[Saint Paul writes] – 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
The Word of the Lord.
1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!
2Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with a song.
3Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.
4Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and the courts with praise;
give thanks and bless God’s holy name.
5Good indeed is the Lord, whose steadfast love is everlasting,
whose faithfulness endures from age to age. Amen.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 11-13
[Saint Paul writes] – 1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 13:34-35
[Jesus said to his disciples -] “‘34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We have all been living through a global pandemic. And it is abundantly clear Covid-19 has taken a significant toll on all of us. We are different. We are changed. None of us has come through these last 15 months unscathed.
Covid-19 has left its mark on our community – our families – our hearts and our lives. I doubt any of us will ever be the same again. There was just so much stress and change. And there were too many long months of social distancing and masking and NTI and waiting and worrying and staying safe at home.
The pandemic and its consequences have taken a toll on us. Weariness – frustration – hurt – grief and even anger abound. These painful emotions are simmering right on the surface these days.
And because of this – patience is in short supply.
We are stressed. This year has been so hard on us.
So many of us are just plain exhausted. (I know I am.) The intensity of the past year has been incredibly difficult. Our lives changed so quickly. Our jobs changed. Treasured relationships changed. NTI – Zooming – social distancing and change after change took their toll.
And then there was the constant pressure to try to please so many different people with so many different opinions. This meant – of course – almost no one was ever happy. Personally – I was always disappointing someone. I was always letting someone down or making someone angry or unhappy. And I know I was not alone in experiencing this over the past 15 months. I have heard this same tale of hurt and frustration from other pastors – teachers – principals – grandparents – parents and students . . .
Others are so very frustrated by Covid-19. Frustrated by the restrictions. Frustrated by the masks and the social distancing and by the changing recommendations from health officials. Frustrated by losing the freedom to do the things we love to do the most. Frustrated by how long this horrible pandemic has been making a mess of our lives.
And think of all of the loss folks have experienced . . . This pandemic asked a lot of us. We have been asked to make sacrifices for the greater good and to do things for people we don’t even know. In some ways it continues to ask a lot of us.
And we are just so fed up with Covid-19. Enough is enough already . . .
But we are still living with it and its effects. You just can’t get away from it!
We are hurting.
So many people died far too soon. Over 600,000 Americans have died. That is more people than live in the entire state of Wyoming . . . And around the globe people are still dying.
Even those of us who did not lose loved ones to this cruel pandemic have lost things we love and cherish.
Some of us lost hopes and dreams. Plans for the future were lost.
Businesses were lost.
Friendships were lost.
Jobs were lost. Income was lost.
Education was lost.
Proms – graduations – family gatherings – Thanksgivings – Christmases – birthday parties – and all sorts of beloved celebrations and traditions were changed or lost.
As we look around our sanctuary today – we see empty spots in the pews and we wonder and we worry. Will these sisters and brothers in Christ return or are they yet another painful loss of the pandemic?
When will the losses stop coming? How can we stop them? Where can we hide from the loss and the hurt?
We are changed. We are different people than we were 15 months ago. Even if Covid-19 never entered our homes – this pandemic has taken a toll on us.
No matter how you responded to the pandemic. No matter where you come down on vaccines – masking or social distancing. No matter how you feel about the pace of reopening. There is no denying that we are hurting. We are grieving. We are exhausted and frustrated and in pain.
As we continue to re-emerge I am seeing this more and more. It so often expressed as impatience and annoyance with one another. Sometimes even in anger.
In those first weeks we were so excited to see one another that all we did was rejoice in seeing other people. We gloried in the reunions. We delighted in one another.
But now – we are becoming less patient with each other. Now we are offering one another less grace. Now we are struggling to understand why others’ make decisions that are different from our own.
Our humanness is showing. Our brokenness is on full view. We are hurting and weary and grieving. Our reserves are very low. And this hurt often shows up as a lack of patience and understanding and frustration with one another.
This is sad – but not shocking. It makes sense.
We are hurting and grieving for what we lost. We are exhausted by the demands placed on us over the past year. We are hurting because there are empty places in the pews. We are frustrated because the pace of the return to “normal” and “what was” isn’t going at the rate you wish it were. Because Covid-19 made a mess of our lives.
This past year hurt. It has been exhausting and frustrating and many of us are just plain exhausted. Some of us want to forget this wretched pandemic ever happened. We want to move on.
And we are beginning to do just that. We are beginning to re-emerge. To move forward. To shift our focus.
As we move on – we need to remember we are God’s people. Yes – we are human and we are bit “threadbare” and weary right now – but that does not change the fact we are called by our God to be gracious – kind – loving and patient.
We are called to assume the best in one another. We are never all going to agree on much of anything this side of heaven – but we can be gracious and kind.
We can be gentle and loving – even when we disagree – especially when we disagree. And we are going to disagree and disappoint one another. After all – we are broken – sinful human beings.
Our Lord calls us to be people of grace and love. Especially now – when we are all feeling so exhausted and hurt and frustrated and filled with pain.
We can do this.
The way forward – the kindest way through this strange and difficult transition back to what we think of as normal will be with grace and love and lots of patience and understanding.
And as we continue this journey into the future – we go knowing our God promises to walk with us. We are never alone. Truly this is Good News. Amen.