It is hard to believe that May is almost over. As I began to look at the summer months on my calendar recently, I realized that I still feel like it is the middle of March! Partly because that is the last time I saw most of you, and partly because that is the last time things felt “normal,” I am finding it hard to mark time in the midst of the pandemic. How do I count days? A couple of weeks ago my household was counting down until the last official day of school. Right now we are counting days until we can call and celebrate the birthday of Dave’s aunt, a much-beloved member of our extended family. I listen to the news, so I am also keeping a loose count of days since the latest outbreak or decline of COVID-19 both across the US and globe and within the bounds of Georgia and metro Atlanta.
Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” The psalmist encourages the congregation to practice discerning the regular and recurring ways of God in the world so that they may gain wisdom over time. God’s people have always sought both to trust God and to discern the way ahead. It is one of our core values as United Methodists to use reason, tradition, scripture, and experience when discerning God’s will for us and for the world in the midst of any situation. We interpret the world by using our knowledge of God and God’s love for us side by side with the mystery of creation. We are constantly learning new things and testing old knowledge. We are growing and changing. Even in times like these when we can’t keep track of time because we are not marking it as we used to, we are seeing new ideas, new growth, new life.
Last week we put together a small team of folks who have agreed to work on our plan for re-opening our building and re-gathering as a congregation. The team is representative of the whole congregation and has lots of experience in a variety of professional and personal settings that will be important to the development of our plan for re-gathering. We don’t yet have a timeline; the group has just begun its work. All of our planning will have at the forefront the safety of our church community and the community at large. We’ll have to ask ourselves questions about safe gathering practices, entrances and exits, airflow, sanitation, appropriate numbers of people to be together in one space at a time, how to respond to any situation in which safety measures are not being practiced, and more. The church staff is already asking questions about how to adjust our programming for Christian formation so that people of all ages still have the opportunity to learn and grow while not gathering in groups. This is challenging work, and our staff is working hard and rising to the occasion.
The Acts of the Apostles reminds us that after the Day of Pentecost happened and the Spirit blew threw their midst, they were sent them out into the world. From that time on in Acts, we read stories of Paul, Silas, and Barnabas and others taking the story of the gospel to city after city, doing the hard work of sharing the love of God and the story of Jesus and planting seeds that would grow into the worldwide phenomenon of the Christian Church. If not for them, we would not be connected to each other through our faith today. In the very early days of the Church, when there was no budget, no staff, and no Sunday school curriculum, they found ways to share their faith effectively for the transformation of the world.
There were things they could do! And there are things we can do. In June we will start a new worship series titled, “Things We Can Do.” It is based on the lectionary gospel readings from Matthew in which Jesus calls and encourages the disciples in the hard work of spreading the good news. They take it outside the walls of the synagogue and apply it to people’s lives, offering what people need and speaking “Peace” wherever they go. I think there are things we can do, too, to share good news even in the midst of a pandemic. So, stay tuned. I’d love to hear from you, too. Share your ideas with me for what we can do to spread good news during these challenging times.
It starts with you. What good news are you spreading right now? How are you sharing God’s love with others? At Embry Hills, we practice Faith for Life, even the scattered life we are living right now. No matter your situation or mine, there are things we can do to share and spread love, peace, and light. No matter how long we go on welcoming all into a nurturing community of faith, serving others, and growing in Christ at a distance from our building and each other, there are things we can do as followers of Jesus. The Body of Christ has never been our building. It is our people. It is you.
So get out there and exercise that Body! Give a little light and love to the world around you. Speak words of peace and assurance. Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”