Saturday, March 14, 2020

Bridging the Solitude

At 9:30, March 15th, this video of todays worship will be available.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Well, these are difficult times.
We hope that the corona virus COVID 19 is short lived and that our health care system is able to rise to the challenge.
Mostly, we pray for those who will get the virus that they may find healing and hope.
We wonder.
Are we making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Are our fears unfounded.
I hope so.  I hope in the end that for the vast majority of people this ends up being no big deal.  But having said that, the concerns being raised by our health professionals are real, and the only way that we can prevent this from becoming a BIG deal is by taking the precautions now.
The goal is to slow the transmission of the virus so that our health care system is not overwhelmed and unable to respond to the need.  It’s hard to imagine, but if the transmission of the virus is not slowed down we might find ourselves in the situation where people need hospitalization but there is no room for them.
And so, we are doing our services remotely for the next few weeks or as long as the threat remains so that no one’s health is compromised by gathering for worship.
So thank you in advance for your understanding.  And especially, thank you to James and Judy for making this possible.
One housekeeping matter.
Some of you have asked about your offerings.
Please mail them in these weeks.  We will be checking the mail and making our weekly deposits.  It’s important that we can sustain our ministries during these times, even if we can’t gather for worship.
Thank you.

Jesus was tired.  It was the middle of the day when he and his disciples arrived at Jacob’s well.  And he was tired.
There at the well was a woman from the local town.
This would not have been common.  It was in the morning and evening that people came to draw water at the well.  This woman chose to come during the heat of the day.
It was “social distancing”.  She came on her own at an odd hour of the day to avoid the contact with the other women of the town.
“Just leave me alone.” Is the message her actions proclaimed.
But there at the well, she met Jesus, tired as he was.
“Give me a drink.”
Had this happened today, we’d would have had to inform Jesus that such interpersonal contact is  out of the question, a clear violation of health department rules for these times.
“Give me a drink.”
Jews did not ask such things of Samaritans.
There was a disconnect there.  Samaritans were looked down upon by Jews.  Perhaps quite similar to the rift that exists between Palestinians and Israelies today.
Or between us and the immigrants at our borders.
Or the racial divide that remains a powerful force in our country.
Or the gap between the have nots and the haves.
The point is that the last thing that woman expected to come out of Jesus mouth were those words.  “Give me a drink.”
And yet there he was, a Jewish man, asking of her, a Samaritan woman who was isolating from others, and perhaps also, running from her past, a drink.
It was a connection.  A point of contact between the two.  A bridge built where before there was a deep chasm that had divided them.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
Our situation is different.
And yet the same.
“Social distancing” are the words of the day.
Our health, perhaps even our lives, depend on distancing ourselves from others to slow the spread of this disease.
There have been other times when this has been the case.
The plague decimated Europe during Luther’s day.
Influenza strikes every year, sometimes worse than others.  In 1918 600,000 people died.
One of my parishioners in Thompson Falls talked about that year.  Five of her siblings, one after another, died from the flu.
The threat of such pandemics frightens us and isolates us.
We are rightfully concerned.
Personally, it strikes home in numerous ways.
I’m concerned about you.  Most of us, me included, are in the high risk group.  I am concerned that if we do not distance ourselves from one another at this time, we might suffer as a result.
I’m concerned about my family.
Two things at home concern me.
Our daughter in law, Kersten, is the administrator of an assisted living facility.  Her residents are especially at risk. 
And Karla cares for a baby whose mother is a nurse.
Health care workers are at risk.

So we wash our hands.
Thankfully, we haven’t been sick, though my drippy nose troubles me.  It shouldn’t.  Every year at this time my seasonal allergies creep up.  I’ve been told it’s because of the molds that are uncovered as the snow melts.  But a simple runny nose bothers us because of our fears it could be something far worse.
That’s our situation today.
Social distancing.
Staying away from one another.
“Give me a drink.”
With those words Jesus bridge the gap that divided him from that woman at Jacob’s well.
Jesus comes to us as well.
Even at a time when we must distance ourselves from others Jesus comes to us.
Our hope is that these broadcasts might be a way that Jesus comes to you through the word and in prayer.
Our hope is that we might connect with each other in important and significant ways even when we cannot hold hands.
Our hope is that in the midst of these most difficult times Jesus might offer us that “living water”.
It can happen.
Solitude is not necessarily isolation.
Solitude can be a time of deep intimate and spiritual connection.
And perhaps, this Lent, it is in solitude that we will meet Jesus and drink from his well.
And then, when we are able, we will awake from this Lenten fast and be able to celebrate together, once again.
My hopes are that this might happen for Easter.
I have even imagined that if it is still not safe to gather indoors, we might have an outdoor service instead. 
But whether our time of separation is short, or long, Jesus will be there with us at the well.

Finally, remember that you have a special calling at this time.  Yes, you.
One of the ways we can connect with Jesus during this time of Social Distancing, is by connecting with one another.  We are all just a phone call away.
I am happy to take phone calls from you, seven days a week.  Call.  I will make it a point to be making some calls as well to check in on you.
And call each other.
A funny story about that.
When I was growing up I called one of my friends who had been sick.  Michael cut the call short because he was afraid that I might get sick talking with him on the phone.
“Michael, germs cannot be transmitted over the phone.”
“Well why do they show people spraying their phones with Lysol on the commercials then?”
I went on to explain that it was to kill the germs on that phone, so that others in the household wouldn’t get sick.

The point is we can call one another.
We can pray for and with one another.
I’m even prepared to stretch the liturgical boundaries and do a remote communion service if this current situation carries on too long.
Take care of yourself.
Take care of others.
And hopefully we will all get through this without getting sick and suffering, and especially dying.
But through it all, just remember, that Jesus is with you.

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