We had to cancel our services at my home church in Winnsboro but I ended up “going to church” more than ever while being quarantined for Covid-19. Through the miracle of electronics I was able to watch a variety of worship services last Sunday. There are several different ways to do this: some live and some recorded. I watched one of my former pastors who is now preaching in Michigan on their church website and it was balm for my soul to hear her reassuring voice again. My other previous home church in Garland had a zoom conference call, kind of an online Passing of the Peace and we ended up spending 30 minutes waving at each other like we were in kindergarten. I watched two or three other churches through a variety of video recordings. Then just in case they were getting it all wrong I went to one of my most trusted sources, a Luthern pastor with a national following who looks nothing like a Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. And I ended the day by lighting a candle and watching a Taize’ service broadcast from France. It may be a silver lining to the cloud of this quarantine that we have found a multitude of ways to gather as the body of Christ.
Now that I'm on the preaching circuit I'm constantly in search for what others are doing with their own sermons. And the folks preaching from the Revised Common Lectionary on Sunday indulged me by all preaching from the same scripture. There are usually 50 different ways to explain the bible; some better than others and I'm always on the lookout for new insights.
When we came to Psalm 23 on Sunday I immediately honed in on that one phrase: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear not, for thou art with me.”
Right now the whole world is in the middle of a sickness that hovers over us and that threatens all of us with the shadow of death. We are all walking in a time of dark uncertainty. We don’t know when, how, or even if, this virus will affect our lives. It’s a pretty safe bet the answer is that it will but the uncertainty of how much is a huge shadow looming over the valley we walk through. I don’t know about you, but I will admit that I’m a little afraid.
I remind myself of two things: God is still in charge. The all-powerful God who created the universe, including every star I can see when I look at the darkest night is the same gentle God who knows the scar on my ankle that I got falling off my bike when I was nine years old and was there with me when I got it. This God created everything and loves us more that we can imagine. And God always gets the last word.
And I remember a quote from the movie, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” The hotel manager was fond of saying “Everything will be alright in the end. And if everything is not alright then this is not yet the end.”
Thinking of this gave me the courage to look at the passage with new eyes and see something I had missed: it’s only a shadow. I stopped being afraid of shadows a long time ago. They have no power over me.
Once I sorted all this out in my mind I turned off the TV. I sorted through the groceries I have in the house and cancelled my hair appointment. I've got enough DVDs and unread books in my house to last far beyond what I suspect I will need to stay put. I have an excellent connection to the internet.
It's spring. I'm going for a walk.