Encouragement From The Word

The gift of Sabbath

That our current social situation has occurred in the season of Lent is no small irony to me.  For many, though not all, Christians, Lent is a season for sacrifice and penitence, often symbolized by “giving something up” for these forty days.

And globally, we’ve been forced to give up quite a lot!

While many are still working, either from home or as those engaged in what are deemed essential services, one thing that has been taken from us is ordinary social engagement.

We who are introverts may be saying, “I was made for this!”, but with perhaps a few exceptions, even we who gain energy by being alone are finding this time particularly trying.  It’s as if being told we can’t do something makes us want to do it anyway.

I haven’t left town for a week now, but as I look at photos online, the streets and highways are nearly empty.  Malls are closed.  Restaurants, save for take-out and delivery, are abandoned.  Sports and concert venues are now echo chambers.  It’s kind of eerie.

Amid all this, though, we are hearing reports that air quality in many densely populated cities is improving.  Water quality is changing for the better.  The world appears to be healing in ways it never would have without the spread of Coronavirus.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that Coronavirus is a good thing; not at all!  But if there can be any good seen coming from it, the environment may be it.  But there’s more.

When God made the world, the Genesis account says that he made it in six days, and rested on the seventh.  Even in creation, there was Sabbath.

But our society, especially over the past 75 years, has been on a steep trajectory away from Sabbath.  Businesses flourished, stores opened on Sunday, and busyness was considered a badge of honour.

Now, we’ve been placed in a position where, for the most part, Sabbath is not optional.  We can’t go out with others.  We can’t go to concerts.  We can’t take our kids to their hockey practices.  We’re stuck…with the people with whom we live, be it family or friends or even strangers.

It’s like we’re being forced to stop and breathe.  And that’s a good thing.

We don’t know how long this season of restraint will continue, but perhaps a good question for us to consider is this:  will we learn something from it?

Certainly, this time is a gift to our immediate families (however they may be defined economically – that is, by household) as we are given the gift of time to reconnect with them.  It’s also a gift of time wherein we may reconnect with God.

In times like this, people who might otherwise have not given any thought to the Divine are turning the thoughts and hearts toward God – the God who made the world and rested.

This is a time of Sabbath.  Embrace it.  Rest with your family, rest in the Lord.

And carry that into your future, whatever it may hold, when we are free to resume whatever may be called ‘normal’.  Let it be a new normal – if not for others, at least for you.

…enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day” (Isaiah 58.13b, NLT).

By the way, if you don’t have an online church home in these days, you are welcome to join the online community with St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live, or for replay anytime on our YouTube channel.

 

Encouragement From The Word

Toilet paper fear

Okay, what’s with the run on toilet paper, people?

Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around this one.  Apparently, scientists are not suggesting that ‘the runs’ are part of Coronavirus.  Perhaps people are afraid of being quarantined in their homes, and fear running out of essentials.  (The good news for me is that most people, apparently, do not consider bacon an essential.)  And besides, when one can’t get out of the house, there are online vendors who will cheerfully drop necessities on your doorstep!

The sense of fear among many people around Coronavirus is unprecedented.  Almost 20 years ago, when SARS was running rampant, there wasn’t this kind of trouble finding things like toilet paper.

The SARS phenomenon occurred a long time ago, and social media as we know it today didn’t exist.  I suspect that it may be playing a role.

Until the last few days, I was <ahem> poo-pooing the whole matter.  But then the World Health Organization declared that Coronavirus is a pandemic.  Flights are being cancelled.  School is being delayed in some places.  Professional sports are postponing their seasons indefinitely.

This is a serious matter – more serious than I was initially prepared to believe.  People are getting very sick, and some are dying from Coronavirus.  And it’s important to take precautions, but for most of us, these precautions are normal precautions:  handwashing, for example…and staying home if you are sick with any communicable illness.

Coronavirus is not the end of the world.  In my opinion, we should not be cancelling our worship gatherings, nor most of our regular activities, because of this concern, provided we take careful precautions.  We should expect people to be responsible adults and avoid public interaction if they are ill, and to wash their hands often to avoid communicating any kind of illness to others.  I’ll admit that this may be unusually optimistic, and I’ll certainly be monitoring the matter in my own congregation and life.

It’s wise to avoid hoarding things like soap and hand sanitizer, since we all need such substances in order to maintain public health.

And we should trust the Lord to be our Protector.  This does not absolve us of our responsibilities, but it should free us from captivity to fear.  And I think fear is a big deal right now…maybe even a bigger deal than Coronavirus.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7, NLT).