We are moving back into our sanctuary for the first time since March. The pandemic forced us to take our worship services online, out to a ball field parking lot, over to our front yard, onto the beach, and even to a graveyard. We are beginning to feel like the early Hebrew nation that followed the pillar of fire and cloud all over the desert, setting up a temporary tabernacle each time they stopped.
Standing in one corner of the chancel area is our Lenten Cross, which is usually up from the beginning of Lent until Easter Sunday. On Easter it is covered with a white scarf and a white dove and then is removed when the service is over. Seeing the Lenten cross still up as we are preparing for this upcoming Sunday is bittersweet. This certainly has been the Lentiest Lent of all Lents….the never-ending Lent, the Lent that won’t relent, the Groundhog Day movie-remake in 3D-Lent Vision. We’ve had more than enough Lent for one year!
Whether you are in the camp of people who feel that we didn’t do enough to flatten the curve when we had the chance, or the camp that thinks it just needs to run its course, COVID-19 has been a daily struggle for individuals and institutions. The national anger that is bubbling just beneath the surface of society is bursting out in riots, property destruction, marches, and an abundance of hate speech. We are left with a feeling of gloom as we try to muddle through it.
The hope and promise of a vaccine became part of our conversation yesterday with the announcement of an experimental vaccine that has shown up to 90% efficacy. Over the last several months, real strides have been made in labs, on white boards, in research facilities, and with the brave volunteers who have been participating in early trials. Science is talking back to the virus in a meaningful and hopeful way.
Through all of this, we have always known where to look. We know to look to the one who rules heaven, and fix our eyes there until God has mercy on us.
Psalm 123 (Common English Bible)
I raise my eyes to you—
you who rule heaven.
2 Just as the eyes of servants attend to their masters’ hand,
just as the eyes of a female servant attend to her mistress’ hand—
that’s how our eyes attend to the Lord our God
until he has mercy on us.
It will be important to remember to continue to look to the Lord. It will be important to continue to be vigilant in our self-care practices. As a community and as a country, we will need to double down on our hand washing/sanitizer using/mask wearing/social distancing behavior.
Because we’ve had more than enough of this pandemic. We’ve had more than enough of misinformation. We’ve had more than enough death. We’ve had more than enough shame.
3 Have mercy on us, Lord! Have mercy
because we’ve had more than enough shame.
4 We’ve had more than enough mockery from the self-confident,
more than enough shame from the proud.
So keep looking UP. Don’t look to any one person, group, party, or institution to save us. We’ve been doing that since Lent and it hasn’t worked. It’s time to take the Lent cross DOWN.
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore. (Psalm 121 New Revised Standard Version)