• Storied Church

written by: Sarah Williams

Social distancing brought on by the Coronavirus-craziness has created a mix of forced rest and stir-crazy-productivity around the house for me. I know many of us are freaking out about this new normal, how long it will last, and how many people will have to suffer and die until our world gets on top of this pandemic. To find comfort and avoid cabin fever, I’ve been outside a lot for walks, playing with my dog, gardening, etc.

In the garden, I’ve weeded, watered, mulched, planted bulbs, and prepared seeds. All the while, this quote from Audrey Hepburn keeps coming to mind and giving me hope: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” By the very act of gardening, we are putting that belief into action, to ensure that there will be new life, beauty, and nature to soak up and witness in the coming days. Though we have to endure the wait while the buds and new growth are forming, spring comes breaking forth in new blossoms, fruit, veggies, and greenery. Birds, butterflies, bugs, and us humans are able to revel in the goodness of the garden in full bloom. And, so too, I’m choosing to believe will be the case for all of us, after this wait, reveling in the goodness of everyday life once we get through this Coronavirus outbreak.

I find it so eerily beautiful and poetic that this is happening during the season of Lent on our Christian calendar. The spiritual practice of a season of waiting, of darkness, of knowing something good is coming, but not yet here. Just as Jesus spent his 40 days in the wilderness, we are in a new wilderness with the unknown of this virus. As the virus spreads, we have been forced to better live out Lent with the global slowdown and our governments forcing us to hunker down as we rest and wait.

Lent usually, in our busy, stressful, distracted ways of living, can be hard to live out. One silver lining to the Coronavirus cloud is that it is forcing us to slow down, re-center, reflect and focus on ourselves, our God, our homes, our families, our neighbors, those who need help in our communities. It gives us time to do some weeding out of the bad, cultivating the good, and hoping for what’s to come. To garden is to believe in tomorrow – both in our yards and in our hearts, souls, and minds.

The practice of Lent is to prepare for and believe in the tomorrow of Easter Sunday. As we come near the end of this season of Lent, we’ll be celebrating Christ’s victory over death in a different, socially distanced way this year. Even so, I’m hopeful we’ll celebrate that in a deeper, more real way this Easter with the Coronavirus. Until then, let us garden, both in our backyards and in our souls, with the full faith and belief in a better tomorrow, just below the surface, ready to bloom with new life and beauty.

  • Storied Church

For the past few nights, I have laid awake, anxious. Anxious about the world. Anxious about my family. Anxious about being out of rhythm. Anxious about what if I get this thing… wondering what my outcomes would be… wondering if I do fall ill who will take care of my family? What if my family gets this thing…

what if, what if…

and I am angry and frustrated at leadership that was reactive and not proactive. For a virus that is better stopped being proactive. And people are dying because of it. Hospitals are overwhelmed because of it. Medical workers are at risk because of it.

And deep down I know the truth I know… that this will affect me… it will affect everyone.

I sit here on this overcast morning with the gospel lectionary text of the week. The story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Asking in the midst of what I and others are feeling… what hope do these words offer to me? What hope might these words offer to the world?

Today this reading has less to do with Lazarus being raised from the dead… and more to do about the comfort and care a friend offers to another.

There is no doubt that Jesus was close to this family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He deeply cared about them. He was like one of their family.

“The Lord the one whom you loved is ill”… “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Jesus referred to Lazarus as “his friend.”

Not a follower, not a disciple, but a friend.

Martha and Mary, just like many of us, are frustrated. Frustrated that their friend is nowhere to be seen. Frustrated that when they needed Jesus most… he wasn’t there.

Good friends provide space for conflict and frustration. In fact, that is what draws the roots deeper.

When Jesus finally arrives… Martha’s response with my paraphrase, “where the hell were you?!?!”

Jesus provides a wide-breadth to feel. Jesus lets things get personal. Jesus doesn’t say, “Martha you shouldn’t feel that…” or, “I thought we were friends and friends to don’t get upset at each other.”

He is there, present in the midst of his friend's grief, anxiety, questions.

We find Jesus in the midst of all our emotions crying with us while at the same time saying to them and to us, “it will be alright.”

