Weeping At The Tomb

Happy Easter, friends! I hope wherever you are you are home, safe and proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. It was bittersweet to not be able to worship in person this morning, but I really do believe that now is the time to lean into our faith as we heed the recommendations to stay home so we can flatten the curve.

I love you all.  Despite the challenging times we are living through right now, I still believe in the hope of the Easter promise that Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 12, 2020

John 20:1-18

Weeping At The Tomb

This past Friday – Good Friday – marked the nine-year anniversary of my ordination, which means I have been in vocational ministry for nearly a decade.

Now, if you had asked me six weeks ago if I felt like a decade was a long time to be in ministry and if I had experienced a lot of stuff in that time, I probably would have told you that, in many ways, I was still very new to all of this and that I had not necessarily weathered any really big ministerial storms like my colleagues who have more years under their vestments.

Of course, I am not sure I would say the same today.

That being said, one of the things I think I have actually honed over the past nine years is the Easter sermon.  I realize that, like Christmas, it is one of those, “many eyes on you” kind of moments, but it honestly was never something that I really stressed about.  My philosophy has always been that the Easter story kind of speaks for itself.

Resurrection!

Light!

Love!

Grace!

A God that is more powerful than our human brokenness, more powerful than death, itself.

And when you take that story and add brass, confetti, a children’s sermon that may or may not go awry, a full church of people who are very ready to get to their family dinners and a bunch of children who are used to going to Church School and not sitting through a sermon, you have seven – maybe eight, TOPS – minutes to preach said sermon.

I have often said that no one has ever complained about an Easter sermon that was too short.

And yet, this year there is nothing for me to do BUT preach.  I do not have all of the bells and whistles that I always felt made our Easter celebration extra special.

When we moved our worship into this virtual space five weeks ago, I was really committed to 1) heeding the call to social distance in a responsible way, which means not bringing our staff together into the sanctuary to stream worship and 2) keeping it simple, which means using a platform like Facebook live where you just get to see my smiling face talking to you instead of a platform where we can integrate more worship leaders from wherever they are.

With regards to the second point, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of worship streaming options.  Truth be told, one of the reasons we took the simpler option is because my due date is rapidly approaching and I knew it would make for a smoother transition when it was time for me to go on maternity leave.

That being said, I think right now we do have an opportunity, as Christians, who are often distracted by busy schedules and technology and traditions, to really get back to the core of what it means to be a Christian and to be part of a Church that God is calling to being.

The earliest Christians did not have full sanctuaries with brass, confetti and special children’s sermons.  They had a story – a story about resurrection and about a hope that is not lost.  They worshiped in their homes and broke bread with their families.

And that is what we have today.

I know many of us are mourning the loss of our Easter traditions right now.  It seems like one more thing that this virus has taken from us.

But it has not taken away this story – this story about resurrection and about a hope that is not lost.

So – for better or worse, you get me this morning.  You get a raw, unedited version of me, unable to distract you with confetti and other forms of blessed chaos.  You get a pastor who is mourning the loss of her Easter traditions, right alongside of you.

But you also get a story.  A story that proclaims the hard to imagine truth right now that God is not finished yet.  You get a story that proves the impossible is possible.  You get a story that does not let the hard stuff win.  You get a story that will change your life.

I went back and forth as to whether I should preach the Easter story out of Matthew – which is the Gospel we are in for the lectionary this year – or John this Easter.  Ultimately, however, I chose John, because, in so many ways, I feel like I am resonating with Mary right now.

Because she stands outside the tomb and weeps.

Mary goes to the tomb, but Jesus’ body is not there.  She assumes someone has taken him somewhere and now she does not know where to go to find him – so she begins to weep.

So much has already been taken from Mary – this empty tomb feels like one more thing.

And so she stands outside the tomb and weeps.

Friends, it is okay if we weep on this Easter morning, as well.

I shared with my congregation when we first made the decision to suspend our in-person worship more than a month ago that the realization of the decision I was about to make caused me to weep at my desk in my office.  Since then, however, I think I have been running on adrenaline and fascination with the challenge of what it means to create virtual worship.  It has felt comforting and meaningful and, in so many ways, holy that I did not weep again, but I rejoiced in God’s ability to still draw me close to my church family during this time of distancing.

