A Lenten Lesson on Quarantine Frustration
Frustration…are you frustrated? I know a lot of people are right now, and I can understand. Our normal routines and comfortable patterns have been turned upside down in a matter of weeks. Our elected officials give conflicting messages, and the usual falsehoods and deceptions abound online and in social media, it can be hard not to become frustrated. I have seen and heard a lot of frustration particularly about the economic consequences and our inability to gather together physically as a Church inside of a building. Well I’m not an economist but I know that God provides, look at how our parents and grandparents handled the Great Depression, World War, Rationing, Black outs, etc. They adapted and overcame and in turn became known as the Greatest Generation for their grit and determination.
As for not being able to gather together physically, that is only temporary, and if the scientists, doctors, and government agree that this is the best way to win this war…then that is what we must do. Look to the early church, they suffered torture and persecution like we will probably never know. They had to meet in secret in homes, caves, tombs and wherever else they could and kept the faith…and most were lucky if they had one or two books of what we call the Bible…if that. Certainly, if our faith could not only survive, but thrive and grow, under those conditions, we should be in good shape with a couple weeks or even months without a large gathering of the faithful. I would also warn against the temptation to think that because we are faithful Christians, God will protect us from the virus and we can ignore the advice and direction of our leaders. This is a false theology, one that reminds me of Satan’s temptation of Christ at the end of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. Satan takes Jesus to the top of the Temple roof in Jerusalem and to paraphrase “You are loved by God, throw yourself from this roof top and Angels will catch you and keep you from harm.” To which Jesus replies “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Wouldn’t that be akin to what you would be doing if you are reckless enough to endanger yourself and others by defying the advice and God given knowledge of our medical professionals?
Perhaps the great reformer Martin Luther put it best in part of his reply to Rev. Hess during an outbreak of Bubonic Plague (The Black Death if you prefer) in 1527. He said: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
I think we need to take a lesson from Jesus and from Martin Luther to relax, be patient, and have faith in God. It is after all, the season of Lent when we are called to make sacrifices in memory and honor of the sacrifice made by Jesus. We are still a Church, we can still worship and glorify God, we can still be examples of Calmness, Love, Grace, and patience to others in the model of Christ. It doesn’t do you or our faith any good to become frustrated and angry over things we cannot control. We will adapt, we will overcome, and when this is all over we will be just as strong a community (if not stronger) than we were before. So, set aside a special place (and time) in your house, or in your yard, to be a place of worship for you and your family. Maybe light a candle or two if you like, to remind you and your family of the presence of God, and read from the Gospel out loud together, pray together, watch video sermons or studies together, sing together, Love one another…for these are the things that make a Church, not a building.