You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Hold On…., HERE.
Over the past few months, there has been a viral phenomenon happening on social media. Not “viral” as in the coronavirus, but viral as in a social media fad which has spread widely. Maybe you have seen it. Have you seen trend “How it started—How it’s going”? These are often before and after photos of people, animals, and/or events.
For example, there is this then-and-now pairing:
The photos show an adorable puppy as “how it started,” and then the grown dog in “how it is going.”
Here is another example, from Memorial’s shift to doing worship online:
On the left is Memorial’s choir, in the sanctuary on Lacy Road, prior to the pandemic. On the right is how it is going now, as we enjoy in the ministry of the virtual choir on Zoom and FaceBook each Sunday.
And then there is this meme (or social media image):
The image on the left is one of whom some refer to as baby Yoda from the Mandalorian. On the right is master Yoda himself.
At the end of worship, as we gather for the Annual Meeting, I am excited to be able to share with you an overview of the Life of the Congregation through the lens of “how it started” (what Church looked like before the pandemic) and “how it’s going (how we have adapted to caring for the health and wellness of the congregation). In all of the challenges, there have been some amazing Spirit-filled moments!
It seems God is always providing a counter balance to our human understanding of “how things are” and “how things are going” and “how they should be”.
Take, for example, the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Matt Skinner notes, “For the Pharisees, obedience to the Torah, the law of Moses, made Jewish distinctiveness visible and experienced in all aspects of life and potentially for all Jewish people, not just religious elites or priests… (their) regard for purity amplified the ritual character of life and the holiness of God.”
The debate which subsequently erupts in a cornfield is fascinating. This is not where a person would expect to engage in an argument around morality. Just what is holy? How do we define Sabbath? What moral issues take precedence in God’s heart?
Thus, I listened with great interest to the deliberations which raged in our own state capital this week. While legislatures debated legalistic minutia around who has the power to declare a statewide health mandate during the pandemic, more and more medical experts were recommending we “double mask” due to the more infectious variants of the coronavirus rapidly spreading.
Which is the greater moral imperative—to rigidly adhere to legal protocol, or to respond to statewide health crisis? This might be the question Jesus asks of us today.
God walks in our midst, and looks us each in the eye. God knows all too well our human tendency to cling to rigid rituals and institutional structures which are life-draining. Our fury, our rage, are barriers to remembering the Holy Story: Thus, Jesus reminds us in that a field of food insecurity, bread feeds. Each and every day—even on the Sabbath—Hands must work to heal. Our love for one another, for our neighbor—and for God—is reflected in how we respond in times of crisis.
Or, as John the Baptist might say in the 2021 paraphrased version of the Bible: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none… (Luke 3:11)” and wear a mask. When indicated, wear two.
But we are creatures of habit. We love our routines and rules. It is hard to change!
This is why Jesus tests the Pharisees, and us, today. In the movie the Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Jesus challenges us to unlearn our tendency to lie in wait, in anger, creating plots which destroy new ideas. We must overcome the cultural norms which accept a reality in which people work for wages that keeps them in poverty, without healthcare, and waiting in lines at pantries for food and necessities.
In response, God’s love reaches out to repair and restore the world. Breaking down the husks of hate which threaten to destroy human souls.
Jesus calls on us—calls us by name—to unlearn what we have internalized in our fear-driven political environment and consumption-based economy. There are soooooo many controversies raging about—and God’s love is just the constant the world needs. In our withering, our praying and pleading—night and day God is there waiting; waiting to repair and restore.
So hold on! God is drawing us back to the story of “how it started” and “how it is going” hoped for new day. This is a time for a revival. A new movement. A remembrance of the Story.
In a few minutes, as we do God’s work during the Annual Meeting, remember it is God who calls us here. In this place, may we embrace God’s hoped for “how things should be” on this Holy Ground.
~ Pastor Kris
Reflection on Luke 6:1-16 offered January 31, 2021
Matthew L. Skinner, A Companion to the New Testament (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2017), 46.