March 26, 2020
St. Luke’s, friends and family:
St. Luke’s is a great church. It’s a sentiment that’s been reinforced again and again since my family and I made our home among you last June. In the midst of this pandemic, however, just 20 miles from the national epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, I am discovering that we really are a loving group of people who want to be together.
Technology has allowed us to carry on with some semblance of church as we know it: our common life is still punctuated by a Sunday morning service followed by “coffee hour.” It has even allowed for the introduction of morning and evening prayer: twice a day, a faithful few gather to offer prayers and praise to God on the behalf of the church. It’s been lovely.
Yet, despite the advent of so much technology, it’s the old fashioned phone that’s rising from the ashes; keeping us connected. Many of us are touching base and getting to know one another anew. I am grateful for the phone conversations I’ve had with you, as well as the news that many of you are reaching out to one another. That part’s good, but let’s face it, it’s not the same.
We can figure out this tech stuff, pray the daily office or hold a vestry meeting over Zoom, live stream a sermon, post thoughtful things on social media and call our friends, but I miss CHURCH. I miss seeing faces at the altar rail. I miss children running under foot and devouring the coffee hour treats. I miss the organ and the choir. I miss being church. I miss the certainty of Sunday mornings.
This Sunday, in the Gospel reading from John, we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus. It’s a story that, for us anyway, is all about certainty. From the first sentence, “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany….” we know that Jesus is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. We’re certain of it. But for those in the midst of that drama - the family and friends of Lazarus, overcome with anxiety and grief - there was only uncertainty.
Is Lazarus going to die? When will Jesus get here? What will he do? Lazarus is dead! How come Jesus isn’t here yet? And then, from under that shadowy veil of uncertainty, emerges one of the most profound surprises; from that dark tomb, wrapped in burial shrouds, emerges Lazarus, resurrected from the dead.
Church people show up at certain times, we sing certain songs, we pray certain prayers and we share in certain sacraments. We all know that in certainty that we find great comfort. But what we must believe is that out of uncertainty, God finds us. If the past couple of weeks have reminded us of anything, it’s that most of life is uncertain. But that’s not a reason to despair. It’s a reason to hope.
As we struggle through the implications of coronavirus and all the uncertainty that surrounds it, I am reminded to seek the surprises. They’re out there: buds at the ends of branches or friends on the other end of the line. In each surprise, no matter how small, is a glimpse of the divine. Seek them out and find them.
Yours in Christ,