And then on Thursday night, I set up communion for myself and for my family as I prepared for our Virtual Service of Holy Communion.  And for some reason, I broke down as I carefully put out those simple elements of bread and juice.  I held my chalice and paten in my hand, thinking about the moment I grabbed them from my office a few weeks ago “just in case” I eventually needed them at home, but not actually believing that I would.  I thought about the fact that I would be looking into the screen of my phone as I spoke those beautiful words of institution and not into the eyes of the people that I love so much.

Like Mary at the tomb, it felt like so much had already been taken from me – from us!  And this was just one more thing.

And so I sat at my desk – at home this time – and wept.

It is okay to weep right now, to say, like Mary, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

It is okay to weep right now, to say on this Easter morning, “This virus has taken away so much from me already and I do not know what to do next.”

It is okay to weep right now, to miss the sounds of our church bells ringing, the smell of our sanctuary filled with lilies and tulips and the sight of our flower-filled cross in front of our church building, bolding proclaiming the truth of resurrection.

Friends, we are a resurrection people, but to get to resurrection, we have to first experience the pain and sadness and trauma of death and that is just where we are right now.  And it is okay to weep.  It is okay to weep while we are in the middle of something that is really hard, while still knowing and believing that resurrection is coming.

The beautiful thing that Mary does in this story is that, despite the pain and the sadness and the trauma she is feeling, she shows up anyway.  She shows up at the tomb.  She does not leave with the disciples, who return to their homes after seeing for themselves that the tomb is empty.  She shows up.  She sits with the sorrow of not knowing where Jesus is, of the sadness of feeling like she has lost one more thing, but is also not ready to give up yet.

She is not ready to give up yet.

As a pastor, pressing on and planning for Easter in the middle of what they think is the apex of this pandemic, in our part of the country, at least, feels a little bit like being the violinist on the Titanic who just kept playing while the ship was going down.  Because, even though I knew I could not have the confetti and the brass and a children’s sermon that made a mess, I was still going to show up a proclaim the Good News of Christ’s resurrection.  In the middle of utter chaos and mayhem, I was going to hold onto our battle cry that Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.

Because even though I am weeping, I am not ready to give up yet.

I am not ready to give up on this story.  I am not ready to give up on our world.  And I am certainly not ready to give up on the hope of resurrection, even if we are not necessarily experiencing the type of resurrection we want to this morning.

Friends, remember that, on that first Easter, it felt like all hope was lost, but God was not finished yet.  God was doing a new thing.  God was working on something that could not necessarily be seen, but that was real and powerful and lifechanging.

And so we have to believe that the same is true today.

We have to believe that, even though there are moments in all of this where it feels like all hope is lost, that God is not finished yet.  We have to believe God is doing a new thing.  We have to believe that God is working on something that perhaps we cannot see right now, but that is also real and powerful and lifechanging.

This is what it means to be a resurrection people.  To weep, but to show up anyway.  To weep, but to not give up.  To weep, but to still believe that this is not how the story ends.

I said last week that, in so many ways, we were experiencing our own kind of Holy Week this year.

And, unfortunately, we still are – even as we celebrate Easter.

I think, in some ways, we all were hoping and praying for that Easter miracle, where – against all odds and scientific predictions – we flattened the curve and everything went back to normal in the same three days that it took to travel from the cross to the empty tomb.  But we are not quite there yet.

And that is okay.

I mean – it is not okay.  None of this is okay.

But I still believe that resurrection is coming.  We just have to wait a little bit longer.  God has proven before that death does not win and it will not win today.  God has proven before that the God can do the impossible and God will again today.  God has proven before that our world is worth saving and it still is today.

Just like on that first Easter morning, God is doing a new thing, despite the brokenness we feel right now.

And resurrection will happen.

We will be redeemed.  Light will shine.  Like Mary, we, too, will bear witness to the Risen Christ in our midst and stand in awe at the work that God is able to do.  We, too, will run from the tomb and announce to the world, “I have seen the Lord!”

Friends, if we refuse to let death have the final word, I assure you that, at the end of all of this, we will not only be able to proclaim, but also really see and believe that Christ IS risen, he is risen, indeed!

And in the meantime, we display the same faithfulness of Mary and show up at the tomb.  We weep and acknowledge our brokenness, naming what has been taken from us and allowing ourselves to grieve what we have lost and fear the unknown.

But we refuse to give up.  We believe that this is not how the story is going to end.

Friends, we are a resurrection people, even though we are walking through the darkness of a terrifying moment in history.  And so, as a resurrection people we will proclaim, louder than ever this year, that Christ IS risen.

