How We Can Welcome Others Now

Hi Friends!

I am back after ten weeks on maternity leave.  Here is my sermon from this morning.  No podcast this week, I forgot to hit record on my audio!  I’ll get back in the swing of things.  But I did include the audio.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
June 28, 2020

Matthew 10:40-42

How We Can Welcome Others Now

Okay!

So.

When we – meaning you all and me – last met, it was Easter Sunday, we were quarantined, so we gathered in our virtual worship space, and we were proclaiming this really hard, yet powerful truth that we are resurrection people and that even when all seems hopeless, God is not finished.

And so here we are, ten weeks later – and we are still somewhat quarantined, gathering in our virtual worship space.

And we are still proclaiming this really hard, yet powerful truth that, despite this virus that has completely turned our world upside down, we are resurrection people.

And that, even when all seems hopeless, God is not finished.

God is not finished.

Amen?

Amen.

It is strange to come back from maternity leave under “normal” circumstances.  I remember coming back after Harrison was born and feeling like everything had changed.  I felt as though you all had experienced different things over the time that I was gone and certainly I had completely changed as I entered motherhood.  I was not sure how we were going to come back together in our journey of faith and shared ministry.

It feels even stranger to come back this time, because we are all sort of in this holding pattern of life during covid.  I am “back” to work, but still mostly working from home, while taking care of my children.  Sunday worship, for the time being, remains what Harrison so sweetly refers to as, “Home Church” – meeting in this virtual space.  In some ways, other than taking over the kitchen counter with my laptop and books during the day, it feels like not much has changed now that I am “back” to work.

And yet, a lot has.

First of all, when we last gathered together, we were barely into what turned out to be a cold and snowy spring.  Now it is summer – the days are long, the sun is hot and our gardens and our yards are full of beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables.

Second of all, our state is slowly re-opening, so we are moving around a little bit more than we were at the end of March and beginning of April, albeit in masks and maintaining appropriate distance from other people.

Our country has been through a lot; certainly the murder of George Floyd served as a catalyst for new support of and education surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, which gives me a lot of hope for the future of racial reconciliation in our country, however we still have a long way to go.

And finally, as much as I hate to say this, we are thinking longer term about what church is going to look like until there is either a vaccine or a more effective treatment option for covid19.  I think when I stepped away back in April we all (either naively or optimistically) assumed I would be returning to the sanctuary, not to Facebook Live.

And yet, here I am.

Unfortunately church gatherings are ranked in the very high risk category when it comes to spreading the virus and, as Christians, we are called to care for one another, particularly the most vulnerable among us.  One of the ways we can do that is by not re-entering the sanctuary too soon.  When everything shut down in March, we quickly moved what we could online and kind of paused everything else at the church.  Currently we are discerning how to safely resume some of the ministries and business we paused and also how to more efficiently reach people online.

So – it has only been ten weeks and yet a lot has changed, both in our reality of the day to day and also in our perspectives, as well.  It is strange to think about what else might change between now and when we are finally able to gather again in person and resume some semblance of normalcy within our community.  Certainly, for better or worse, we will not be the same people that left worship on March 8th.

But here’s the thing:  We go through a lot of different seasons in our lives and we do change along the way.  Like I said, when I came back from maternity leave after Harrison was born, I was worried we had all changed and I was not sure how to bring us back together.  I know that, right now, we are all changing in different ways, as well.

That being said, what has not changed in all of this is this call – this call to proclaim the Gospel, to hold onto the hope that God is not finished yet and to believe that the way we live our lives still matters, despite the fact that we are living them a little bit closer to home these days.

So let’s look at how this morning’s scripture reading is telling us to live our lives.

We are in the Gospel of Matthew, which is the first book in the New Testament.  Jesus is speaking to the disciples here.  Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had gathered the twelve disciples and given them the authority to cast out unclean spirits and to cure all diseases and sickness (which I think hits a little bit closer to home these days).  Jesus is essentially sending out the disciples to do the work that he has started, just as we are called to do today.  Jesus is telling the disciples not only to proclaim a message of love, hope and healing, but to live it out in real and tangible ways.

And like I said, this call remains the same today.  While we are living in a different world today than the one Jesus commissioned the disciples in – and, quite frankly, a different world than the one we were living in six months ago – this call remains the same.

