One Year In

One year ago, on March 12th, Governor Holcomb banned all ‘non-essential’ gatherings of 250 people or more.  The day before, March 11th, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.  The NBA cancelled its season that same day.  Travel was severely restricted.  In Indiana we had our first recorded case on March 6th and first announced death on March 16th.  Our state basketball tournament and the March Madness were cancelled in between.  That day, Governor Holcomb ordered all bars and restaurants to close. Do you remember?

Here at Central we had our last service before going online fully March 15th.  The world continued to close down from there.  Do you remember how it felt? 

We were able to open our childcare again in May and our in-person services that final Sunday.  We opened with the same masking requirements which were then imposed upon us on July 27th by the governor, requirements which still remain.  And then there were the million changes in our own stories… Do you remember how it felt? to first hunker down and hear the reports roll in? to see life as we know it change in a few short days?

This Sunday marks one year since we last gathered without masks.  In that 365-day span, we have lost so much, seen so much, and felt so much.  The losses are not just in the millions around the world and thousands around the state who have lost their life.  They piled up in relationships severed by distancing, moments lost to cancellations, and a year’s worth of anxiety and unknowing.  What losses have you endured…

The losses remain in our memory.  The scars formed will go nowhere soon.  But the scars tell the deeper story.  The story of loss, yes, but also the story of fighting and healing.  This past year has also been a year of new beginnings and renewal born out of the necessity of the pandemic.  Grieving our losses helps us see that those moments are seen by the light of those redeeming moments which carried us along to this day.  Friendships rekindled over zoom and facetime.  The smallest of gestures reminding us of love at just the right moment. Neighbors now known because the crazy busy has subsided.  New endeavors begun because…well, nothing else was going on.  Babies were born, baptisms were held, celebration found a way, and God is still good.

Feeling again where losses have wounded, does the pain subside long enough in your scars to see the broader tale?

I think of Paul and his letter from prison to the church at Philippi.  His suffering has brought him near death and into deeper contemplation.  He reflects on his time pursuing life in a different way before knowing Christ,

   “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Friends, there is good news.  We have reached our lowest levels of infection and hospitalization since June.  Vaccines are becoming widely available.  And Jesus still reigns as our Resurrected King.  Here at Central groups are beginning to gather, beginning to minister to one another and our neighbors.  We will still wear masks and take precautions in singing, but we are finding a way.  Central will do whatever it takes to be God’s gathered body, following Jesus,  sent out by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the transformation of the world.

Let us press on to the calling God has for us.  We are not alone in our pain.  Hundreds, thousands of those who surround us have been broken in the same way.  Let us rise and shine his glory well to many in the year ahead.  We know not what it will hold, only that God has been faithful through the losses of this pandemic.

This Sunday marks one year since we last gathered without masks.  What will we say one year from now?

To God be the glory…

Yours in Christ, Pastor Joseph

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