He is risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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Jesus Wept. So Can We.

Hi Friends,

It is hard to believe, but this is week three of our virtual worship.  I actually moved my livestream home this week.  I am still preaching through the lectionary Lenten texts.  This morning was the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  I think it is fitting right now that we are reading stories of miraculous healing and resurrection – we all need the reminder and reassurance that we will be redeemed.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 29, 2020

John 11:1-45

Jesus Wept.  So Can We.

This story has always perplexed me.  In fact, I think every time I have preached it up until this point, I have given a disclosure that, as both a Christian and as a pastor, I really wrestle with the whole bodily resurrection thing.  There are elements to this story that – now more than ever – do not necessarily make sense on a scientific or physical level.

I mean, the truth is, I think we are all praying for a Lazarus type of miracle right now.  And yet, the news just seems to be getting worse and scarier as the days go on and it is becoming harder and harder to hold fast to Jesus’ reassurance to Martha in this story that she needs to believe.

And yet, for some reason, this story is bringing me an odd sense of comfort right now – and I think there are two reasons for this.

Jesus’ words to Martha are ones I have spoken at every funeral, memorial or burial service I have ever presided over.

I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

As strange as it sounds, these words bring me comfort right now.  First of all, because I have said them so many times, they are familiar to me.  And currently, we are living in a world that is anything but familiar.  We are all trying to navigate this time and space of the unfamiliar and I think little pieces of normalcy are a good thing.  In fact, I would encourage you all to seek out little pieces of normal every single day, even if you find it in the smallest things.  These are the things that will help ground us and steady us as we seek to find our new normal.

Truth be told, I think a lot of these pieces can be found in our faith – through scripture, prayer and music.

The second reason Jesus’ words are bringing me comfort right now is because when I say them after someone has died, I do so as a reminder to their loved ones that their story is not over yet; that our faith is not grounded in death, but in resurrection.  And so, reading them in the midst of the chaos we are living in today reminds me of this same promise – that our story is not over yet.

That resurrection is coming.

Our faith is not defined death, but by new life; not by darkness, but by light; not by our brokenness, but by God’s ability to make us whole again.

So – let’s talk about this morning’s scripture.  It comes from the Gospel of John, which, to some extent, is a little bit of a continuation of last week’s reading, the healing of the blind man.  The healing of the blind man can be found in the ninth chapter John and this morning’s reading, the rising of Lazarus is just two chapters later, in John 11.  In between these two stories, Jesus teaches that he is the Good Shepherd and then is rejected by the Jews.

To some extent, not much time passes between Jesus’ miraculous healing of the blind man and his even more miraculous (and almost incomprehensible) raising of Lazarus.  And to me, this sort of reinforces the point that Jesus is all in right now.  He is not holding anything back – he is fully revealing the Glory of God and the light that shines in this world, even if the world is pushing back.

Jesus knows how this story is going to end – he foretells his death and resurrection over and over and over again.  And so there is a sense of urgency to what he is trying to do and what – and who – he is trying to reveal.

Our story begins in the village of Bethany where three siblings – Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus – live.  Lazarus is ill, so Mary and Martha – who had encountered Jesus previously in the Gospel, send Jesus a message to let Jesus know that Lazarus, a man Jesus knows and loves, is sick.  Jesus does not travel to see Lazarus right away; and by the time he arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has already been dead for four days.

Mary and Martha are visibly – and justifiably – upset by the passing of their brother.  They are weeping and, when Jesus sees them weeping, he begins to weep, as well.  Then Jesus goes to the tomb; he asks to have the stone removed and then calls for Lazarus to come out.

And Lazarus walks out of the tomb.

Let’s back up for a moment.

When Jesus approaches the village of Bethany, Mary stays at home and Martha goes to greet him.  Martha says to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Jesus responds to Martha and says, “Your brother will rise again.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.”

There is not a doubt in Jesus’ mind how this story is going to end.  In the same way that he keeps foretelling his own death and resurrection, he knows that this is not the end of Lazarus’ story.  He knows that Lazarus is going to be resurrected to new life; he is confident that when he calls for Lazarus to come out of the tomb that he will, in fact, walk out on his own.

And yet, here is the part that is really resonating with me right now.

When Mary arrives and, like her sister, says to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  She is weeping while she says this to him – and so are the Jews who had been consoling her in her house and then followed her to meet Jesus.

And rightfully so, right?  Their friend – Mary and Martha’s brother – a person they all love very much – has died.  If ever there is a time to weep, this is it.

