Greetings from the Moderator APRIL 2020
Easter Hope in Uncertain Times
It’s usually easy to write a message about Easter. Christ’s resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith, and Easter is the highlight of the liturgical year. Worship on Easter Sunday especially joyful: the sanctuary is full of lilies or other beautiful flowers, families with radiant faces and bright Easter finery fill the pews, the organist plays exuberant arrangements of triumphant Easter hymns, the choir or praise band sings special anthems, and the pastor delivers a rousing sermon that affirms our faith and challenges us to live as new people in response to God’s wondrous love.
Things are different this year. Last month I visualized a lenten journey based on the prayer of Richard of Chichester: “The contemplative anthem sung by the sweet voices of a boys choir pulls me away from busy-ness and calms me down so I can focus on God. The exuberant joy of the Godspell song energizes me to go out from my quiet place and plunge into the world around me.” That certainly didn’t turn out as planned! If anything, there has been more busy-ness (necessary, but still busy) - called session meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cancellation or changes to activities, concern for a relative with pneumonia in assisted living . . . Yet these are relatively minor disruptions; many people are dealing with serious loss of income, dwindling household supplies, and tele-working while caring for children at home. I confess to being tempted to withdraw from the world with a good book or streamed movie instead of asking God what I can do for my neighbors.
Things are different this year. As I write this in mid-March, some of us don’t know if our congregation will have face-to-face worship on Easter. If we can worship together, we’ll carefully maintain physical distance and pass the peace via elbows and fist-bumps instead of hugs and handshakes. We’ll look around for those missing due to illness, quarantine, fear, or prudence. Attendance will likely be low - as will the local offering and One Great Hour of Sharing. Our prayers will focus on the sick, those who have lost loved ones, friends and neighbors suffering financially due to business closures, and the most vulnerable among us - the elderly, the homeless, and the medical community on the front lines of this battle.
Things are different this Easter - or are they? We are surrounded by fear and uncertainty, but isn’t that always the case? There is nothing new about living in uncertain times - just new types of uncertainty. We can choose to respond in fear or in hope, in despair or in faith.
The message of Easter hasn’t changed: Jesus is alive! Jesus is with us today in whatever we are facing. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) The Easter message of faith and hope is in stark contrast to other voices we hear in times like these. The world needs to hear that hope, and we are the ones who must share it. Peter challenges us to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks a reason for the hope within us (I Peter 3:15).
The Easter message challenges us to look beyond ourselves and our congregations to those around us, especially those who don’t know the hope of Christ. What are we doing to be the light of the world in this time of darkness? How are we dispelling darkness and replacing it with the light and love of Christ? As we continue physical social distancing, let us make an extra effort to connect with others by phone, text, or social media. How is your congregation reaching out to help others impacted by the pandemic? Please send your stories to Cheryl Carson so she can post them on the Central Florida Presbytery on-line platforms. Also, remember to check out the list of live-streamed church services around the presbytery on our website.
Celebrating Easter hope in the midst of uncertainty,