Dear Partners in Mission:
Greetings to you on this most unusual Good Friday. A day that usually ends in silence as we take time to contemplate the enormity of what God is doing for us in Jesus Christ. God’s living Word poured out on the cross for the life of the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, in 2020, made our world quieter as well. Church buildings are closed with just small groups of leaders preparing online experiences for the faithful. Sermons are being preached to empty pews with the preacher having to engage in new ways without the immediate feedback of the assembly. Even the earth’s crust is quieter as restrictions on the level of human traffic on ground and air has reduced human produced tremors.
Good Friday is a day we confront the reality of death. God in solidarity with human suffering. And this Good Friday, human suffering is on display not just in places far away but close to home. Overflowing hospitals in New York result in cathedrals being turned into temporary medical facilities. Patients are isolated resulting in chaplains, the spiritual front line of care, not permitted to be by their side but communicating via phone and text. 16 million people in our nation have filed for unemployment, overwhelming government ability to process claims. Educational lives have been disrupted with colleges and universities, like congregations, recognizing their future might be in jeopardy. The list could, and does, go on and on.
And yet in this suffering comes the promise of God’s future. For we know how this story ends. In the face of death, the power of sin, God brings a new thing, resurrection. We then, as the church, the people of God in the world, trusting God’s promises, have the opportunity to adapt, learn, and serve in new ways. Congregations are already adapting to deliver worship to the faithful through online experiences. Food ministries adapting to continue to serve those newly out of work. Camping and retreat ministries discern creatively how to provide online content and eventually summer programming when, God willing, this pandemic quarantine is over and families are seeking care for their children. Our partners in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone once again responding to infectious disease by teaching hygiene, providing food, and living the gospel in part through our gifts. The church is alive and well because the church is the baptized people of God.
So on this Good Friday, my prayer for you and all our NT-NL communities is that you will once more, in a new and adaptive way, experience the horror and power of the cross. Quarantine, isolation, economic uncertainty, illness, and death are no longer things that happen elsewhere but are in our midst. Experiencing this reality, may our eyes be newly opened as we look upon the suffering of our neighbors around the world with new levels of humility and solidarity, confident that the cross does not have the final word.
Throughout this time, I have been consistently impressed and inspired by the adaptability of our rostered/authorized and lay leaders. They have quickly adapted to the challenges of physical separation by finding new ways to do ministry, care for God’s people, and sustain evangelical outreach and service. I also realize that all this adaptation takes an emotional and physical toll. Easter 2 (the Sunday after Easter) is often considered a “low” Sunday when leaders are able to step back from the constant demands of Lent and Holy Week. In order to help facilitate that this year, we have produced a video service of the Word for Easter 2, which is available on our website (with accompanying bulletin). A sermon in Spanish is also being offered for our communities for whom that is their primary language (to be posted soon). It is my hope that this service or the sermon portion can be a gift to our communities and leaders reminding us we do this work #InMissionTogether.
As we go to the cross this Good Friday, know that you go with my prayers and do so together with Christians across our world. God’s peace to you all and may God bless your work.