But here is the part that speaks to us today – when Jesus sees their pain and sadness and mourning and sorry, he, too, begins to weep.

Hear these words from the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35:

Jesus began to weep.

Jesus – a man who knows and has seen miraculously healing take place, who, not long before this moment healed a blind man with the simple substance of dirt and saliva – began to weep.

Jesus – the Good Shepherd – began to weep.

Jesus – the Word, the beginning, life – the light of all people, the light that shines in the darkness – began to weep.

Jesus – the light of the world – began to weep.

Jesus – who knew how this story was going to end, who knew that Lazarus was going to walk out of the tomb resurrected to new life – began to weep.

Jesus – who believes in the hope of resurrection – began to weep.

He weeps over the sadness of this moment – over the brokenness of the world.

I love this passage because we see Jesus’ humanity walking parallel with his faith.  His weeping is not a failure of his own belief or a sign of his weakness, but a testament to his humanness.

It is important for us to remember, now more than ever, that our own weeping is not a failure of our belief or a sign of our weakness, but a testament to our humanness.

We are getting ready to enter week three of our social-distance-essential-only-sheltered-quarantining.  It is strange to think that, when this started three weeks ago, I not only heeded the recommendation of the Southern New England Conference to suspend our in-person worship, programs and activities for two weeks, but I cautiously extended the time frame an extra week to include this Sunday.  At the time several of my colleagues were taking things one week at a time, some of them even chose to meet in person that first Sunday, while taking CDC-recommended precautions for social distancing.

My how things have changed.

As strange as this sounds, I think we are all starting to settle into a really bizarre new normal.  And I think there is some good that comes with this.  For example, we used grocery pickup for the first time this week and it made me feel better about the whole food supply chain and our access to food and other essentials during this time.

(It also made me wish I had not stocked up on so many snacks ahead of time because now there is just a lot of junk food in my house that I am trying to resist, but that is another point for another day.)

But I also think that there is a new wave a secondary grief that has come – and is still coming – with this new normal.  We are not only mourning the loss of the world as we knew it, but also the things we were looking forward to and our expectations for what our lives might look like in the coming weeks and months.

And I am talking about the little things as much as I am talking about the big things.  Of course there are big and serious concerns about everyone’s health, safety, job security and finances right now, but I also think people are just really bummed that they have had to change their plans.  Vacations have been canceled, events have been postponed and people are just missing hanging out with one another.  And while we are all doing the best we can to connect in other ways and make the most out of it, it is hard not to grieves the layers of loss that comes with this.

It is okay to weep.

After all, knowing how the story was going to end, Jesus wept.

It is okay for us to weep now, too.  To grieve.  To give ourselves a moment where we fall apart and have a little pity party.  To feel sad about things we are missing out on or expectations that we have had to change, even though we know there are a lot of other bigger problems we should probably be worrying about.

Jesus wept – it is okay if we weep now, too.

We are human, after all.  And even though we believe in resurrection – we believe that light will shine, that light is shining – we believe that we will get through this and that we have not been abandoned – we, like Jesus, are facing our human brokenness in a real and vulnerable and devastating way right now.

It is okay for us to weep.

It does not make us less faithful, it does not mean that we have given up.

It just means that we are human.  And that we are going through something that is hard right now.

But remember Jesus’ promise throughout all of this.

I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

Resurrection will come.  Light will shine.  One day we will walk out of our home likes Lazarus came out of the tomb and shed the bands of this social-distance-essential-only-sheltered-quarantining and we will all rejoice together when that happens.

And we can be confident that this will happen and that God has not abandoned us and still be sad right now.  Jesus wept – it is okay for us to weep now, too.

Friends, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself during this season of life that we are in.  It is okay to be human – to acknowledge your vulnerability and your emotions and your brokenness.  To give yourself a moment to fall apart.  To know that your grief – whether it be over something big or small – is real and validated.

And then let God meet you in that moment.

And remind you of the hope of resurrection.  And of the light that is shining in the midst of this darkness.

And through our grief and our sadness, be like Martha, say through our grief and our sadness, “Yes, Lord, I believe.”

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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Hope In God’s Promise

In these times of social distancing, I am grateful for the ability to connect with people through online presence.  While it does not replace in-person community (and I know there are those who do not have access that we still need to call!) it was cool to “gather” with my people this morning and to feel like we were still together, in a way.