Jesus warns, however, that this will not be easy.  Our passage picks up at verse 40 this morning, but earlier in the chapter, in verse 16, immediately after Jesus gives the disciples this authority and commissions them outward, Jesus said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.”

In other words, Jesus is warning the disciples that the journey will not be an easy one.  Jesus is asking them to do a hard thing – he is commissioning them to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of hard and challenging circumstances.

The same is true – very true – today.  Jesus is asking us to do a hard thing – to proclaim the Gospel, this Good News, in the midst of hard and challenging circumstances.  I would argue that Jesus is asking us to do a hard thing and, quite frankly, we have never really been asked to do a hard thing like this before.  Certainly we have all experienced our own personal trials and tribulations, but as a country – as a world – in our lifetime, we have never been asked to do a hard thing like this before.  We have never been asked to proclaim the Gospel amidst this kind of global uncertainty and instability.

And yet Jesus knew.

Jesus knew that it was not going to be easy.

Jesus knew that the world was going to be turned upside down over and over throughout the generations.  Jesus knew that there would be global uncertainty and instability.  Jesus knew that there would be pandemics.  Jesus knew that there would be a need for radical racial reconciliation.  Jesus knew that he was asking his followers to sometimes defy the odds stacked tall against them and not only believe, but also proclaim to others that love is real and that hope is still worth holding onto.

Guys, this is when we have to lean into our faith.

And it is hard.  It is really, really hard.

But we have spent our time as Christians studying scripture and worshiping God and praying together not just so we can be faithful when things are easy, but also when things are hard.

This brings me to the heart of what Jesus is asking us to do in this morning’s passage.  Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”  In other words, the Christian faith is not just about a personal journey, but one that needs to be shared in community.  We need to welcome others – we need to extend a hand of hospitality to them, sharing our faith, encouraging them in their own faith and helping them in their times of need.

And this is not an easy thing to do right now, because we cannot gather as a community – we cannot physically welcome people into our building and we cannot serve them the way that we are used to.

But there are other ways to welcome others – to welcome them in Jesus’ name.

Like I said earlier, we are thinking longer term about what church is going to look like in this time of covid, certainly throughout the summer.  I do think that, to some extent, we moved what we could online back in March and put everything else on hold “until quarantine was over” thinking that, in a few weeks, we could get back to normal.

Well, we know now that it is just not that simple.  So now that I am back from maternity leave, I want to not only discern but also live out how we can still be church during this time of social distancing.  I want to welcome others in Jesus’ name.  I want to share this Gospel – this faith – that gives my life and our community so much meaning and purpose.  I want to meet the needs of others, however we safely can.  I want to show people that this story is still very much still worth telling, even now.

Especially now.

Friends, Jesus is asking us to welcome others in his name and right now that is not an easy thing for us to do.  But we are people of the resurrection who know that that God is not finished yet.

And I believe that despite these impossible circumstances we can continue to write a meaningful chapter in the narrative of our faith that can and will change the world for the better.

There are so many ways that we can continue to do church during this time of social distancing.  We can love one another and check in with one another.  I know you all are doing such a wonderful job of that already within our community.  While the weather is nice, we can even try to plan outdoor visits so we can see one another.  We can worship and pray together, continuing to gather in this virtual space and also nightly in our Facebook group for prayers.  We can serve the community.  We can seek justice, showing love and support for our black brothers and sisters by persisting in the work of the Black Lives Matter movement.  We can take care for the most vulnerable among us, particularly those within our community who are particularly susceptible to complications from covid.  We can use this time to learn and grow in our faith, to educate and challenge ourselves, to hear other voices and to understand other perspectives.

Jesus says, when we welcome others into our lives, we are welcoming Jesus and the God who sent Jesus into this world.

And we all need to welcome God into our lives, now more than ever.

As we prepare to leave this virtual space today, I pose to you this question – how will you welcome others as Jesus welcomed you in your own life?

Friends, it is wonderful to be back with you all.  There is still so much work that we need to do – and that we can do – together.

Even though it is hard right now, God is not finished yet.

And neither are we.

Members and friends of the Rehoboth Congregational Church – our work continues.  The world needs Church and the church needs you.  Let us continue together on our journey of faith and shared ministry.

Onward.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Laying Down Our Palms For Christ

Hi friends!

