From the Pastor’s Desk
Welcome back to the next year of the Grace News, our weekly round up of news, prayers, schedules, and enrichment.
It’s part of the glue that holds our congregation together…and perhaps it’s more important now than ever, since we are not meeting together weekly in the foreseeable future!
Way back in March, we got used to living in shorter range increments: a shut-down to flatten the curve, then, bit by bit, trying to figure out how to get the patterns of life back to normal. Most of us could live with that for a little while. But as spring has turned into summer, we have been forced to give up the pipe dream that the pandemic could or would recede without much greater efforts than our government and in many cases our fellow citizens were able, or willing, to put forth.
Many of our leaders have taken a political rather than scientific approach to controlling the spread of the virus. But as many have noted, a virus doesn’t really care what your politics are. So we are in for a much longer haul now, it seems.
As our staff took time off for vacation in July, it seemed possible to hope that by the time you would read this article, we might be having some kind of gathering for church in the nave again. Up until two weeks ago, our “Return to Worship” Team was still shooting for August 16! But cases are climbing again in Lancaster County, and it seems too risky to gather, even in groups of 25 or less as is required, at least until the number of new cases is going in the other direction. We are tentatively setting September 13, 2020 as the next possible date for re-opening, but this will depend on our leadership’s agreement that the risks have been substantially lowered.
It is sad but true that along with gyms and bars, theaters and symphony halls, churches are set up to gather indoors and use our lungs and voices in ways that spread the coronavirus into the air much more than normal breathing. Especially as people of faith, we are called to take care of one another in the midst of such a time. I’ve heard Christian leaders say things like, “God is in control – If I get it, I get it.” For them, it seems, faith is more about showing off how brave you are or something childish like that. They don’t understand, it seems, that they might just as well say, “I’m late, I’ll drive 100 miles a hour to get there on time. God is in control, if I crash and kill myself and several others, so be it.”
I don’t believe that our faith that “God is in control” calls us to prove it with acts of stupidity or selfish endangerment of others. In fact, nobody knows just what “God is in control” actually means. Does it mean God likes suffering, just because there is suffering? Does it mean if you accumulate bazillions of dollars by manipulating people into watching advertisements while they share pictures of their avocado toast on your social media platform, that God likes monopolistic greed?
As Luther pointed out, worshipping only the God “who is in control,” is a recipe for terror. That God brings forth hurricanes, earthquakes, viruses, and droughts. That God allows holocausts and genocides, slavery and sex trafficking. The God who is “in control” of the world we live in is a God who can only be worshipped in fear. If that’s what you’re into, fine. There’s a certain honesty to that. But that is not the God we worship as the Holy Trinity, the God of Israel to whom Jesus prayed as to a beloved and familiar parent, the Christ of the cross who prayed for his heavenly Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do,” the Spirit of resurrection that brings light from darkness and speech from silence.
The God we trust for Jesus’ sake assures us that while we are not able to make sense or take comfort from much of what we see spinning “out of control” in the world around us, we can trust that God will not forsake us in the whirlwind. In the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we tell the story that God is trustworthy until the end, not by ‘being in control,” but by giving up control, by giving us room and freedom in which to return God’s love for us with our thanksgiving for the gift of life, and the freedom to live and love as we are able. In such trust he calls us not to a life of fatalistic irresponsibility, but to a life of servant-hood and caring for one another.
So take heart! My trust in God doesn’t allow me to know if or when a vaccine will appear so that we can live more socially and less dangerously once again. But I do trust that God gives us the resources and creativity to live out our lives of faith in new ways, for whatever time is required. And in the meantime, it seems it is God’s plan for us also to struggle with some of the other ways we are dangerous to each other, with the roots of crime and violence, with the growing patterns of inequality that are “baked in” to our current economy, with the legacies of colonialism and slavery and the racism that was invented to justify them long ago, and which lingers on in perhaps less personal, but no less demonic ways. May we be people of wrestling faith through it all!
I look forward to the ongoing conversation we are having about these things also. With God’s help, may we find new ways to wrestle free of our demons, by wrestling with God’s never-ending call to holy living, the blessing of Jesus’ mercy for all.
“The man said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, until you bless me.'” Genesis 32:26
Click here for this week’s resources!
VBS 2020—Come, Give, and Receive God’s Great Love!
August 14th, 2020 | 9AM to 3PM Kindergarten – 8th grades*
Crafts, stream study, nature scavenger hunt, games, bible stories, Funyaks on the pond and lunch are all included!
Parents, Family or Friends in your “safe circle” are asked to drive the children there and pick-up at the end of day. Drivers are always welcome to stay.
Please Bring: A little daypack with a mask, personal hand sanitizer**, a water bottle, sunscreen, extra shoes or sandals that can get wet, .
RSVP TO 717-397-2748 (church office) as to the total number of kids and adults participating and any allergies we should be aware of. The registration form will must be completed upon arrival at the Myers retreat center.
*Older youth and parents are encouraged to come help and join in the fun.
**We will have extra masks and hand sanitizer for those who need it.
Water Week Aug. 7-15, 2020 at Grace Lutheran Church!
Discover how local congregations are transforming their grounds to treat stormwater runoff and create habitat for birds and bees!
Take a “go as you can” 3-mile loop self-guided walking tour of sites to witness how congregations in historic Lancaster have transformed their grounds by treating stormwater runoff and making their spaces more hospitable to birds and bees!
See examples of creation care projects that your congregation might try to replicate. Co-Sponsored by Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and the Lancaster Interfaith Coalition. Begin tour by parking at Grace Lutheran Church, 517 North Queen Street.
After participating in the walking tour please join us at the follow up companion “Faith-in-Action Discussion” on August 12th at 7PM via Zoom (register here) to hear remarks from Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck and other speakers, interact with host site leaders to ask questions, and connect with resources.
For more information about both of these events click here
August 9, 2020 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 14)
But when the disciples saw him [Jesus] walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Even though COVID-19 has changed so much in our world, our communities, and our houses of worship, we must guard against fear and take heart because Jesus is with us. We will never be left adrift; Jesus is with us in these uncharted waters.