Rise up, oh Church, rise up! From the first hint of alarm with the coming of the pandemic, my heart yearned for the Church to rise up and be who it needs to be in this trying time. Christ used the descriptor of his body being a people of love—a portrayal that turns the eyes of the world toward our loving God. There have been moments of this during COVID-19 as the Church has reached out in love to the hurting. We’re still finding our stride in this charge. It’s been a sluggish start. Much of the late start comes from a disbelief that this tragedy can affect the western world, but perhaps we are past that and the Church can wake up to the ancient call to serve.
There are many to choose from, but I want to share two examples. The first pertains to our individual response and the second is a call to the entire Church. A friend of mine is in recovery from a severe reaction to the COVID-19. She has asthma and landed in the hospital for four days. It was a frightening time. While there she shared this story with me:
- The doctor came in and we talked for a while. He said he thought I can go home in one more day. I told him we were praying for him and I spoke a blessing over him. He really received it. I told him, “God will give you wisdom to know what to do with each patient, strength to endure, and love will carry you everywhere you go. I have been praying for you this morning because you are the same doctor I had in the ER.” He said that he had never had so many patients. I told him, “I can feel you have been completely overwhelmed because you have so many patients and that you can’t carry this burden alone.” I thought he was going to cry. He said, “I know, I’m not God and sometimes I don’t know what to do.” I said, “Sometimes you just have to let it go because only God can intervene. You can’t carry this burden alone.” I told him when I was praying for him this morning, I felt like God was going to give him a gift today. I shared, “God is going to pour out his love upon you and give you a gift deep within you. God is very proud of you and you are his beloved son. God is going to draw you near to his heart.” He told me he could already feel the warmth and he was so thankful.
This is who we are in Christ! This first responder is weary and has little hope of a rapid end to the crisis. He needed a kind word. He needed hope. He needed to know that God is with him. Rise up, oh Church!
The second is an invitation for each congregation—a way forward during this pandemic. My brother, Jonathan, is a minister in Calgary. He and his wife, Michiko, went to Japan after the tsunami of 2011 and worked with the relief effort for a number of years. He shares what he learned as they worked with the village of Ishinomaki—a village decimated by the tsunami. There were none who were spared from the impact of the tragedy. The efforts of Jonathan and Michiko went beyond traditional missionary work. They helped the community with asset mapping, helping the community businesses to rely on each other rather than the government. It was holy work and their learning curve was steep. They share what they learned in hopes that it can help the Church in this current crisis. His message is in a series of six sermons. These are directed to his congregation but are a rich gift to the Church beyond that small group. I asked him if I could share them. His first sermon is hereon the homepage of the Selah website. Scroll down to “Response of the Church to COVID-19.” The other six can be found through the link below that sermon.
This is our time, Church. This is the time when the Church shines. We know this. We’ve seen it time and again as tragedy strikes and the Church responds. Differences are set aside as the need at hand takes full focus. The Church does know how to love and again, we are given the opportunity to continue Christ’s work on this earth.
Rise up, oh Church, rise up!
Grace and peace to you,