Not as It Should Be

It started out normally enough.  Our weekly community group meeting on Zoom began with our typical banter and catching up on each other’s lives.  Ron had started the study in Daniel when we noticed the problem.  For some unknown reason, we could not hear each other properly.  There was a strange reverb sound and it was not easy to figure out what was going on.  One by one, we tried muting our audio to see what was causing it and never really figured it out.  It was our last meeting via Zoom anyway and it did not surprise us that it did not go perfectly.  Most remote meetings are a far cry from what they are like in person and putting up with a little technical difficulty is par for the course.  This small snag, though, was one more reminder, things are not what they should be.

This Sunday, we get to go back to church in person in our part of the country and I can’t wait.  In order to do this, however, I had to register on-line and read the list of pre-cautions our church is taking.  We will be meeting outside, will be social distancing, will be wearing masks, will not have bulletins, will have pre-packaged communion and will not have child-care provided.  The registration limited us to groups of 50 for each service.  I am very grateful that our pastors are taking these measured and careful steps to keep us safe, but this is not normal.  Going to church is a time when we love to be around those in our spiritual family and often involves shaking hands and hugging.  Not tomorrow and maybe not for a few weeks.  While things are improving, they are not what they should be.

Last week, a remarkable event took place as two men were sent into space on an American built rocket from an American launching pad and made it safely to the International space station.  This was the first time in nine years that Americans did not have hitch a ride with the Russians and was a great achievement.  It was a nearly flawless undertaking and made even more remarkable by how smoothly it went.  And yet …. This was not what dominated our news.  Sadly, the brokenness and reality of inequality in America stormed back into our consciousness with the tragic death of George Floyd, the massive protests and the rioting and looting that took place across the country.  Pent up emotions, not just from the recent quarantine, but from hundreds of years of oppression, indignity and suffering brought a raw reality into our living rooms.  Things are not what they should be.

The truth is that we live in the “shadowlands” as C.S. Lewis so poignantly said.  Paul captured the same sentiment in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  We often have a vague sense that there is something more, something better that what were currently experiencing.  This year, nothing is vague anymore.  We live in a season of lament and longing.  Our petty comforts have been disrupted, our duct taped relationships have been torn apart and the truth of our frailty has been exposed.  We are a mess and we need a savior.

As I head to church tomorrow with my mask and hand sanitizer, I will go over South Mountain and look at the beautiful Lehigh Valley one more time.  It is the place that God has given me to live in this time, but it is not my home.  I am a sojourner and exile in a foreign land.  My true home is in heaven with the one who will make everything right one day.  It would be easy to keep that as my focus in these days of disruption but God is calling me to something more.  I cannot simply wait until the suffering stops.  My calling is to be a part of bringing Shalom into this broken and fractured time.  The exiles in Babylon were not allowed to simply lament and long for the future.  Jeremiah gave them a new mandate – “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  This week, I will be praying for the welfare of my city and seek to love and serve with renewed vigor and strength.

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