Here is my sermon. We did a livestream from our closed Facebook group so we were able to share prayer requests.  For privacy sake, I edited that part out!

Love you all – stay safe.

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 15, 2020

John 4:5-42

Hope In God’s Promise

I have really enjoyed, over the past year-and-a-half, wandering away from the lectionary and participating in sermon series – whether they were scripture-based (where we looked at a big block of scripture linearly) or thematic (where we picked a theme and then used various scriptures to touch on the different topics within that theme).  It really has allowed me to elevate my preaching in such a way that ties it together from week to week.  With a few exceptions here and there, really this is the first time in my nine years here that I have been able to create this much continuity in worship.  It does not necessarily feel like we are having individual worship services in a vacuum every week, but that there is a continuum.  We are building on something every week, using lessons from prior scriptures and sermons to support and enhance what we are thinking about that week.

A few weeks ago, I was starting to get nervous about planning for my maternity leave and what that would mean for worship.

(Little did I know that would be the least of my problems.)

From a worship planning perspective, it is certainly much easier to preach from the lectionary – there are countless resources available that contain notes on the scriptures, liturgy (like calls to worship, prayers of confession, etc.), children sermon ideas and hymn suggestions.  Putting together a cohesive worship service is – dare I say it? – much easier when I am preaching from the lectionary, as opposed to preaching through the lectionary and have to find all of that stuff in different places (or, in a lot of cases, create it myself) and then put it together.

Full disclosure, I opted for sanity and decided to work smarter, not harder.  I decided that, during this time of transition in my life, it made sense to step back into the lectionary so that worship was still strong and cohesive, but it would be manageable for me, amidst the rest of the craziness happening

Again – of course, I did not realize, at the time, just how much craziness there would be.)

I also assumed it would make for a smoother transition for someone coming in to cover my maternity leave.

So three weeks ago – on Transfiguration Sunday, our big Mardi Gras celebration – I became a “lectionary preacher” again.  And yesterday, as I was trying to gather my thoughts for today’s sermon (friends, they never talked about how to preach during global pandemic in seminary) I thought back to my sermons over the past three weeks.  The crazy thing is that, even though I did not intend for this to happen (and I certainly did not know what was going to unfold in our country this week), the three sermons that I have preached over the past several weeks – even they were not necessarily “connected” – have built on one another and prepared me – prepared us – for this moment.

Three weeks ago, on Transfiguration Sunday, we were on the mountaintop with Jesus and I focused on Peter’s words to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”  We reflected on why, too, it was “good for us to be here” – to be the church, to gather as a community, to know that we are not alone.

Two weeks ago, we were in the wilderness with Jesus and we believed, even though it seemed hard, even at that time, that God is with us when we, too, are in the wilderness.

And last week we held in sacred hope the truth that this world – this messy and imperfect and chaotic world – is the world that Jesus came into, the world that God believed was worth saving.

And so, friends, this morning, I want to carry these messages with you as you meet Jesus at the well.

Remember that it is good for us to be here.  Even though “here” is not necessarily “together,” it is good for us to be here.  It is good for us to be gathering in this virtual space, to be connecting in a way that we are able to and to be worshiping God even though we are scared and anxious and not really sure what the future will hold.

Remember that God is with us in this wilderness that we have found ourselves in.  That we have not been abandoned.  That there are angels with us, no matter what they might look like – whether they look like a friend who texts us an encouraging message when we are at the end of our rope or a neighbor who runs errands for someone who is high-risk and should not be out and about or a fellow patron who lets you have the last roll of toilet paper at the store.

Remember that this is the world that Jesus came into.  This world – this messy and imperfect and chaotic and currently facing a global pandemic world – is the world that Jesus came into, the world that God believes is worth saving, the world whose story is scary right now, but not over yet.

And friends, I am not saying all of this because I was at a loss for words today and just decided to recycle old content.  I am saying this to remind us all that God has prepared us for this moment.  Our faith grounds us in a way that gives us strength, courage, wisdom, clarity and patience.  Many of us think that we have no idea how we are supposed to handle what is happening in our world right now, but I truly believe that our faith will carry us through in so many different ways.

Now let us all pick up our empty buckets and meet Jesus at the well.

On Friday morning, I could not help but note the irony of this week’s lectionary passage.  I was not at Jacob’s well with an empty bucket, but I was at the Swansea Target with an empty shopping cart.  Like the woman in this story, I had gone for what I thought I needed – physical sustenance – but came away with far more than that.

