March 29, 2020

We’ve Got This!
Signs of Life: Why Church Matters – Community
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A
Becky Robbins-Penniman

I’ll say one thing for this Great Weirdness we’ve been going through: it has sparked some pretty funny jokes and a lot of creativity. My favorite jokes so far:
• A picture of a big table piled high with all different kinds of packages of TP. The caption: Coming this summer to a garage sale near you.
• There’s going to be a baby boom in 9 months. The babies will be known as C-19 babies, and the top names will be Scott and Charmin.
• After years of wanting to give my house a really thorough cleaning, but just not having the time, I’ve discovered that time wasn’t the problem.

In terms of creativity, people – including some here at Good Shepherd – are learning about how to make washable face masks to send to medical workers; not ideal, but slap dang better than nothing. Of course, we’re discovering all kinds of ways to stay connected without being in the same room. A LOT of those involve new ways to meet over the internet.

Our reading from Hebrews today is a letter – one of humanity’s first ways to stay connected remotely – that tells us in Chapter 10 to consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers . . . encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. In Chapter 12 of that same letter, the writer says: we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. [Hebrews 12:1] How did an author writing 2,000 years ago know about the internet cloud we’d be meeting in today? God is awesome.

One creative idea that several people sent to me came from Italy, where a priest asked his folks to send him their photos, which he printed and taped on the pews so he could see their faces as he celebrated Mass. Now, I didn’t do that, in part because I’ve been away from the office, but mostly because I don’t need the photos. I KNOW where each of you sit. I can see your faces with the eyes of my heart, where you are all present every moment of the day.

So here we are, alone yet together in the cloud. Even if I weren’t under quarantine, not many could be here with me because churches, the government says, are not “essential businesses.” At first, I felt very dismissed and almost offended by that, until I remembered the meme I personally put up on our FB page this week: With church doors shutting across America, it is time for us to show that church has never been about the building. NAILED IT!

As much as I miss seeing you, WE ARE STILL CHURCH! We are absolutely essential to the wholeness, health and holiness of the world. Our buildings are wonderful, beautiful, and very convenient, but they are not essential to being church, to bearing fruit. The fruit we are to bear is to love each other as Jesus loves us. Our reading from 2 Esdras (which is in the Apocrypha) describes this fruit of love: Defend the widow’s rights. Judge in favor of the fatherless. Provide for those who are in need. Protect the orphan. Clothe the naked. Care for the broken and the weak. Don’t mock the lame, protect them instead. Help the blind to see a vision of [God’s] glory. Gather the old and the young within your walls. Watch over your infants. Let your servants and employees rejoice,and your whole community will have good morale.

Isn’t that  exactly what the Church should be doing during a pandemic? Doing whatever we need to do to bring good morale to the whole community? Yes. And do you know what? The Church has done it in the past. The Church already knows how to bear fruit by loving this way during a plague. If fact, it may be WHY the church is around today…

To read the full sermon text, click HERE.

8 AM 10 AM