It’s so crazy to think that, back when all this started, our plan was to be back in church by this Sunday!  My office admin actually called me not long after we moved to virtual worship and asked if she should cancel the palms and I said no, that I didn’t think we would actually be back together by then, but that we would find a way to distribute them anyway.  Well – we opted not to distribute them.  Currently we are entering the worst of things in the northeast and the Deacons and I decided that it was more responsible for us to remind people to stay home than to give anyone another excuse to leave the house.  So we adorned our front doors with greens and had our kiddos cut palms out of construction paper and just worked with what we had this year!  If you get a chance, I would encourage you to at least watch the gathering music portion of the video – I included hosanna photos and videos people sent me with the music.

Here is my sermon, as well as audio and visual.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.  Stay home.

Love you all.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 5, 2020

Matthew 21:1-11

Laying Down Our Palms For Christ

Palm Sunday has always been a little bit perplexing to me, as a preacher.  On the one hand (and under “normal” circumstances), it is a big celebration.  We hand out palms and parade through the sanctuary shouting, “Hosanna!”  We adorn the altar with palms and create the most beautiful representation of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  We sing hymns that only get dusted off once a year and wave those palms high in the air as we sing.

And yet, as people living on this side of the resurrection, we know that is not how the story ends.  We know that those shouts of “Hosanna!” turn into cries to “Crucify him!”  We know that Jesus does not ride off into a sunset but to Gethsemane, where he was arrested and later sentenced to death.  We know the eventually the palms that are laid down ahead of Jesus on the road to Jerusalem are eventually abandoned and replaced with a crown of thorns on his head while he is crucified.

Palm Sunday has always seemed like a little bit of a paradox to me.  Because even though it is, for all intents and purposes, a celebration – we know that things are about to get really hard.  When I preached on Palm Sunday the year after the Boston Marathon bombing (Bruce and I had been in Boston cheering on a friend running the race that day, she crossed the finish line right before the bombs went off), I compared my struggle over preaching the triumphal nature of Palm Sunday with the fact that I still, almost a year later, had a hard time looking at my happy and cheerful photos from early in the day of the race.

Because I knew things had gotten really hard after I took those photos – just like things are about to get really hard for Jesus.

In many ways, it feels like an even bigger paradox to preach on Palm Sunday this year because we are already in the middle of something really hard.  It feels weird to celebrate something when we are feeling the weight of something that is really heavy and when our entire world feels more broken than it ever has in our entire lifetime.

And so, first of all, I want you to know that it is okay to come into this space a little bit confused this morning.  It is okay to wrestle with the fact that we are celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem while also deeply grieving what is happening in our world today.

But I also think it is important to point out that Jesus knows what is going to happen when he parades into Jerusalem.  At this point, he has foretold his death and resurrection and, while his disciples do not understand, he certainly does – he knows things are about to get really hard.

And yet, he still lets this moment happen.  In fact, he creates this moment.

As Jesus and his disciples approach Jerusalem, he sends two of them ahead to go into the village and bring him back a donkey and her colt, telling anyone who asks, “The Lord needs them.”  The disciples do this and then spread their cloaks on the animals and Jesus sits on them and begins to ride into Jerusalem.  As he does this, a “very large crowd” gathers (which, let’s be honest, a “very large crowd” seems really strange to think about right now); some of them spread their own cloaks on the road and others cut branches from nearby trees and spread those on the road.  People go ahead of him and some follow him and they shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Jesus knows what is about to happen – he knows things are about to get really hard.  And yet, it is still important to him that he gathers the Body of Christ; that he pauses for a moment, in anticipation of what is to come, and praises God.  The word, “Hosanna,” is an expression of adoration, praise or joy.  This is a moment for Jesus, even in anticipation of what is going to come, to joyfully praise the God who will not abandon him, to gather the Body of Christ in a moment in time when the world so desperately needs it.

And so this morning, our own 2020 stay-at-home version of a very large crowd has gathered to do just that.  To joyfully praise the God who we know has not and will not abandon us.  To wave palms, even though they may look more like pine branches or construction paper than the palms we are used to receiving on this Sunday.  To show up in God’s name and proclaim God’s goodness and grace, even though things are really hard right now.  To be the Body of Christ – the Church – in a moment in time when the Church is so desperately needed.

This past week, I agonized over whether or not we would be able to safely distribute palms this year.  Ultimately, however, the Deacons and I decided that, right now, as we are entering what appears to be the most critical stage of this virus in our country, particularly here in the northeast, it was more important for us to encourage people to stay home than to try to find a social distancing loophole just for the sake of tradition.

