I am posting excerpts from pastoral letters written for the congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oviedo, Florida. These are offered with the prayerful hope that others might find perspective or encouragement in them.
Barb and I prayed this morning thanking God that, as far as we know, none of the members of CPC have yet contracted COVID-19. We pray that that will continue to be the case and that the impact of the coronavirus will dissipate quickly.
But other than the obvious desire that fewer people get sick and die, why would we pray that? Is it so that we might once again resume our normal lives? I think it important to ask the question of what our normal lives ARE and what it might mean to return to them.
I have been wondering how things as simple as trips to the grocery store might forever be undertaken with more caution. At Publix there is now a plexi-glass shield erected between the customer and the clerk. There is no reason to expect that those shields will come down. Life on the other side in many ways is going to be different.
But such thinking also makes me realize that the life we are living right now is not an interlude interrupting real life. It IS real life. Life under the influence of coronavirus is the life we are called to live right now. We are not to see ourselves in a holding pattern waiting to get back to life as we used to live it.
Rather we are to see the way things are now as the life in which we are called to live. And so we pray that God will guide us to live well in this new setting. Not only that, we pray that God in showing us how to live in THIS setting will along the way open up doors for us to live better in the world that will be once this crisis has past.
While running last Friday (running either gives me clarity or makes me mentally unstable – the jury is still out on that one) I thought that with the proper precautions, I could bake cinnamon rolls, a staple of the Easter Sunday breakfast (which we sadly be missed this year) on Saturday and invite the congregation to come and get them. My thought here was that at least a part of the past could be retrieved. And it was. But God’s vision is not to the past in this, but to the future.
On Saturday it occurred to us that Barb and I being out front with rolls could be a great way to engage our neighborhood. So we posted to the neighborhood’s Facebook group that we would celebrate Easter by giving away free rolls Saturday evening to any in the neighborhood who wanted some.
As many of you know, we gave away six dozen rolls in thirty minutes Saturday, leaving many wanting. So Sunday morning, after the Zoom sunrise service, I made six dozen more. These I offered directly to the CPC people who missed them Saturday, and once again to the neighborhood. We gave away another three dozen, a good proportion of these to families in our neighborhood. The gratitude from our neighbors was effusive.
What’s the point? By learning how to live in the current situation, not merely lamenting the loss of the past, we have learned a practice that will change our future. Next year, should God allow, we’ll have Easter breakfast at the church. And again there will be cinnamon rolls, along with all the other good things that CPC people provide. But on Saturday evening, in our neighborhood, Barb and I will be on our driveway, giving away rolls to our neighbors and perhaps making connections that will change lives forever.
There is so much of God’s special leading in that story. Not all of what any of us do or can do will be that public or dramatic. But I pray it will be as good and, importantly, enduring. These are not to be days wasted or days merely endured. They are to be days lived.
And I pray that when we get to “the other side” we will carry with us new gifts and new tools and new joys for living.