Good morning, Saint Luke’s parish family and friends.
We gather together in prayer and reflection on this Sunday midway through Lent. Our being apart certainly is in even bolder relief, given the newest aspect of the emergency regulations enacted to slow the spread of the corona virus. Social distancing, in groups with persons six feet apart, was already proving not to be enough. So we are now exhorted to stay at home and venture out only for essentials and a solitary walk. On just such a walk Saturday afternoon was I passed by a man, lugging his backpack of groceries slung over one shoulder and his free hand fingering his Rosary beads—in prayer, not despair.
At the same time that we are instructed to ‘stay home’ and ‘flatten the curve’, we are encouraged to employ our faith in Jesus Christ as a way to see into and through this crisis. May I admit that I do not find this to be an easy assignment? I am fairly certain you would admit the same. So let’s be honest. It is legitimate and right to admit your disappointments and loneliness in having to stay home (even if you are in a full house). It does hurt to know you won’t see certain relatives, friends and parish family for a number of weeks. It is anxiety-producing to have fear over everyone’s remaining safe and healthy. It does feel like we are waking each day to that bad and scary movie which doesn’t go away. So let us, upon entering into these interior yet shared precincts of electronic yet holy worship, let us admit all these things and share our worries and lay them in God’s lap. Yes, then through the new-tech ways of staying in touch, let us rely on the tried and true older ways. And in the same way that we will find ways of depending on family and friends for strength and love, let us allow the Holy Spirit to help bring us to God through Jesus Christ. If walls could not keep out the Risen Christ from appearing to his disciples, then our isolation now, one from the other, neither truly separates us from each other or from God. We do not have to be together in order to pray. In fact, by faith, in prayer we are truly brought together.
Friends, it is going to get harder before it eases up into whatever our new realities will be once the virus recedes. The ‘spike’ in confirmed virus cases and the time period needed to truly flatten the curve and make it safe to be together in person in our worship space has just been extended. Faith leaders have consulted again with Governor Cuomo and health leaders. As a result, Bishop Provenzano announced to the Clergy on March 19 that all churches will remain closed until May 17. There can be no in-person worship in the Saint Luke’s church building until then. Neither can marriages be performed nor graveside burials be officiated. We are in a total worship moratorium for gathered groups until May 17.
This means that Holy Week and Easter liturgies will have to be created for this online platform so that you can worship at home for our most holy season. The quest will be for your worship at home to be our walk with Jesus into Jerusalem, our being seated with him as beloved friends when he blesses the bread and passes the cup, our becoming shattered and scattered at his Cross, our coming back together, alive and new in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I put that weighty announcement at the beginning of our worship this morning because, as your spiritual leader, I believe you need to know what our situation is. And this way our prayer and reflection can be vulnerably real. For then faith is its most powerful. So here stay and sing, pray and reflect.
Yours in Christ,