For so many reasons, this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is an unlikely one.  He is a man and she is a woman; he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan.  There are real and cultural reasons why these two should never have even acknowledged one another and yet, here they are, talking about what it means to drink of the living water.

Again, the woman comes to the well for water – but she leaves with far more than that.  She leaves with the promise that she can drink of this living water and never be thirsty again.  She leaves with the hope in salvation.  She leaves knowing that she can worship God in spirit and truth.  She leaves proclaiming the truth about Jesus, with so many other Samaritans now believing in Jesus because of her testimony.

She shows up, just looking for water – and leaves with the promise that something so much better is coming.

But friends, remember it does not happen right away.  She has to wait.  She has to hold onto that hope.  Resurrection does not happen as soon as she walked away from Jacob’s well – in fact we are still at the very beginning of the Gospel, in chapter four.  It is going to take some time.

But just because the promise is not immediate does mean that it is not true.

And I feel like that is where we are today.  Because now we have to wait.  We have to wait in this moment of uncertainty and this moment of fear and this moment of anxiety.

And yet, this promise is still true for us.  This promise that we can drink of this living water and never be thirsty again.  This promise that we have hope in salvation.  This promise that we can worship God in spirit and truth – even if we are doing so virtually while practicing social distancing during a global pandemic.  This promise that we, too, can proclaim the truth about Jesus, with others believing because of our testimony.

Friends, while it might look different than it has in the past, now is the time to do church.  Now is the time to hold fast to our faith.  Now is the time to believe in what we cannot see, to shine light into the darkness of the world and to believe that God will make order out of this chaos.  Now is the time to, like the woman at the well, leave our empty buckets behind and go tell the world about this promise.

And then show the world what it means.

Our lives have been turned upside down – and the scary and unsettling part right now is that we are not reacting to something that has happened and is in the past, we are living through something that is still happening and we are unsure how long it will last.

But remember, we are still encountering Jesus – I really do believe that.

I mentioned that I found myself at Target on Friday with an empty shopping cart and the need for physical sustenance and came away with far more than that.  Now – did I come away with shelf-stable food, personal hygiene products, paper towels and a new Paw Patrol DVD?  Yes.  Yes, I did.

But I feel like I got more out of my shopping trip than that.  Because I saw the kindness of strangers, as everyone helped one another (from a safe distance, of course!).  I saw patience in the eyes and actions of people shopping – and gratitude for those who were working.  I heard people wishing one another good luck.  No one was pushing or shoving or complaining.  No one was judging other people’s reactions or responses. Everyone was just sort of in the mutual place of trying to prepare for something we do not understand.

Even though we were strangers, we were all in this together.

And while we may have all left the store with full hearts, I know I, personally, left with hope in the promise that we are all going to get through this together.

This hope has only gotten stronger over the past two days as I have witnessed people on social media or reaching out to me about ways that we can all help one another through this pandemic.  People have offered to run errands for their neighbors who are the most at-risk, to donate food to the food pantry and to send cards to the elderly in assisted living with restricted visitation policies.

One of the podcast hosts that I listen to said on social media yesterday that this is hard and isolating, but also super uniting and I thought there is such profound truth in that.  Because we are literally all going through the same thing right now.  All around our country, all around our world – we are united right now.

And so now we have to leave this “space” – this virtual space – and hold onto the same hope that the woman at the well did.  Hope that resurrection is coming, even if we have to wait for it.

So, my friends, I want to remind you all to breathe.  To take care of yourself – physically, but also emotionally and mentally.  Stay educated, but also know your limits and step away from the media coverage if it is starting to be too much for you.  Go outside – get some fresh air.  Reach out to someone if you are starting to feel isolated and anxious.

And then let us do church.  In a way that is safe and accessible – let us take care of the most vulnerable during this time.  Even if it is just sending a card or picking up the phone and calling some of our older members who do not have internet access – that WILL make a difference.

And pray.  Pray for health and safety.  Pray for wisdom and guidance.  Pray for patience and encouragement.  Pray for strength and relief from the loneliness you might feel.  Show up at that well with an empty bucket – maybe looking for one thing, but open to receive another.

Because you never know when you might encounter Jesus.

Friends, during these trying times, do not let go of God’s promise to us.

It is good for us to be here today.  To remember that we are not alone in this wilderness, that God believes that our world is still worth saving and that God’s promise is real, even if it is not immediate.

Thanks to be to God!
Amen.

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork