Devotion for November 10, 2021, from Pastor Barbara of Holy Redeemer:
19 In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19
Happy New Year, almost! Our new church year begins the last Sunday of this month. Last year at this time the shelter in place order was still in effect, we were anticipating the roll out of the vaccine, and we had just elected a new president. Holy Redeemer had only just switched from email worship to Zoom worship in September and all of our churches were experimenting with how to authentically be church when no one could be together safely. A year later we are still experimenting, still concerned about everyone being safe, still working out what the future of worship will look, and attempting to believe that there won’t be another set back.
I’m reminded in some ways of what the disciples went through, right after Jesus’ death. They did not feel free to meet together because of their fear of…. well frankly, their fear of death. Their teacher and leader had been killed and there was a very real possibility that they might be next. They had been following Jesus for somewhere close to three years, and now everything was different. They had to find new ways to worship, new ways to gather, new leaders, new places even, as time went on and the new Christian movement was no longer welcome alongside the old established ways. They rose to the challenges of their day and we, as fellow followers of Christ, must do the same.
We are doing the same kind of shifting. Who would’ve thought we’d have outside worship, Zoom worship, live-streaming, and hybrid services – wearing masks, no less! – just two years ago, let alone YouTube Channels, virtual choirs and plays, and recordings to share on Facebook and our websites?! And what a blessing it has been for our churches to begin to share devotions, worship services, sermons, and this very newsletter!
And now we, to better respond to these challenges, have the support of our synod and the ACTS for Vitality team for three of our congregations, and hopefully, in the future, will add Good Shepherd. As most of you know, we met on Sunday with teams from Holy Trinity, Christ the King, and Holy Redeemer, to continue to work together, to adapt to the swiftly changing world we live in, and to better respond to the needs of our community. It was fun to actually all be in the same room, to share a meal, to talk together, to even make bread together. The Rev. Ruben Duran, Senior Advisor, ELCA New Ministry Development, spoke to us about the various new ways that our 9300 congregations of the ELCA are doing ministry. It’s exciting work! We’ll need your help!
It’s exciting work, but it can be daunting to deal with so much that is unknown, which brings me back to the disciples. There they were, afraid, but together, and what was the first thing Jesus said to them? “Peace be with you.” Jesus says the same to us. “Peace be with you.” We need to keep those words at the forefront of our minds as we continue to move forward, adapting to new norms, creatively responding to our neighbors and our call to follow Jesus. Together, like the disciples, we will accomplish so much!