New Faith and New Hope
We are in the midst of the Easter season, and looking forward to Pentecost. For some of us it still feels like the earliest disciples felt in the days immediately following the first Easter. They had heard that Jesus was risen, but hadn’t experienced His presence. They had seen the authorities execute Jesus, and wondered if they would be next. They sheltered in fear behind locked doors, though they did gather to support one another.
Today we too are sheltering in our homes. The idea of a deadly virus “out there” waiting to pounce on us if we slip up in our defenses creates fear. The daily coverage of New York hospitals in crisis, and rising death tolls does nothing to calm us. Finding grocery shelves bare (at least for the things we are immediately looking for) doesn’t help either.
The answer today is the same as it was for the disciples. While they had locked themselves in, they couldn’t lock Jesus out. He appeared to them and said, “Peace be with You.” He promised the Holy Spirit to energize and support them. He said he had a purpose for them, that he would be sending them out to bring good news to the world. He promised forgiveness for sins available to all who would accept it. He continued to appear to more and more of his followers over a 40 day period. He continued to bring blessings and hope to his frightened followers.
Today Jesus wants to come into our homes and bring us peace. He wants to give us hope. He wants to assure us he has a purpose for our lives, and the time will come when he will send us forth to do his will. But we need to invite Him in every day. We need to be in prayer, offering ourselves to be open to the work of His Spirit in us. Jesus promises us that His perfect love will overcome our fear (1 John 4:18). He promises that he can bring something good out of every situation (Romans 8:28). He promises us an abundant life (the Greek of John 10:10 is an idiom that suggests a life better than we could ever imagine).
All of these promises are available to us in the time of pandemic. God wants to continue to bless our lives and help us live a fulfilling life, even if we are laid off from our jobs. There are things we can do for one another in our families, and beyond. I have a friend who has accompanied songs in church services for all of her adult life. Now that her church has cancelled its worship, she has “dusted off her accordion” and walks her small community every Sunday playing hymns for anyone who wants her to. Many church members are sewing masks for those who need them. People are checking in with neighbors to make sure they are all right. Keeping an appropriate distance we can still be of use to God in our communities.
But God may also be using this time to prepare us. He can be building our faith as we pray together and live together in our homes. He can be strengthening our relationships with one another. As he was ready to ascend into heaven Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. So to God may be call us to wait until his call to ministry releases us to action.
So we ask for God’s blessing at this time, and ask that God will use the pandemic to bring new faith and new hope to our world.