Talk about a strange year, 2020 is one for the record books! Here it is the first of June and we have no plans for a gathering in any form. There are no in-person worship services, no choir practices, no scheduled VBS, no in-person Annual Conference. General Conference and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference have been rescheduled for next year so we will keep Bishop Dindy Taylor for another year as she has postponed her retirement. We will get a new District Superintendent (Rev. Reed Shell) to fill the Rev. Randy Martin’s position in the Scenic South District, but we won’t have a farewell gathering. Some congregations will receive new pastors but will have to wait to meet her or him until gatherings can resume. And all this because of a virus.
You are feeling this, too, aren’t you? Family gatherings have been limited or halted out of concern for those who are more susceptible to the ravages of the virus. Many are limiting or curtailing trips to those necessary for health reasons. You may be going without a vacation trip, a weekend outing, or even dinner out with friends. Those with children at home have had to adjust to new schedules for work and play. Adjusting to anything new requires patience and perseverance, both of which can seem to be in short supply these days. We’re not sure we like all of the changes we have been forced to make. There is, however, a bright side to all of this.
With travel limited, we have spent more time with significant others: spouses, partners, children and grandchildren in the home. With previous schedules thrown out the door, we have played games, watched movies, and eaten meals together again. Some are rediscovering the joys of crafts, gardening, reading, and sitting quietly to watch the sun set in a clear sky. The environment appears to be responding positively to the reduction of pollutants from vehicles not grinding out the miles every day to work and back. And we may realize more benefits when we are able to look back on them at some point down the road. For now, though, we take what we can get and give thanks. And pray.
Many still suffer from the loss of jobs (reliable income and self-worth), compromised health, and the ability to be with those in need. Until a vaccine is developed to protect us against this virus, we remain fearful for our future. We cannot be sure that we won’t be open to infection at an unexpected time regardless of where we are or what precautions we have taken. And all of this causes us to worry to the point where we might begin to lose hope. But that is one thing we should never lose.
Sunday, May 31, was the day we celebrate Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all people. The giving of a new helper, advocate, intercessor, companion—the functions of the Holy Spirit go on—enables us to have direct contact with God who, more than anything, desires our good. Because God loves us, we never need to fear for God is with us through every trial caused by natural or human forces. With the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured that we will always have access to the healing, help, and hope that we need. No matter what.
We are struggling as a loving family because of the violence occurring in protests of the deaths of two African Americans, one in Georgia and one in Minnesota, that have the taint of racism. Anything that does not align with our definitions of fair (righteousness, justified) can, and sometimes should, lead us to protest. One difficulty is with maintaining a proper response when we may feel that we are not being heard, respected, or valued. Actions can get out hand and violence can flare up to consume even the most peaceful person. Dealing with frustrations brought on by limitations in freedom due to the coronavirus, can be difficult even if the cause is a closed movie theater. This is a far greater problem that we have been living with for far too long.
We, who profess to be disciples of Jesus, have the responsibility to be a loving, caring, and peaceful response in our world, our communities, and our homes. What we show to the world reflects our heritage as children of God. May we join together in prayer for all who feel trapped by injustice. May we do our utmost to be compassionate, merciful, helpful, kind, and loving after the model of our Lord. May we work for an end to discrimination of any type that lifts one up by pushing another down. When one hurts, all of us hurt and the great collective we are tired of hurting. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Amen.