It felt like an easy decision, but also a really hard conclusion.  I talked last week about the waves of secondary grief that we continue to feel throughout this time and this was certainly one of those moments where I felt it.

But it also got me thinking – what do our palms represent?

We distribute palms on Palm Sunday because that is our tradition, because it is Palm Sunday, but are there other ways that we can honor this day?

I have two thoughts.

The first comes from what I have already had the honor of witnessing over these past three weeks – the ways in which people have continued to do the work of Christ in some of the most life-giving kind of ways.

The crowd that gathers with Jesus is laying down palms and cloaks as a sign of adoration and praise and honor – as a way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.  And so, while we cannot do this literally with palm branches this year, I have to admit, I am not really sure that we really need to.  Because over the past three weeks, I have seen a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and of a commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone drops off a donation of canned goods to the food pantry or makes a monetary donation to an organization working to ensure the most vulnerable have the essentials they need, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time an essential worker leaves for work – whether they are a healthcare worker, a first responder or an essential retail employee – they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone drops off a meal or runs an errand for someone who is high risk and really needs to stay home right now, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone makes a mask, whether it is for members of their family, someone in the community who needs one or for a local hospital or nursing home, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time someone calls their neighbor or sends someone a card, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

Every time one of our Deacons logs onto our Facebook group to lead nightly prayers or someone from the church sends me a video for our story time or someone just thinks of – and starts to implement – a creative way to “do church” from afar, they are laying down palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and their commitment to follow Jesus.

We are giving glory and honor to God right now, not by waving palms that we ordered weeks ago from a Christian supplier, but by living out the Gospel in real and tangible and hard, but also lifechanging ways.

By making sure the most vulnerable are cared for.

By holding one another in prayer.

By shining light into the darkness of this moment.

By proclaiming the bold and, admittedly, very hard right now truth that this virus is not stronger than God’s love and that it will not defeat us and that God’s love will win.

My second (and brief, I promise!) thought on what our palms represent and what Palm Sunday means to us, particularly this year, has to do with the fact that we are entering Holy Week and that the word, “Hosanna!” is used in other parts of the bible, in particularly the Old Testament, to mean, “Save us!”

Psalm 118 – which you all know very well, it is where the verse, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” comes from – is a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies.  Verse 25 of this psalm says:

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

“Save us” comes from the Hebrew expression, “Hosanna!”

And so, as the very large crowds gather and shout “Hosanna!” and lead Jesus into Jerusalem shouting, “Hosanna!” they are doing so as a way of offering adoration and praise, but also as a way of pleading for their own salvation.

And I think a lot of us are feeling that right now.

Hosanna.  Save us.

We are entering Holy Week in the Christian Church, a time when we remember the hard and toilsome journey Jesus took as he was arrested and then sentenced to death by crucifixion.  Holy Week is really where we put our own faith to the test – where we are reminded of the really hard parts of the story and are forced to wait for resurrection.  We cannot rush the story and we have to sit with the discomfort and the challenge of that.

In so many ways, it feels like we are experiencing our own kind of Holy Week right now.  We are traveling a hard and toilsome journey.  Our faith is being put to the test.  We are being reminded of the hard parts of being human, of the true depths of our brokenness.

And we, too, have to wait for resurrection.

But here’s the thing:  As difficult as this is, I truly do believe that, when we finally do experience resurrection, it is going to be so powerful and life-changing and overwhelming.

Hosanna!  Save us!

Friends, be assured that our cries are heard.  God has not abandoned us.  Resurrection is coming.

I am wishing you all many blessings as we head into Holy Week.  I have always said that the Easter Triduum – the three days between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday is a special time in the Christian year because it is the only time that we get to live out the story in real time.

But in so many ways, this year it feels like we are living out this story in real experience, as well.

And so now we wait.  We lean into our faith.  We trust that God has not abandoned us.  We cry out to God to save us, knowing that God hears those cries.

And, in the meantime (in ways, of course, that are safe and appropriate), we lay down our palms for Christ in a new way of proclaiming the Gospel and our commitment to follow Jesus.

Because we know that resurrection is coming.

So have patience, strength and perseverance for the journey.  Give grace to those around you and make sure you give it to yourself, as well.  And await, with great anticipation and expectation, the resurrection that is coming.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

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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