Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
This message isn’t actually about the virus. It just starts that way.
I’ve decided to start wearing a mask when I have to leave my house to pick up necessities. This is common practice in several parts of the country already but not as much where I live. It’s an interesting experience. I’m not sick. And I’m not actually scared of getting sick myself. In fact, if you look around my neighborhood, or even drive around my town, it looks empty but otherwise, normal. Yet I’ve learned that it’s possible that someone like me or you could transmit COVID-19 to others without even knowing it.
I can’t see this virus. It’s invisible, so there’s this inherent challenge that comes with believing what I can’t see. I can’t even really see the effects of it, since I haven’t been inside a hospital during all of this. But I have dear friends that are doctors and nurses. Some have gotten sick. Others tell me the realities of what I can’t see right now. They tell me that many people are sick and the system is strained. They tell me that when I do my best to join in with national and global efforts to love my neighbors, it’s making a difference. I believe them, even though I can’t see the virus. So I walk in faith.
There are some that say that because they don’t seem to be sick, then there aren’t many real precautions needed. A few churches are even continuing to gather dozens (or hundreds!) of people together. They're having trouble believing something they can't see. But for many of us, we're trying to act in faith right now, even though it's hard. Wow, is there ever a parallel here.
The slow journey of Holy Week is our chance to acknowledge that we often cannot see the work of God. It feels invisible. Pain and loss and heartbreak take center stage, and faith is difficult.
Jesus is misunderstood as he enters Jerusalem.
Jesus struggles in the garden.
Jesus is alienated at Golgotha.
God tastes death.
There are cries and weeping and eventually, numb silence.
This week we journey with Jesus toward the cross and admit that sometimes, faith is tough. We sit in the void of Good Friday and Silent Saturday, feeling the vacuum of loss that must come before the dawn breaks through the night.
It’s compounded this year when we cannot be with each other. People are suffering on many different levels, struggling to maintain faith when they feel empty, exhausted, and emotionally depleted. If you’re walking through that right now, and God feels a little invisible, that’s ok. But like we need to do with those who are seeing the coronavirus and its effects when we don’t, I encourage you to listen to the voices of those who are seeing God at work when we can't, so that you can keep faith.
Listen to the consistent words and promises of Jesus in the gospels, that he will be with you always. Listen to the stories of friends who are sensing God’s presence right now, and lean into their convictions. Borrow their faith, so that you may trust in what seems invisible. This is why we’ve been given community. To keep drawing us back onto the path of life. I’ve been profoundly impacted by our own church’s digital gatherings lately- it might be hard to "see" the body of Christ when we’re pixelated, but it’s as real as ever, living, breathing, moving, and loving.
So this is how I am choosing to draw all thoughts to Christ during Holy Week. Every time I have to put my (wife’s) homemade mask on as I go out to the grocery store or gas station, feeling healthy, I remember that I’m living an act of faith. I'm believing that which is hard to see, and I am leaning on those who are seeing what I am not seeing in the midst of this crisis. In the end, I believe it will lead to the gift of life.
So it is with the invitation of Jesus. We walk a challenging road of faith, but we persevere because we know that it leads to incredible life, now and forever. Like the disciples in the garden, we falter along the way… but the grace of God is always there to lift us back up.
Staying at home doesn’t really feel like loving your neighbors right now, but it is.
Continuing to pray and trust Jesus when you feel silence doesn’t always feel like loving God above all, but it is.
Jesus, fill me with just enough faith to keep my eyes on you. And if I can’t see, bring holy reminders my way so that I don’t lose faith.