Church in Uncertain Times

“Church in Uncertain Times”
By Chris Richter, Galilee Lay Leader
 
April 16, 2020

 

During uncertain times, it is natural to feel a swirl of emotions which may vacillate by the day, hour, or minute. In the best of moments stress, fear, frustration, and anxiety can buzz just under the surface of our consciousness. Each of us feels a very logical sense of powerlessness. 

As believers, we understand that life is a continual fight against the impulse to be in control. Rather, we let God work in and through us.

In Philippians 4:6 we are reminded,

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Of course, our human nature makes those simple instructions much easier to acknowledge than to put into practice.

 

Lay leader Chris Richter on a recent church Zoom call

 

I think we feel another impulse during crises: the desire to help. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, and it can feel frustrating to offer “only” thoughts and prayers. It certainly doesn’t feel heroic to stay home and avoid others.

But while Jesus was very active – he raised the dead, cast out demons, and fed multitudes – some of Christ’s deepest demonstrations of God’s love were relational and personal acts: he quietly engaged the woman at the well with words she desperately needed to hear; he taught regular people about God’s kingdom through telling stories in a manner accessible to all. He wept as he shared the grief of others.

As we strive to be like Jesus in these times, showing God’s love in the simple things might be our path.

In the Sunday livestream several weeks ago, Pastor Geitra spoke of reaching out to neighbors to offer support. We’re doing that by Zoom call and email. Some have gone shopping for elderly neighbors. Others are sewing facemasks. In a random encounter in my front yard, I spoke (safely) with a woman staying with a neighbor. Her regular roommate is fighting COVID-19 while she, herself, is under evaluation for cancer. To share words of compassion, concern, and reassurance may have been why God placed me in my yard at that moment. 

 

Pastor Geitra on the Sunday worship livestream.

 

With so much fear around us, extending God’s love sometimes requires nothing more than a smile and a (socially distanced) warm greeting to a stranger as we are on our daily walk. Here, too, I try to remind myself that it is God – in part through me – that will work his will on this Earth. He is big enough, and powerful enough, and good enough to do this, and his mercy means  my lift isn’t always heavy.

God will always be the hero of this story…not me.

 

Galilee in Uncertain Times

In our powerlessness, we may also ask, “Why isn’t the church doing X or Y?” I try to remind myself that each of us is “the church.” 

In this strange era, it’s important for us to remember that there isn’t a designated committee or staff position that drives the bulk of our charity. Even in normal times, we don’t farm out love or compassion to a trained employee. The actions that best reflect God’s love through Galilee are things that happen organically when we, as individuals, take the initiative.

The big service efforts  of normal times – like mission trips or gathering large groups of volunteers – are predicated on group action that can leave vulnerable people exposed and increase collective risk of infection. Those are paused. Rest assured that smaller, more controlled service efforts are still being handled by church staff and volunteers, including sharing food with vulnerable families in our area. But the most meaningful and worthwhile acts of charity – shopping for others, calling to check in, staying at peace and demonstrating God’s love – those have been ramped up and are tasked to you and me.

We, the “people of Galilee,” can accomplish this Good in ways that are impractical for roll-out as officially organized church campaigns. In this time of “new normal,” being the hands and feet of Christ necessarily has changed, and I have been so gratified as your Lay Leader to see the creative, caring ways our church has looked to adapt and provide that vital care.