I came home on Monday from my “other job” sick. I’ve been a bi-vocational pastor for ten years, but I use the term loosely. My “tent-making” has been limited to chaplain work and administration for our family business. Recently, we noticed the need for me to become officially bi-vocational and I was hired to data entry for a medical records company.
Monday night I came down with a fever and headache/body aches. The typical flu-like symptoms. However, it’s COVID19 season and we’ve assumed that all other viruses have taken a hiatus. The precaution is understandable. After a telehealth visit, I was told I could return to work in seven days. It was a blessing since most people are given a 14-day window, but I didn’t have enough of the symptoms to warrant the 14-day window. After only 4 days at home, I’ve started asking “what day is it”?
Right, tomorrow is Friday. Good Friday.
I’m reminded of the many blog posts and sermons written about why we call tomorrow “good”. But instead of Good Friday, the burden on my heart is for those who were going to be ordained on April 26th on our district. During the ordination interviews, we often ask the candidate what they would do if they were asked to wait a year for ordination (COVID19 is not what we had in mind). They often respond that they would trust God and continue serving in faithfulness or something similar. And now their response is being tested.
Those, who were going to be ordained, find themselves living in James 1.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2,3)
Those, who would have been ordained, are being asked to wait upon the Lord.
but those who [wait upon] the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
We are not good at waiting. However, the disciples waited in profound grief for three days before Christ rose from the dead. I bet it felt like three months! They waited ten days between Christ’s ascension and the coming of His Holy Spirit. My friends are being asked to wait 12 months.
Grief is legitimate. Even Jesus wept on his way to the tomb to raise Lazarus from the dead. We have permission to weep even if something has been temporarily postponed. I’m not sure it’s helpful to live in denial. Be sad. Be angry. Be disappointed. Later, you will have room to be grateful, joyful, and hopeful.
Some people are two months into this Stay at Home order and they are still raging. They haven’t allowed themselves to feel the disappointment. And it’s keeping them from moving forward in peace. As the prophet, Jeremiah would say, settle down, raise your families, and bless the community around you, then you will be fruitful. I’m grateful we don’t have to wait 70 years like they did.
For me, I keep thinking of all the hard work and prayer that has gone into creating community these last two years. It feels like it’s coming unraveled. But, this time of distress is actually revealing the weak places. Any time stress is placed on an object, a person, or an institution, it reveals the weaknesses.
I’m all about focusing on our strengths. But our weakest link will keep us from thriving. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. There is no law against these things. There is no lockdown preventing these either.
Jesus says he prunes every branch that does not bring forth fruit (of the Spirit). Could he be using such a time as this to prune our souls? He is not the Author of the virus. But He is the Author of faith and life. May this season of waiting upon the Lord produce fruit in us, especially in me. May you and I be pruned so that we can be filled with the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. And it is good because of all the possibilities God brings forth because of that day.
Pastor JoAnn Bastien