That’s the feeling we have as we wait helplessly for the COVID-19 disease to work its way through our communities. Sometimes we have a feeling of dread — that the next phase will mean more deaths, that it will directly impact our family, that it will mean the collapse of the economy into a depression. However, as I pointed out in last Sunday’s Easter sermon (click to access), our Christian faith causes us to expect that something better is about to hatch.
The Apostle Paul expressed this solid anticipation in his Letter to the Romans:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in[o] hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes[p] for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
Even in a time when God’s people were under oppressive Roman rule, with no hope of gaining freedom, Paul had a sense that something new was being shaped, even in the darkest times. He believed this involved not only God’s people, but “the whole creation.” He compared the change process to a pregnancy that involves both the positive, “eager longing” for what is being born (verse 19), as well as the negative, “groaning in labor pains” (verse 22). This new thing that is about to hatch will free all of creation from its “bondage to decay” so it can express the full glory God intended for it (verse 21). We who have experienced the effects of Christ’s resurrection are the “first fruits” of the renewed creation, though we have to endure our own labor pain groanings in the process (verse 23). So, Paul connected the struggles the early Christians were going through with the ultimate redemption of the whole created universe.
Right now, we’re going through our own “groanings,” and we need to remind ourselves that through our current Covid-19-inspired suffering we’re giving birth to something new. Our Easter faith causes us to believe this and to be open to whatever new realities God wants to bring into our lives. We, naturally, have an “eager longing” to get our current stay-at-home time behind us and resume our normal life. But what if God wants to lead us into a new NORMAL that will make our old normal seem small and empty?
Paul’s last words are a good guide for us in these weeks of sitting on the egg: “We wait for it with patience” (verse 25).
It may be hard, but if you see your experience is part of God’s redemption of the entire creation, it becomes a lot easier to wait for it with patience.
— Pastor George Van Alstine
Meanwhile, ABC’s Ministry Goes On In Creative New Ways
We are on a journey of discovery; a brand new path never traveled before. So we are not meeting together in the sanctuary for Sunday worship, nor in individual homes for TLC groups, nor in Barinaga Hall for youth group. We no longer have Department meetings before or after church. We had to give up our Annual Business Meeting (a heavy blow for you all–or maybe just for the pastors?). All the formats our meetings previously used have been dismantled with the order to Stay Safer at Home. The only group to still meet at the church is for the surplus food distribution which happens on Sunday mornings. Because they meet outdoors, they are able to spread out to minimize social contact.
But in spite of massive changes, we wanted you to know that the Church goes on. Our ministries are still active and vital, even though the way we minister has changed dramatically. More than ever before we are using the phone to stay in contact. We have an active phone tree which tries to touch base with every active ABC family unit. The Messenger still goes out, but other messages are sent electronically as well, including devotionals and links to spiritual resources. Our staff is busy working virtually. New ways of achieving social contact include a lot of Zoom meetings. Our deacons have not missed a meeting–they were some of the first to Zoom. Some TLC groups have been Zooming: The Thursday group was so enthusiastic about not getting into a car to travel to TLC that they met five times in an eight day span! The Finance Department has been keeping a close watch on our finances. In Outreach we are highly aware that this is our time to maximize our digital outreach. Membership Care is happening through prayer and phone calls. In Education we are sending faith resources to our families in the form of devotional booklets and family conversation kits. The youth group is meeting every Friday night by Zoom rather than every other week. They will soon be digging into curriculum called “Faith in an Anxious World”–perfect for this time. And Worship has sustained the most concerted effort to keep us together at our most important and very needed point of connection: many, many thanks to our head technologist Loren Roberts, and for all those who have contributed to our worship services.
While it’s in those public services that we see most clearly the body of Christ at work, we want you to know that we are also at work in the less visible places. We believe that the church is needed now more than ever–when their world shakes, people tend to ask spiritual questions, and we want to be alongside of them on that path. We have no doubt that God is doing a new thing in his Church in these trying times. What a journey! We want to be faithful in following God’s guidance, so that the ABC of today walks side by side with our Savior into the ABC of tomorrow.
— Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn