Worship for Sunday, January 17, 2021

Proverbs 9:9-10

9 Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still;
    teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 139:1-18

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end — I am still with you.  Amen.

Galatians 6:7-10

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 5:14-16

14 Jesus said“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I know many of us are emotionally exhausted right now.  Living through this pandemic is taking such an emotional toll on lots of folks.  Covid-19 has been reeking havoc on our lives for months now.  And honestly – we are fed up.  We are so tired of ALL of it.

I hear this fatigue in your voices when I talk to you on the telephone.  I see it written on your faces when we chat on Zoom.  I can even see it from a safe social distance on those rare occasions that I am able to see you in-person.  So many folks seem deflated.  Tired.  Weary.  So many folks are just plain worn out. 

And winter seems to be making it all so – so much worse.  We were already struggling with living in this strange Covid-19 world and then came the short – cold – gray days of winter in Kentucky.  Winter can be a bit of a slog during a good year.  We may need to dig pretty deep to make it through winter when everything is going smoothly.  And this year – well – this year is so very – very much harder!  Because it doesn’t seem like ANYTHING is going smoothly right now.  Zip – nada – absolutely nothing! 

Sure winters past have been a bit isolating as we hunker down at home to avoid the cold – but never like this!  We are so very lonely.  We are missing friends and our beloved family members.  We are missing classmates and colleagues.  We are missing our sisters and brothers in Christ.  We may even be missing our co-workers (or not) . . .  We are craving human interaction.  We need people and conversation and contact! 

And we are so tired of all of the other restrictions too.  We are tired of masks.  We are fed up with cancellations.  We don’t want to socially distance or isolate anymore.  We want to shake hands and hug and stand really close to each other!  

We have washed our hands until they look twenty years older than they did a few months ago.  We have sanitized everything in our lives. 

And NTI is hard!  Most of us aren’t educators for a reason – we stink at it!

Plus we are exhausted by the bad news. But it just keeps coming and coming.

We are fed up.  We have had ENOUGH!  Seriously – enough already!

We want to sing and laugh out loud.  We want to gather in large groups while standing very – very close to one another just because we want to.  We want to throw caution to the wind.  We want to be carefree. 

We are desperate to get back to our lives before Covid-19 invaded and turned our lives upside down and inside out.  We long for the good old days – when life was easier.  When life was less complicated and less frightening.  When life didn’t feel nearly so hard or so stressful or so disappointing or discouraging.

But Covid-19 isn’t over.  The pandemic is still spreading aggressively.  We are in the middle of a surge.

Our time of making sacrifices for the greater good isn’t over.  We cannot “grow weary of doing what is right.”  (Galatians 6:9)

I know there are those who believe and proclaim the most faithful action of a Christian is to continue to gather for worship no matter what.  I have heard and read that the Christian church didn’t close its doors for previous pandemics so why would we now?  I have seen church signs right here in Louisville proclaiming “Faith over Fear!” along with the message “still meeting for in-person worship this and every Sunday.” 

I passionately disagree with choosing to gather for worship when we are being advised by wise doctors and scientists not to.  It is simply not more faithful to gather for worship in the middle of a surge in this pandemic.  It is not more faithful to take such risks and perhaps spread a deadly virus.

In fact – I would assert the more faithful choice is to worship God from our homes where we do not endanger others.  The more faithful choice is to put others’ needs before our own wants and desires.  The more faithful choice is to sacrifice and live with the uneasy feelings and grief we must confront when we are unable to do what we want to do.  The more faithful choice is to think deeply and pray about why we struggle so much to protect others. 

We are not being unfaithful Christians by worshipping from home – by holding Zoom meetings and Sunday school.  We are being faithful Christians by not singing during our in-person worship until it is safer – by wearing our masks – and by social distancing. 

I know this is so very hard.  I know this is very uncomfortable.  I know we are all weary of the isolation.  I know we fear what our church will look like once we are finally able to gather together safely, but our God calls us to be people who make sacrifices for others.  God calls us to be courageous and patient and loving. 

We can do this.  We are doing this!

We will gather together for worship in our sanctuary again.  We will sing hymns of praise to our Lord.  We will share the peace.  We will hug and laugh and stand really – really close again.  We will have Holy Communion the way we used to.  We will have Vacation Bible school and in-person Sunday school.  We will have social gatherings and long lingering conversations.  We will fill the sanctuary and the fellowship hall with our sisters and brothers in Christ again. 

But not just yet.  This is our time to make sacrifices for others.  This is our time to dig deeper. 

This is our time to not “grow weary of doing what is right.” This is our time to “work for the good of all.”  (Galatians 6:7-10)

Our God is with us.  Even now – God walks with us.  As the Psalm promises – there is no place we can go that God will not go with us.  We are not alone.  You are all in my heart and you are in my prayers.  Amen.

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