Pastor’s Friday Comments (03.05.21)

I recently purchased a pair of noise cancelling headphones, a great way to remove distractions when you are working from home and there are other residents there as well. Cut on some low-volume meditative music and you’re in your own little world – which is fine if you are trying to accomplish a particular task that requires focus. Unfortunately, it is also a perfect metaphor for the way many of us are leading our lives right now.

Our collaboration with co-workers is limited to text messages and emails. Our visits with family and friends are restricted to Zoom calls and Facetime.  Our worship has been confined to virtual participation via the internet. “Eating out” has been reduced to getting take-out at the curb and, at best, consuming it at a picnic table. For many, there has not been a satisfying social event in a year. The highlight of the week may be a quick run through the grocery store. 

Admittedly, not everyone has chosen to restrict their lives so dramatically, but many have, and almost all of us have reduced our contact with other human beings.

What we all hope is that these restrictions are close to ending. We may wear masks for quite a while longer and most of us aren’t ready to enter a packed arena or movie theater, but I think we are all realistically anticipating a little more social interaction.

Or maybe not. My concern is that some of us have not only gotten used to more isolation, but have come to accept it. Perhaps those who consider themselves more introverted have welcomed the freedom from the exhaustion of conversation and engagement. Even those of us who are more extroverted have found it convenient to stay in our comfort zone rather than face difficult people. Personally, my biggest concern is that some have found that worshiping on your schedule, in private, has become your preferred method of spirituality. It remains to be seen if our patterns of interaction become more reserved, less enthusiastic than they were pre-pandemic.

And if that happens for anyone, that is very unfortunate. God made us for communion, both with our Creator and the created. While many relationships are superficial or transactional, we all benefit from genuine connections beyond our immediate family and a few close friends. We need to get back to seeing people in person that we haven’t seen for a long time. We have to gain the benefit of social congress. Above all else, we should extend our relationships to people who not only aren’t related to us, but who aren’t anything like us.

Can you imagine Jesus sitting in his house in Nazareth, writing out his thoughts and teachings and circulating them by courier? He got out among the people. He touched them. He talked to them. He asked them questions and answered theirs. He made a difference not just by what he said but by his presence and by what he did. And we are to follow his example.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m not going to have any problems like what you’re describing. I can’t wait to get back out.” I hope that is really true, but for some people it won’t be, and even for those who are ready to get back out, they may be surprised that it is more difficult than they had anticipated. I’m simply raising your awareness that it might be hard, but that it must be done.

Fortunately, in this as in all things, if God wants us to do something, God provides the way. One of the prayers you could offer during Lent is that, as you prepare yourself spiritually for the resurrection, you prepare yourself emotionally for return to society – and that this time you will resolve, with God’s help, to be a better friend, co-worker, family member, and citizen than you ever were before. At least that amount of good can come out of all we have been through this last year.