And saying phrases that are probably more troubling than good, “it is for God’s glory.”

It’s God’s glory that we have a pandemic? It’s for God’s glory Lazarus is dead?

Or is it for God’s glory that God's presence comes forth out of us when our worlds go to hell?

For God’s glory when we sense God’s presence in our togetherness in facing unforeseen circumstances?

So while many of us are anxious, angry, scared, frustrated… I am going to try my best… to let myself be real before a God that is big enough for that kind of stuff… the God we call friend… but I am also going to try to listen.

Jason (enter your name), it will be alright.

  • Storied Church

written by David Gaddy

Let’s be real.  The coronavirus has brought good and bad.  Bad...mass hysteria. People, do you really need 7,000 rolls of toilet paper and 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer?  Bad...exploitation. We knew it was coming. Someone was taking their 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and selling it for WAYYYY more than anyone would ever pay.  However, kudos to the kids at a high school that were selling squirts of sanitizer for $1 per squirt. Those kids will make millions one day haha!

Then there is the good.  People are now washing their hands WAYYYY more often!  Which makes one question their hygiene beforehand? Another good, people grouping together to provide food resources for grade school students and families who depend on their local school for meals.  May this continue far beyond the corona pandemic!

I believe there is one terrible thing happening.  I do not think it is intentionally bad, but it can stir fear and that is not what the Christian faith should be doing.  I have been seeing leaders and different posts/memes talking about and pointing to our current situation as a sign of the END TIMES!

For those of you who are not aware of Christianity, there is this final letter in the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  It is often referred to as the book of Revelation (Revelations if you grew up in the South). It is this letter that the disciple John wrote to the Christ-followers in Rome during a very difficult and tumultuous time for these first followers.  Mind you, John was exiled to a secluded island off the coast of Italy. The letter is full of imagery, metaphor, reminders of Jewish history, a grand battle, and in the end, Jesus wins (twice).

Revelation was written to give HOPE during a time of TURMOIL.  And there are moments throughout the letter that do provide hope (Jesus beats evil once and for all AGAIN, Jesus challenges churches to continue their good work or become something better than the world needs in their time).  But then there are these images….

Revelation was written to give HOPE during a time of TURMOIL.  And there are moments throughout the letter that do provide hope (Jesus beats evil once and for all AGAIN, Jesus challenges churches to continue their good work or become something better than the world needs in their time).  But then there are these images….

These images are where the letter gets super confusing and the letter, thus, misused and mishandled.  Some of these are the four horsemen, the seven seals, scrolls, bowls, and plagues (just to name a few, there are more, trust me, I sat through a semester of this).  It is almost like you need a decoder ring from a cereal box to understand it all. Allegedly, some have figured it out. Now, because of coronavirus, it seems we are in the midst of the end times.  This is likely because of the constant conflicts with other countries (war), the locust swarms in Africa (famine), and now coronavirus worldwide (pestilence). And now we are looking for Christ to ride in on the final horse.

While I understand where these people are coming from, likely from a place of warning the masses and thus love, I think it may stir more fear than anything else.  Fear of the unknown coming of something you do not understand from the end of a book that some do not read...that may be the worst kind of fear.

Instead of stirring the pot of fear, may we as believers of The Way stir the pot of compassion.  Every generation in known history has had its share of deep struggle that makes it think of its own mortality.  However, in the midst of those moments, HOPE rises to the top. Martin Luther (leader of the Reformation of churches) in the middle of the plague said this:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as the result of my negligence...If my neighbor needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. (Regarding the Black Plague)
Luther’s comments were during the BLACK PLAGUE!!!!  So, I am not telling you to go and endanger yourself.  However, I am challenging us to go from fear to HOPE in these times.  Encourage each other to find ways to help a neighbor, serve the least, donate the most, send pictures to the detained and homebound.  One of the best lines I have heard in this time is “we are in this together and we will overcome this together.” The last time we heard this was like 9/11 when the World Trade Centers fell.

So may you find ways to serve, find ways to follow The Way of Christ in these moments, promote HOPE over fear, find the goodness in the turmoil, and most of all…



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