To the saints who are in exile and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you, and peace.
I write to you from my home here in Petaluma on this third day of mandatory sheltering-in-place. In many ways, life has remained the same. I still get up in the morning, cook my oatmeal, brew some coffee, and catch up on the morning news while I eat my breakfast. Some things have stayed the same, but other things have changed significantly. The church has suspended all of its in-person activities through at least the end of the month. I can’t go to the gym. Some of our favorite restaurants are closed, and our Bay Area family can’t even drive up for a visit.
As we are all scattered around Sonoma County and around the country, I am reminded of God’s people in the Old Testament, conquered by the Babylonians, deported and living in exile. Public life as they knew it had come to an end.
In much the same way, we now find ourselves in a time of disruption, loss, disorientation and vulnerability; when so many of our familiar traditions have been stripped away, and we are left to consider the true heart of our faith, our relationship with God, our life together, and the things that are most precious to us.
In thinking about all this, I am also reminded of these powerful words of God, spoken by the prophet Isaiah to the people in exile. Isaiah 43:18-19:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
How might God use this peculiar time of exile to do something new in us? In our families? In our congregation? In our nation?
I invite you to join me on Sunday morning for something new. Join me on this Fourth Sunday of Lent as we go online and “Worship In Exile.” On the FPCP homepage you will find instructions on how to sign-in to the worship video feed. You’ll also find links to a downloadable bulletin, activities for kids, and other items you’ll want to have on hand.
Also, I encourage you to stay connected. Call one another. Reach out to ask how your friends and neighbors are doing. Stay informed by checking our FPCP website and social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). And don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or any one of our church leaders if you need anything. We are here for you, and we’re in this together. Be well, my friends.
I hope to see you Sunday!