For Monday, 16 March 2020: The Third Monday of Lent
Read: Psalm 137
Strange words. Strange times. The words of Psalm 137 are great until you get to the end; it’s shocking, even. However, it comes from a deep lament, a place of sadness and grief within the collective soul of a people. Into that sadness and grief comes the question, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4 NRSV). I hear that question to be a question about the presence of God: Is God with us?
These exiled ones singing the psalm came to Babylon under duress. Could they still be faithful even in this foreign place? Could they still praise and worship God in a place other than Jerusalem? I don’t want to draw to tight a parallel with our day-to-day situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, but I see a loose one. What can we learn from Psalm 137 in these days of self-quarantine and social distancing?
We Christians are accustomed to gathering for worship, study, fellowship, service, and learning. We are accustomed to giving tight hugs, hearty handshakes, and holding one another’s hand for comfort. This outbreak is asking us how can we be the church under these conditions? How can we show the love of God in Christ Jesus if we can’t show our affection to one another easily? We are having to find new ways to live out our faith. We are having to rethink and re-examine the ways we have been and now need to be. Pastors and congregations are considering everything from live streaming worship services to online daily devotionals to online “churches” and gatherings in a virtual reality. New challenges offer us new opportunities for learning how to share the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The days are uncertain for sure. The number of weeks, or even months, this type behavior will be needed is uncertain. God’s love, however, is certain. This is what we are to reflect in our lives: the love of God. How do we do that, now?
Maybe now is the time for a gentler and more respectful response to others. Everyone seems to be showing the stress of the situation, perhaps patience with one another is really what is in order these days. We rely on seniors for many volunteer activities in our community. If you are not in the one of the higher risk categories, perhaps you could volunteer at the food pantry, PADS, or other community service agency. Hunger and homelessness do not heed viruses and outbreaks. Our hands (covered in hand sanitizer, of course) are the hands of Jesus. How will we make his love for us and his love for others real in someone’s life today?