April 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

I read this tweet yesterday morning and it stopped me in my tracks.I think Sarah is right. I think we are in for a hard few weeks. Maybe a hard few months. Or longer.

Mary Ann was listening to one pundit on a podcast this morning. His forecast was a dim one. He thinks we will be well into 2021 before we “get back to normal.”

I told her that the person she was listening to is a smart man. And he may well be right. But I reminded her that he doesn’t know the future better than anyone else does. Only one Person knows the future.

I also told her I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to normal. In a lot of ways, I hope we don’t. There was a lot about the “normal” we were living with two months ago that I didn’t like very much. We were a divided and divisive people. More polarized than pulling together.

The current crisis is helping some of us clarify what’s important and what isn’t. God has declared that He will have no other gods before Him. We’ve seen some of our idols cast down in recent weeks. The idol of self sufficiency. The idol or ease and comfort. The idol of entitlement.

But as Sarah Pulliam Bailey said in her tweet, I’m not sure we’re ready for the grief that is about to hit us.

Sarah’s tweet made me think again about my parents who lived during World War II. More than 75 million people died during that war – about 3% of the total population at the time. In our country, more than 400,000 service men and women paid the ultimate price. Everyone knew someone who had received a telegram with the devastating news that a loved one had died. During that era, grief was a regular part of life.

In our lifetime, we’ve shared moments of grief as a country. Some of us are old enough to have grieved the deaths of the seven men and women who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. We grieved again as we watched people jumping to their death from the Twin Towers on 9-11.

Those events hit us quick and hard. If the experts are right, this pandemic will hit us again and again and again over the next few weeks. As I write this, we are closing in on a million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. We should be preparing ourselves now for COVID-19 casualties hitting closer to home.

It is not wrong to grieve. It’s not more spiritual to be stoic. As people around us become sick, and as people are dying, our response is not to quote “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and put on a happy face. Grief and lament are appropriate. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. We should too.

But in our grief, we counsel our own hearts with the truth that we have hope that death and hell have been defeated.

Tim Keller offers this counsel for how we should respond to death. “Take your grief and rub hope into it the way you used to have to rub salt into meat to keep it from going bad. Rub hope deep into your grief, and it will make you wise. Not to grieve kills your humanity. Just to rage kills your humanity. Pressing hope into your grief makes you wise, makes you compassionate, makes you humble. It makes you tender.”

We are in a season that celebrates hope. Very soon, we’ll (virtually) join our voices together to sing:

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

So be ready to grieve in the days ahead. And be ready to rub hope into your grief. Get ready to join together with millions of men and women all around the world as we declare together the good news – that death is swallowed up in victory!

Good Friday and Easter Sunday will feel very different this year. As is our custom, we’ll have a Good Friday service. We’ll be on line at 7:00 on Friday night, April 10, to spend an hour thinking about the price Jesus paid to secure our victory over death. And be thinking now about friends you can invite to join us for our on line Easter Sunday service. Last week we had more people viewing our service on line than we’ve ever had attend a service in our worship. God is at work during this season in some unusual ways.

In the meantime, as we continue to shelter in place and distance ourselves out of love for one another, let’s keep in mind this perspective on grief and suffering from Elisabeth Elliot, someone who experienced grief and loss in a profound way:

Here’s a final reminder this week. Open up your Courtyard App on your phone. Take five minutes today to scroll through the church directory. Pray for people in the directory by name (maybe start in the middle so that Phyllis Atkins and Tom and Nancy Arnold aren’t the only ones being prayed for!). 

And before you’re done, send a text or an email to three people you prayed for. Let them know you prayed for them.

Let’s work to stay connected while we’re sheltering.

This Sunday morning is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Here’s a link to a great Palm Sunday devotional that families can download and read together. And when you tune in for church on Sunday, we’ll talk about why everyone was shouting Hosanna as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

See you (on line) Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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