents, too, are striving to cope with jobs and trying to guide their children through new pathways.
The same is true for Pastors and members of Congregation Councils. It’s all different, and we are all trying to make the best decisions we can. We do so knowing that not everyone will agree, and knowing that even when we try to factor in all the best information available, nothing we can do in this moment will take us back to the way we lived just one year ago. “Back to Normal” sounds so far off, and we wonder if it is even possible in the future. At a recent online meeting for SEPA Synod pastors, hosted by our Bishop, it was clear that this is true for all of our congregations, councils, and pastors. We are all dealing with the “different” in our midst, and it is wearing.
In addition to all of this (as though ALL of THIS were not enough), we happen to be in a political election season that is contentious at best. Friends and family members who hold differing perspectives on what is best for our country are finding it difficult to have peaceful conversations about their perspectives and why each one holds the perspective they have. Our separation due to Coronavirus precautions has already strained our relationships, so these conversations may become even more difficult.
How are we, as the Body of Christ, called to live into these challenging times? Where (and how) do we find peace and renewal in the midst of this? There are two faith concepts I will lift up here.
Sabbath. Yes, Sabbath. The idea of Sabbath is often misunderstood. Yes, it is about time for worship on Sunday. Yes, it is one of the “Laws” from the Old Testament.
But most of what is written about it is about stopping for an entire 24 hours for the purpose of rest and renewal. It is about discovering or rediscovering those things we can never do when we are running that can actually bring us some peace.
Maybe it’s a day when you do nothing. No plans, no activities, just sit and relax. Maybe it’s a day when you sit in your garden and finally read that book on your shelf. Maybe it’s a day when you go to a park and just stroll, listening to the birds. Maybe it’s time spent playing a board game with your family. Maybe it’s that day when you finally get enough sleep.
Sabbath is meant to be a gift. Yes, you have to plan ahead in order to stop everything else for a full 24 hours. But do it. This is God’s gift to you.
1 Corinthians 13. Read this. The WHOLE chapter. Then strive to live it. Try to enact it in every conversation you have. Consider this snippet: “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful. Love does not insist on its own way.”
We are all living a bit stressed by the “different”. But would our words and actions change if we REALLY took this to heart? Would our work, school, family environments shift? Would church and worship shift? Would our public interactions in the grocery store and with other drivers on the highway alter? Would our political conversations be calmer if we loved one another enough to speak kindly and respectfully to one another and to just listen (honestly listen) to one another’s perspective.
Strive to love others as Christ loved: with patience, with kindness, working together rather than in opposition.
These are just a couple of ideas that have surfaced as I have been contemplating all that has changed in our lives and our world in the last year. Ultimately, we are called to put our faith in the living Lord. No matter what may challenge us, God is still present and God still loves us unconditionally. God will never abandon us. Keep the faith.
Pastor Susan Lynch