I keep thinking about a conversation from the movie Apollo 13. After a disaster that crippled the Apollo 13 and threatened the lives of all the astronauts on board that space capsule, one of the engineers from ground control despaired, “This could be the worst disaster that NASA has ever experienced.” Another engineer looked at him and said with hope, “With all due respect sir…I believe this will be our finest hour.” It is that second voice of hope that I want to hear. How do we listen to the echo of our confessions that tell us, “in a world that some seek to control and others view with despair, we declare with joy and trust, OUR WORLD BELONGS TO GOD” until that echo reverberates into our hearts and our hearts are turned towards God and towards a world in need? I think of the prophet Jeremiah’s message of hope to the exiled Israelites, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” (Jeremiah 29: 5-6) We can look at this pandemic as a disaster (which it is) that drives us to despair, or as an opportunity to re-tool how we do our work.
I, like you, have experienced a massive overhaul to how I work, play, fellowship and live. The circle of people that I am able to meet face-to-face has shrunk to my immediate family and those with whom I share a workspace. In the midst of the new social distancing protocols as well as the measure we are taking to sanitize our worlds, there is another thing that I am being struck by. I am amazed at how Kingdom work of God is continuing through all the upheaval and even how the work of God’s kingdom is expanding. Let me just list some of those ways:
- We are being pushed to care for one another in new and different ways. I don’t want to minimize the difficult reality that all of you are facing. I honour those that are trying, ever so hard, to keep as much “normalcy” in the lives of your children as you can. I recognize that many of you are feeling isolated and alone. That is especially true for those of you who are single and those caring for an aging spouse or parent. In the middle of the struggles that each of us must meet head-on, I am encouraged by the creative ways that you are ministering to one another. I don’t have scientifically verifiable numbers but I would bet (if I were a betting man) that you have made and received more phone calls to and from loved ones than would have happened if times were “normal.” I would also bet that you have said tender words to one another that you might not otherwise have said.
- The Church and its leaders have never had to imagine how to shepherd a congregation that needs to know God, follow Jesus and serve our world when the only tool at our disposal is our computers and digital technology. This has pushed us to think beyond what we do in our building…which might be an unanticipated blessing of what has been a very difficult time.
- Worship is happening in homes and within families that puts the primary role of spiritual formation back in the place where it belongs. Fathers and mothers are being tasked to nurture the faith-life of their children in new ways. I am not a lover of change for the sake of change but this is a change that I believe will compel each of us to think deeply about how we ourselves are being spiritually formed and how we can hold and nurture the spiritual lives of one another…especially the young.
- We are exploring digital tools that can be used to meet and even to socialize; where participants can see one another in real time and where life can be shared, plans made and where we can be a part of the work of an ever-expanding Kingdom of God (in partnership with the Holy Spirit….of course!)
- This new world has complicated many things about life, but it has also compelled us to simplify things. We are being pushed to ask of ourselves, “What is most important?” The call to love God and neighbor is not a new calling. What is new are the means through which we will accomplish that goal. I know that you are praying for me and my family…I am praying for all of you too. I know that you are reaching out to people in your spheres of influence who have particular needs and that you are finding ways to help them. All of this is God’s kingdom work!
I want to extend to you the blessing of God and a blessing from your pastor. May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the LORD’s face shine upon you and give you peace in these unsettling times. With God’s help and through the power of the Holy Spirit, this can be our finest hour.
Peace and Joy for 2021,
Pastor David Tigchelaar