My Christian witness in the face of a global pandemic.
Rewind to March 1. It was the first Sunday in Lent, on the heels of Ash Wednesday. We celebrated Holy Communion and had a potluck meal after worship. It was a great day, but I had no idea the challenges that our community and our world would soon face. This has been a Lent like none other. In fact Valerie and her friend both agreed that this has been the Lent-iest Lent they have ever Lent-ed!
You’ve heard the cliche, “The more things change…” It’s true but ironic that everything has changed and yet, nothing has really changed. My identity, my desperate need for grace, my love for friends and family and the like are still the same. And, yes, sisters and brothers, God’s love has not changed. So what do we do now? Ignore the obvious tragedy and anxiety that surrounds us? No! If we are Christ followers, we reach up to our Heavenly Father and reach out to each other.
This is a very Wesleyan response. John Wesley regularly had people coming to him in fear, anxious about their sins and failures. So in late 1739, on Thursday evenings Wesley started gathering with people, “having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.1” That’s still what we need today in the face of a turbulent world and a pandemic that has disrupted our lives and routines.
The reformer Wesley encouraged these Christ-followers to follow three simple rules, what came to be known at The General Rules of the United Methodist Church. They can give us some direction in these strange days.
1. Do no harm – Stay home. Yes, I know that many of you disagree with me, but this is one of those times when serving my own needs might inadvertently cause someone else harm. I don’t have to roll out the statistics and wealth of evidence about how a virus is spread. It’s simple. Stay home. Starve the Novel Coronavirus. Stay healthy and keep yourself and your neighbor out of the hospital. When we recognize the brave effort of our overwhelmed medical professionals, they are going to work for us, so we can stay home for them.
2. Do good – Find ways to encourage others. I love seeing the innovative ways many of you have demonstrated kindness and compassion! We have sent thank you cards, done the Facebook Friday phone a friend challenge, delivered Kids Activity Kids, assisted with our Drive Thru Prayer and daily reached out to friends and loved ones. You are not alone, but make sure that everyone else knows that too! And we can do a lot of good just by praying. Fast and pray. Man, have I prayed a lot this past month. Apparently I needed the practice. Haha!
3. Stay in love with God – What’s the opposite of fear? According to 1 John 4:18 it’s perfect love. When we fully rely on God’s love and grace, we cannot be ruled by fear, anxiety, or hatred. This is a time to stay in love with God, but also to demonstrate who is Lord of your life. To quote the popular song by Sinach that many have heard on the viral video showing hospital staff lined the roof of Cartersville Medical Center in Cartersville, GA, God is a “Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness.” You and I can complain, be ruled by fear, held hostage by anxiety or we can stay in love with God and be a light of hope. We could all use a little more hope!
As we finish Lent and wonder what April is going to be like, I hope these three simple rules will remain as a guide for our lives after COVID-19 diagnoses have left the news. We serve a Psalm 46 God, “Our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” We get to model that for the world and our community. So stay home. Stay healthy. Stay encouraged, but most of all, do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.