Oh, to return to January 1st, 2020. Do you remember when the biggest news was impeachment? I was with some teenagers recently. I asked them, “Use one word to describe the first 6 months of 2020.”
Destruction. There seems to be a dismantling of everything we thought was secure. Assumptions about health, education, economics, and racism have all been challenged. Everything has been blown up in the span of four months. Now we are all trying to make sense of the rubble, wondering if we can put things back together the way the were. Or, do we start from scratch?
“When the protests are over and the cameras are gone, will you walk with a Black life?” My friends at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in North St. Louis have challenged me with this question. Doing ministry in an African American community, their work among children and families is day in and day out. They are on streets and in homes when others leave.
When your favorite celebrity stops waving the justice flag, when it’s no longer fashionable, will your Black neighbor still matter?
Addressing racism is a long, persistent work. An Instagram post or yard sign is insufficient. Rhetoric must become action.
I didn’t sleep last night. My native state is in turmoil. Minneapolis and St. Paul are burning. My friend Andy messaged at 3:00AM, “Police sirens all night, but at least the chopper isn't near my house anymore.” My brother and sister-in-law live in downtown Minneapolis. I worry.
I’m having flashbacks to my own experience in St. Louis after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014. Black Lives Matter was born. Six years later, we are still struggling with which lives matter most.
I wrote this in 2016. These days, every day might be a "tenth day." Maybe you can relate.
"How are things going?" I'm asked.
"Every ten days I want to quit." I've given this answer a few times in recent months. Am I really going to turn in my keys? Probably not . . . but maybe.
Anything of significance is worth sacrificing for. And anything worth sacrificing for will leave you with a "tenth day." Nine days can be good, even great. But about every tenth we are sobered by harsh reality.
There are numerous challenges in this pandemic. Medical. Economic. Educational. Political. With plans for re-entry slowly unfolding, I see a bigger underlying challenge: People.
For a few days I’ve been crabby. Is it the Easter hangover? There seems to be an invisible cloud of anxiety wherever I go.
My wife noticed the agitation in me (she always does). “Why am I crabby?” I asked. In straightforward fashion, she called it. “Jeff, everyone is feeling anxiety right now. We’re in a crisis.” “Oh, yeah.”
Disaster always creates emotional and spiritual turmoil. It’s an obvious fact, and it’s critical to name it. I’ve talked to dozens of people this week who feel the same way. We’re nearing the apex of an anxiety curve.
I was doing some video recording in our church building last night. The building was eerily empty. It will be quiet on Easter as well. Is it really Holy Week if no one gathers?
I believe this will be the most authentic Easter in your lifetime.
Still early in this crazy time, here are a few things I’m seeing. What are you learning?
There’s an old saying, “Never waste a good crisis.” What began as a health crisis has spread to economics, business, education . . . everyday life. God has a history of flipping crisis for his glory.
So what is God working in this?
What is he teaching us?
What good could come from crisis?
A gut check for faith.
You can talk about faith. You can do a Bible Study on faith. But you cannot understand faith until it is tested.
You trusted him when things are good. Will you trust him now? You waited on the Lord when the stock market was at 29,000. Will you wait on him when it’s at 21,000 (or lower)? Will you refuse to give into fear or panic? Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:10)
After prayer and discussion among our congregation's staff and leadership, we commit to the following. This is not only a response to the threat of the coronavirus, but also to outbreaks of influenza in our community.
We will refrain from hugs and handshakes for a time. Regrettably, we will forgo our typical greetings for the time being. Human contact is an important part of our life together. A hug has the ability to convey the love of Christ. For now, an elbow or fist bump will need to suffice. And this always remains true: If you’re sick, stay home.