Dear people of Bethlehem,

As a Lutheran expression of faith, we travel in liturgical seasons.  We move from the waiting of Advent, to the light of Epiphany, to the reflective contemplation of Lent.  We are accustomed to the pace, and as ashes are placed on our foreheads, we are reminded of each Lenten journey that has preceded it.  It becomes a way to mark our place on the kingdom journey.

But, we are reaching a season that has given me pause, and I sit uncomfortably with it.  In the next two weeks, we will reach the one year anniversary of this pandemic’s effects on us.  Sunday morning, March 21st, marks the anniversary of our first virtual worship.  I approach this milestone with unease.  Not certain how to feel about this moment.  Certainly I will feel the grief that comes at the anniversary of any loss.  The melancholy that accompanies the heart in the memory of loss.  I expect also to feel gratitude and pride that we have remained a connected, vibrant and creative community of faith.  We have faced a difficult journey and found ourselves equal to the task, that is true in our personal lives as well.  We have learned much and we have been fortunate to blessed others often.  Yet I also know this, I will not feel that contented memory that I am accustomed to feeling on Ash Wednesday or Easter, as I remember years past, and anticipate years to come.

This is a different kind of an anniversary.  This moment is accompanied by an eager longing for the empty tomb.  An urgent hope for resurrection life.  This journey has created a clarifying honesty about what it means to be people of God.  People who find compassion in every day and cling to the promise of hope.  In that way this anniversary, like every season, marks our place on the kingdom journey.  The steps we take now will never be repeated again — let us pray to God that such a thing is true.  But this time has changed us for the better, because in our pain we have been accompanied by a necessary grace, and that grace is now woven into the fabric of all that will yet be for us.

And so, perhaps my unease is unwarranted.  I think Lena would say so.  Lena Michael was a member of this congregation and one of the most faithful servants of God’s grace I have ever known.  She was 8 years old during the pandemic of 1918 and she told me all about it.  She died in her 106th year and, in all of her years, she lived with a quiet confidence in her Lord and a kindness and grace and joy, that not only brought her through every storm, but allowed her to take my hand and lead me though my storms, as well.   I will count myself blessed, if I take with me from this pandemic, a small portion of the grace Lena carried from hers.  I will count myself doubly blessed, if I can share that grace with others, as she did.

As we mark one year in this pandemic, may we also mark one year in God’s extraordinary grace.  One year of life redeemed.  I give thanks to God for you, and for this journey we have walked together.  This Easter we will sing of resurrection like no other!  I look forward to singing with you.

Blessings to you all,
Pastor Laura