So by now, the phrase “Social Distancing” has become a part of our daily vernacular.
This means in some circumstances, keeping a distance of several feet between you and the next person. Social Distancing may even mean functioning in a stay-at-home environment where the kitchen table has been converted into a make-shift version of one’s office. My sister and nephew both work for Verizon. Their dining room table is an image of spaghetti-ed cords and multiple computer screens as they continue to provide service for the customers that are electronically funneled into their home from the corporate office.
The Rennick home has become an outpost of the Attorney General’s Office to accommodate Rebecca’s work along with an extended office of mission for this United Methodist Pastor. I pretend not to listen-in to Rebecca’s court proceedings via telephone while I continue running ministry from the back patio where I attend meetings and conduct worship services. In the meantime, the day also includes a mix of playing board games, watching the latest Disney Classics, and providing loving care and direction for our two-year-old.
Welcome to our new norm or as some call it, the “new future.”
Until recently, my greatest concern was the separation of the United Methodist Church. Today, it’s more about providing care and hope for the survival of the human race. (I know that sounds a bit harsh.) But so it seems to be what many of us clergy-types are doing these days: navigating care and hope amid the winding roads of fear, concern, and hope that our meager supply of toilet paper lasts into next week. Our hope and prayer is we can sweat-out this health crisis and come out a better people. In the meantime, we start to question an annoying cough that keeps lingering from one day into the next. I keep blaming the blossoming lemon tree in the backyard. That’s all this is right; another season of bad allergies?
Jesus of Nazareth had socially distanced himself from the death of his dear friend, Lazarus. Some four days earlier, he had received news that Lazarus had become ill. Upon his arrival in Bethany, Jesus is greeted by a grieving and frustrated family member of Lazarus. Lazarus’ sister expresses that her brother may still be alive if Jesus would have shown up a few days earlier when he got the news of her ill-fated brother. The writer of this biblical account would lead us to see this as a moment in Jesus’ narrative to point toward his own death and resurrection. To this extent Jesus then says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus then goes to the tomb of his friend where he prays and commands life over death and so goes the miracle, “Lazarus comes forth!”
The fear of illness and death surrounds much of our thoughts these days. It doesn’t help that news stories from the television and social media continue to fan this flurried frenzy. But one can’t help the desire to be in the know as we look for answers to the question, “What’s next?”
What’s next? Jesus says what’s next is life! It’s always about life. The life that is before us each day, the life that is before us now, and the life that is to come tomorrow. As we look past the “what ifs” that drain us more than feed us, we discover a joy that is before us: in family, in serving others, and in us. Social Distancing is an oxymoron. We are a social people and the more we are held apart, the greater we will desire to be together.
I encourage you to look and to discover the new and different, and in some cases old ways, to connect with other people and with your loved ones. Pick up the phone, write a letter, facetime over the computer, embrace those whom you are held up with in your home. You see, we too, are the resurrection and the life that Jesus speaks about. Rise forth into the new day that is before you. Awaken into today. Today is your Easter too!