Give your food to the hungry and care for the homeless. Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest hour will be like the noonday sun.
The Lord will always guide you and provide good things to eat when you are in the desert. He will make you healthy. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water or like a stream that never runs dry. You will rebuild those houses left in ruins for years; you will be known as a builder and repairer of city walls & streets.
Last week we heard in Kentucky that all churches should close down the following Sunday. Church leadership met and had a unified response that there was no other choice but to close our doors on Sunday as a way of loving the most vulnerable among us.
I don’t know why it is that when the &%$# hits the fan, I sometimes feel a calm rush over me. I mean, don’t get me wrong- we were all stressed about how this would impact everything. But when I sat down to write my letter to the church, one clear conviction emerged.
I said, “The church will be the church, but it will look different.”
I shared that belief without yet knowing what that difference would be, but knowing that God would be God and the people of God would be the people of God No. Matter. What.
And guess what, church? You proved me right.
I woke up on Saturday morning to a note on our Facebook page from one of our young adults. “I am in town and not working today. Let me know if anyone needs groceries.” He was one of many who has volunteered to help.
On Sunday we decided to keep our focus on our open table where every week we say that everyone is welcome. Facebook was flooded with pictures of your communion tables set up at home with #opentable, sharing our message that no matter what, all are welcome at Christ’s table.
We worshiped online and many of you sent encouraging messages to your tired pastors who learned in two days (with a lot of volunteer help) how to take everything online. In one of those messages, a member had a prayer request.
Holly Vincent works with the Special Olympics and she asked, “Could you pray for my athletes? They are having a really hard time understanding what is going on, why they can’t hang out with their friends, etc. I’ve received a lot of messages from them the last few days.”
“Of course,” I said and then thought, “My problems are so small.”
I asked her if we could help, maybe a care package dropped at their door or something… She said that sounded great and we decided we would talk the next day.
At 9am on Monday the governor announced that all restaurants must close their dining rooms. I didn’t pay much attention until a member called.
Joey Mayes is the General Manager of our local Cheddars. But when he called I didn’t think about the restaurant. Instead, I immediately feared something had gone wrong with his wife, Bobbi, who is tough as nails and undergoing extensive chemotherapy right now. I answered, feeling a pit in my stomach.
He said, “Well the governor just announced all in house dining has to close by 5pm.”
I thought to myself, “How much can one man take?” I expected he may just need to talk to his pastor so I settled in for the conversation.
But to my surprise his call was for a different reason. He said, “I know we should have expected it, but I just didn’t. We have all this food here and if there are people who could use it, I’d like to get it to them.” He went on, “Please don’t tell anyone yet, but keep your ear open and let me know and I will see if we can handle it.”
I told him, “I think I have an idea.”
I texted Holly and asked how many people were among her athletes who were really struggling. She texted back in minutes with a list of eight who live independently in the towers downtown. I sent her list to Joey and he said, “Absolutely.”
And in an instant, darkness turned into the noonday sun.
Today is the second day of Cheddar’s dropping off hot and delicious meals for our friends at the towers. Some of those friends who attend worship with Holly tuned into our livestream Sunday. They have sent out pictures with notes of thanks to Cheddars for their kindness (and added that they are happy to take food off their hands any time!)
Isaiah asks us to care for the vulnerable among us and then assures us that God will guide us and provide for us while we are in the desert. We agreed to go into the wilderness during this season, but as one pastor said, “I wasn’t expecting to give up this much for Lent.”
Here we are, in our own deserts of sorts, and yet here God is too, showing up in the helpers, empowering us to get through this mess together, one day at a time.
Church, I miss you already and it has only been a week! But I believe that God will keep showing up. So let us look for the helpers, give thanks for the helpers and be the helpers.