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Hope. Compassion. Restoration.

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Hope. Compassion. Restoration. HERE

As we approach the one-year mark of worshiping online, lay leaders, staff, and I have been making plans for Ash Wednesday, Lent, and worship opportunities for Holy Week. I want to remind you that, in our current, dangerous, deep freeze, there is good news! Easter is only 8 weeks away, with all the hoped-for newness which sprouts in the spring (and yes… in Bible study on Wednesday everyone reminded me that in Wisconsin it can also still snow on April 4)!

Reflecting on what lies ahead, I have to share with you something that made me laugh this week. I happened to look back at one of the early worship services we did on Zoom—and it made me take a deep breath. Watching those first videos I experienced a sense of great joy as I saw the multiple small, square pictures of each of you who took that risk to go digital and affirm that “yes,” being online IS Church… and then I shuddered at the memories of all we have learned about our new, virtual sanctuary.

During those initial services, no one was muted. We hadn’t yet figured out how to avoid the great cacophony of voices on Zoom. I watched one video in which we sang (unmuted) while Jeff played the piano from his home. It in that visual and spiritually (an auditorily awkward) space… we unabashedly offered a new interpretation of the phrase “lift a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 100).

As unexpected and wobbly moving worship onto new platforms was, today’s Bible stories make me venture to say the even more difficult—and heart-wrenching—challenge over the past 11 months has been exploring how we offer pastoral care and support to one another through our membership and health and wellness ministries during the pandemic.

Do you remember when the Membership Committee regularly hosted coffee hour, which included Greenbush donuts on the first Sunday of each month? Ahhhh… the donuts! Donuts may seem trivial, but the delight of the youth grabbing something to eat in the Fellowship Hall, sprinkles going everywhere, voices ringing out in the narthex, hugs, and tears, are a part of how we connected with one another and shared our stories. Eating together, communion-ing together, as changed.

We, and all of humanity, are experiencing a liminal time, an in-between moment, filled with grief and brokenness. All because of an infectious bit of nucleic acid, a viral pandemic. Yet it is in these very “hit-pause-and-stand-still” sort of moments God can do the most profound Holy Work.

In her book, How To Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going (a very appropriate book to read when we are living through a global crisis) Susan Beaumont writes, “Liminal seasons are challenging, disorienting, and unsettling. We strive to move forward with purpose and certainty. Instead, we feel as though we are trudging through mud, moving away from something comfortable and known, toward something that can’t yet be known.”[1]

Have you experienced anything like that the past few months? The trudging? As vaccines roll out and winter lingers on, medical professionals are warning about pandemic fatigue. One of their concerns is the Super Bowl becoming super-spreader event across the country today, leading to another spike in infections.

Yet, as we live into these in-between times, there are moments we experience which affirm all is not gloom and doom. Beaumont adds, “Liminal seasons are also exciting and innovative. The promise of a new beginning unleashes creative energy, potential, and passion. All truly great innovations are incubated in liminality. God’s greatest work occurs in liminal space.”[2]

God’s work in liminal spaces is what Luke shares with us today. The story of Jesus and the centurion is mentioned twice in the Bible – in both Luke and Matthew. I will admit this week I enjoyed reading Matthew’s version of the story, as it includes the wailing and gnashing of teeth. In today’s world, I can viscerally understand that sense of deep disorientation.

However, I think in Luke’s retelling there is a great Truth for us in Jesus’s response to the centurion as a distanced ministry of presence. By a distanced ministry of presence, I mean that if we read carefully, in Luke Jesus and the centurion never meet face-to-face. A relationship is built. Faith is demonstrated. And healing occurs. All without being in person. That resonates as we connect with family, with each other, and with our community in digital spaces during the current health crisis.

In the next instant, Jesus is in a totally different place. Another community. Another moment of grief, as a town gathers around the woman whose son has died. Here, the importance of being physically present is palatable. In our 21st century sensibilities, we can get hung up on the how and why and ask “Really?” as we ponder this story in which Jesus says, “Rise” to the man who has died… yet deep down we get the indescribable grief which emerges when someone close to us dies—especially a child—and our hearts break for the widow.

I love that it is in this moment the God we worship understands the tears, and has compassion. It is in these unimaginable spaces of loss that the complexity of the God and human relationship is revealed. Faith and love flow when we are together, and when we are apart. There is Truth in the both/and:

  • That nothing… nothing… replaces physical touch and presence,
  • and at the same time divine mysteries of healing take place beyond all of our science and human understanding—even when we are apart.

God is moving through it all. Beaumont notes, “Liminal seasons are thin spaces, where the presence of the divine is palpable. Liminal seasons are ripe opportunities of faith to deepen their practices of group discernment, to watch for the movement of God.”[3]

Today, watch for the movement of God.

The Holy which fills the spaces between us.

The God who connects with us.

Walks with us.

Heals us.

This time is ripe.

So watch…

~ Pastor Kris

Reflection on Luke 1:1-17 offered February 7, 2021

[1] Susan Beaumont, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 2.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Susan Beaumont, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 16.