The other day, I received a text message from a longtime friend. “Hey, Paul. I know we were supposed to get together later today. But with all the changes/closures/social distancing advised over the weekend, let’s wait to get together.” This friend and I had been through a great deal together over the years. Long before phrases like, “social distancing” and “COVID-19” and “hand sanitizer” slid into our cultural vocabulary, we had been through so much messiness in one another’s lives.
After I received the message from my friend, I began to wonder how any of us walk together through life, given the wider chasm created by things like COVID-19. Is “social distance” a fancy way of talking about an imposed isolation, cut off not only from the lives of people whom we know and love, but also from one another altogether? When Jesus promised, “I will not leave you orphaned,” did he have a limit to this promise in mind, “unless a dreadful pandemic lands at your front door?”
I don’t think that’s what he meant.
Yet, it’s hard to keep this in mind as news of school closings, congregations suspending worship, businesses closing for now, activities we normally enjoy taking a hiatus until after COVID-19 ceases to hold sway over us. I think it’s hard for Jesus’ promise to register when larger cultural events, such as March Madness or the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, are suspended for the year.
I’m grateful for the leadership of these institutions and activities. To make these decisions was hard. Yet, it was also faithful. I’m grateful for these leaders. Please join me in thanking them.
Still, what are we to do, when what stands between us and the world is COVID-19? How do we go through life with one another, while still helping to flatten the curve of the virus? Set free by a God of love, there is much we can do. Pray for one another. Make a phone call. Send a text. Use social media to reach out to one another. Write a letter. Send a card. Provide a meal to those who are in need. In these ways, and in so many others, we become the embodiment of Christ’s promise, “I will not leave you orphaned.”
Paul Lutter is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Mora.