Grace and peace to you in the name of the crucified Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
March 8, 2020 was the last Sunday Christ Lutheran Gettysburg gathered for indoor, in-person Word and Sacrament worship. It was the Second Sunday in Lent. One year later and it is Lent once more. For the second straight year the Lenten season will unfold in the midst of a global pandemic. A year ago we concluded Lent at the same time we were staying in our homes helping flatten the curve to assist health care facilities to prepare. As we journeyed towards the cross of Good Friday and the joy of the resurrection on Easter, the uncertainties and fears of the pandemic overshadowed Lent. We were forced to undertake what seemed like many “giving ups” not out of a desire for our own spiritual growth rather out of necessity to care for our neighbor and one another.
Lent 2021 arrived with us gathering virtually and/or outside in winter weather to worship with Word, Sacrament, and the imposition of ashes. In the intervening months since Lent 2020 concluded and the beginning of Lent 2021, the pandemic has raged bringing illness, death, and sorrow. Families mourn, health care systems have been stressed, mitigation measures have brought isolation, separation, and frustration. Last year during Lent I noted that society had not reordered itself because of the pandemic. A year later I believe that conclusion no longer stands. Society has begun to reorder itself in new ways. The methods and manner of how children and youth receive education have been dramatically altered and reshaped. Businesses have revaluated the value of employees working from home leading to a decline in the demand for commercial office space. The pandemic has forced business travel to diminish and most experts agree that it will decrease permanently as businesses realize the cost benefit of having more meetings held via video conferencing. While getting together in person with extended family has largely been put on hold, family Zoom calls have emerged. In some cases families are “seeing” one another more often than they did before the pandemic.
Church life is experiencing a restructuring as virtual worship and education have replaced in-person gatherings. As vaccinations roll out and transmission rates/positivity rates and hospitalizations begin to decline there is hope for a return to indoor, in-person worship. Our COVID-19 task force and the congregation council continue to monitor all of the data and prepare for a return to our historic sanctuary for worship at an unknown time in the future. In the meantime, Lent is here and while we cannot journey in-person together, I encourage you to make one of your Lenten disciplines a commitment to participate virtually at least once a week with the Christ Lutheran Gettysburg community. Throughout Lento Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. we will gather for worship on Zoom. On Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. there is a weekly Bible Study and on Wednesday evenings a Lutheran theology class is held at 6:30 p.m. On three Monday evenings in Lent our Racial Justice Learning Group will host a book discussion of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Sunday mornings from 9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. there are classes for all ages. In March our congregation has committed to helping feed breakfast to the homeless, who are part of the Gettysburg CARES homeless shelter. This Lent help us extend the love of God through this important social ministry.
Often a number of our Lenten disciplines apply to our individual faith: fasting, giving up something, and/or taking something new on. As we enter into our second Lenten season during this global COVID-19 pandemic, I enthusiastically invite and encourage you to commit yourself to worship and study in community with others. Even though you may be saturated and exhausted from online work, schooling, and gatherings, staying connected to a community of faith is important. Such connections nurture our faith in refreshing and renewing ways. May we walk together this Lent trusting that the crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ walks with us though this pandemic and beyond.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Stephen Herr