Much – Much More than a Meeting!

The Lord went in front of [the people of Israel] in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

– Exodus 13:21-22

What a wild – weird – and often not so very wonderful journey we have all been on these last 2 years! So often it feels like we too have been on a never-ending journey through a   desert wilderness just like the Chosen People experienced all those centuries ago as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. Their journey took them 40 very long – often incredibly challenging years. Our journey is wrapping up its 2nd year – but there are days when it feels like this Covid-19 journey is also taking decades (centuries – millennia)!

Will this wretched pandemic ever end? Or will we be stuck in this strange pandemic reality forever and ever and Ever and EVER? Some days I start to wonder . . . I really do!?!?

I remember those early days of the pandemic. Remember those . . .?

Go home! Stay safe.   Socially distance. Make a support bubble with a few extra-special folks to help get you through the trying times. Quarantine for just a few weeks. And then we can all have our lives back . . .

But this pandemic was/is mean – determined – nasty – insidious – and hateful. Covid-19 has held on and On and ON!

It is hard to keep track of all of the challenges we have faced and the changes we have made in our lives because of Covid-19. We make one change and then we need to make another change. Then it feels like we are asked to make yet another change!   There have been so many changes we have lost track of all of the changes we have made in our lives.

We may have lost track of all of the changes we have made over the past 2 years because of Covid-19 – but we are all well aware of the effects of the pandemic and the effects of all of the changes and challenges. We see those all around us. We feel those deeply. There is so much hurt – pain – frustration – anger and grief in our world these days.

When Covid-19 finally does leave – it will leave a whole lot of wreckage in its wake. So much wreckage – pain – loss – and brokenness.

Over 900,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Nearly 6 million people have died world-wide.   The death of so many precious – loved folks is hard to comprehend.

As we emerge from what we hope and pray were the worst months of the pandemic – we see the scars. All of the social distancing and quarantining have taken a toll on us – our communities – our organizations – and on our families.

These past 24 months have taken a significant toll on our own Christian community too. Our church is different. In many ways – it feels like those of us who continue to gather together at Saint Stephen are a remnant of some previous time. A time that was better – brighter – shinier – happier – easier – just plain better.

Every time we gather together – there is a sense of loss – because people we have loved and cared for are missing from our midst. There are empty places at the table. Empty places in the pews. Empty chairs in the Sunday school rooms. Empty spots on the committees. Empty places in our hearts.

Our sisters and brothers in Christ are missing. Some are ill. Some are with our Lord. Some simply aren’t ready to return just yet (but will we pray). Some – quite honestly – seem to have drifted away leaving behind questions and an empty place in our hearts. Some may return in time. Others we know will never return.

They are all missed. We notice their absence and we wish they were with us.

2 years is a long time. 24 months means a lot of changes. 104 Sundays . . .

People change. Needs change. Lives change. Life never stays the same for more than a moment.

We know this – but it doesn’t keep us from missing the folks who used to fill those spaces. It doesn’t keep us from longing for their company. From wishing they were here. From remembering so and so used to sit there. Or that so and so would always say such and such or do that thing that made everyone laugh or groan or sigh . . .

Sunday was our annual meeting and chili cook-off at Saint Stephen.   I wasn’t sure what to expect.   (One never really does!?!?!) I am always just a little fearful that Rod – Buddy – Pat and I will be the only folks who stay for the meeting . . .

Sorry about the terrible lighting – but it is February in Kentucky. We feel blessing to see the sun for 5 minutes once a week!?!?!

But what actually happened was – I walked into the fellowship hall with Jason – Jack and Will and there literally wasn’t a place for us to sit!   ALL of the places at ALL of the tables in the entire fellowship hall were filled with chatting – chattering – talking – laughing Lutherans! It was glorious and awesome and amazing and a blessing and balm for my Covid-19 weary soul!

It felt so wonderful to see that there wasn’t any room for our family.   I loved it and so did the rest of the McFarlands.

Buddy graciously hustled and set up an “annex table” for the McFarlands. But honestly – we would have been happy to stand or to sit on the floor.

All hail our soon-to-be elected church president and two of her proud children!

I may have high-fived Jason and first-bumped Jack . . . I was pretty excited!

I enjoy solitude. I find comfort in the quiet of an empty church. I love listening to the sounds of our church on a Monday morning when it is just me and our Lord.

But I really – really love the sound of Lutherans delighting in the blessing of Christian community. I adore a fellowship hall full of chatting – chattering – chili eating Christians.   And that is exactly what happened on Sunday morning!

Was it just like it was 2 years ago – before Covid-19? Nope – it was most certainly not. We are different. We are changed. Our church has changed too.

Will there be challenges ahead? Yes – there will be challenges galore. But life is – was – and frankly always seems to be full to the brim with challenges. Challenges come with being alive in this world.

But there was joy and laughter and friendship and fellowship and prayer and planning and conversation and joking and fun. There was chili and dessert and community and noise and love.

We crowned a new chili-champion. Congratulations Tammy!

We were blessed and I was and am so very thankful. I am thankful for Christian community. I am thankful for the opportunity to share this life with others. I am thankful for my sisters and brothers in Christ!

2 Replies to “Much – Much More than a Meeting!”

  1. Was really great to see so many of my church family at the congressional meeting. Very productive meeting and planning for the future of our church.

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