Buzzing Questions and Unknowns
by pastor teer hardy
As questions and unknowns about the coronavirus continue to spread my phone has not stopped buzzing. My phone usually buzzes regularly throughout the day - people from church with a question about Bible study, my podcast partners sending me a joke you wouldn’t believe pastors send one another, and my wife telling me how great I look (OK that one is a stretch). Since Tuesday morning, my phone has not stopped buzzing.
The buzzing began as I left our church staff meeting. We had a lengthy discussion about our plan to respond to the concerns of the community, our own concerns, to inventory our supply of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and figure out what pastoral care looks like with vulnerable people in our community.
The running joke among clergy is that seminary never prepares you for ministry. You would think 90 credit hours and tens of thousands of dollars would prepare someone for ministry, but the truth is, we often arrive at churches with no idea what we are doing. Seminaries do not offer classes on how to unclog a toilet or manage a church membership database. I have had no formal training on sump pumps but in the last two years I have learned how to unclog, prime, and restart a sump pump.
Here’s the thing, all the buzzing this week - “Hey pastor, when will worship services be canceled?” “Pastor, the church needs to do X, Y, and Z.” - are outside of my scope of expertise.
These buzzes come from a place of genuine concern and desire to help. But like many of the people texting, emailing, and calling, we have no formal training in what to do in a pandemic.
I am trained in theology.
I am trained in pastoral care.
I am not trained in infectious disease control.
I have two degrees - a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theological Studies, focusing on missional theology. Neither of those fields has prepared me for the buzzing this week.
At the suggestion of my friend Steve, I listened to the latest episode of Rob Bell’s podcast. Here’s how Rob opened up his latest episode, I’m Calling You to Talk About the Coronavirus:
“We are all going through this at some level. This is the moment before the moment. We are all intimately connected. There is an endless web.”
This is what I am trained in. I am trained in our connectedness. Our connectedness as of late has been relegated to the cloud, to systems created by servers, fiber optic cabling, and smart devices. There are days when we can have little to no interaction with other living, breathing human beings. Two days in a row this week I had the opportunity to see one of my best friends. What a treat that time was.
In a world where our physical connectedness has been forgotten the past month has been a rude awakening for many. The Coronavirus does not care about race, gender, politics, sexual identity, or any other dividing line we create for one another.
I am trained in the connection we have with another and how that connection part of a larger connection to our Creator. God did not create us independent of one another. We have a responsibility to one another. To care for one another. To look out for the best interests of all people, not just ourselves or those we share a home with.
Early Christians knew this well. The author of Acts wrote, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”
It is in the DNA of Christianity to be in community with one another. To be connected to one another. But as Rob points out in this podcast episode, there has been a disruption in our connectedness. It is impossible to not feel this disruption. I sat down this morning to write a sermon for Sunday morning and ended up writing this blog post because my phone keeps buzzing.
“Something is off, something is shaking, it’s wobbly.”
It’s not that I am feeling dread or as though God is not with us. After all, Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” I have to believe this is true whether we are in a hospital room, around the kitchen table, or using video conference software to gather for Bible study.
There are many questions and unknowns about the coronavirus. There’s no way around it. What I do know, and I’m trained in this, is that as the church, as the body of Christ, we are positioned to reach into the storm of questions and unknowns and extend peace. The questions and unknowns about the coronavirus are stirring up memories, anxiety, and dread for many in our communities. My son, yesterday, got off the bus and he and his friends looked shaken because their teacher had given them a packet of schoolwork in case school is canceled for an extended period of time. When the day-to-day grind of life is altered the questions and unknowns have a way of sneaking in and consuming us.
Buzz, buzz, buzz.
We are being thrown headfirst into the deep end of the pool, and expected to swim in waters we have never been in. Like most who are reading this, I am not an infectious disease expert. I am a pastor. I am a theologian. I am a father. I am a husband. I am a neighbor. I am a friend.
We are connected to one another. I can turn to you as a pastor, theologian, friend, father, husband, neighbor, or friend and extend peace. I can act as a calm presence in the swirl of questions and unknowns. But at the same time, I may need to you be my calm presence in the swirl of questions and unknowns.
We have been reminded of our connectedness to one another. Rob described this as being “intimately bound up with one another.”
We are not connected to one another through randomness. God created us, each of us to be dependent on each other. Not the markets, or economic trends as questions and unknowns continue. We are intimately connected to one another, and to our Creator.
As the Psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”
So, while questions and unknowns will continue to buzz around us, as the shaking and wobbling continue we are in this together. The feelings you feel are OK to feel. Take care of one another as you are able. Take care of me as you are able.
May the Grace and Peace of Christ be with you, now more than ever.