dis·ori·ent·ed | \ (ˌ)dis-ˈȯr-ē-ˌen-təd \
: having lost one's sense of time, place, or identity
I don’t know about you, but the dictionary entry above basically reflects my life over the past few weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has continued to disrupt life as we know it. Many--myself included--have lost our sense of time as each day’s isolation wears on us. We have lost our sense of place as we remain confined to just a handful of the places we used to go. Lots of people have also lost the sense of identity they had from their employment as they now find themselves unemployed. “Disoriented” is a strong candidate for word of the moment.
We as a congregation certainly are disoriented when it comes to our sense of place. How I treasured the March 15th worship service, the last time we were able to gather! Perhaps it was just me, but I had the sense that that morning was something special. It was truly a gift of presence that God gave us and enjoyed with us one last time before an extended hiatus.
It has been fascinating to watch for God’s work in this time of physical distances and isolation. I see it all the time in the creativity of my colleagues in ministry as pastors are forced to try new strategies for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I see God at work when strangers from distant communities comment on church Facebook pages about how grateful they were for a service video or inspirational post. I see God working in the monotony and forced simplicity of life right now, speaking to people when we actually have the capacity to listen due to fewer distractions.
Indeed, I’ve been fascinated by all that God’s been up to...but I’m far from surprised. I’m not surprised because the Bible tells us that this is exactly what God has always done. The Old Testament is all about a group of people (the Israelites) who endured hardship after hardship and frequently found themselves scattered by imperial conquest and exile. But God never stopped loving them, never stopped reaching out to them, never stopped speaking to them.
And for us as Christians, we recognize that same unfailing God revealing to us the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. We may feel disoriented in confusing times like these, but the God who so deeply loves the world always orients us, points us in the right direction: to the cross. I was initially quite disappointed that this time of social distancing overlapped Holy Week and Easter...but I realized that this unusual situation eliminates all illusions that we are oriented toward anything but the cross of Christ and the salvation and forgiveness that flow from it. Elizabeth Clephane offers a word for our time in her classic hymn, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”:
I take, O cross, your shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.
Pastor Micah Garnett has been our Pastor since July 2016. He grew up in York, PA and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. He enjoys worship, working with social services in Fulton County, writing hymns, and cycling.