“I have been thinking, as doubtless you have all been, of these calamitous weeks through which we have been passing—thinking of the large numbers that have been sick— the large numbers that have died, the many, many homes that have been made desolate—the many, many bleeding, sorrowing hearts that have been left behind, and I have been asking myself the question, What is the meaning of it all ?”
This was the Reverend Francis James Grimke, an African American Presbyterian pastor in a sermon of November, 1918 on the devastation caused by the Spanish Flu pandemic that had raged in the spring and again in the fall. (What Pastor Grimke couldn’t have known was that a few months later there would be a third deadly wave.) When the congregation gathered for corporate worship again he raised these questions. “Surely God has a purpose in it”, he said, “and it is our duty to find out what that purpose is.” He goes on to reflect on another question, of why some are stricken and others not.” He raised similar questions to ours today. Why are some asymptomatic and yet spreading the corona virus? Why are some testing positive and enduring only mild symptoms? And why are some dying within 2 days of contracting covid 19?
A new frontier, a challenge, and a time that demands courage. We are on new ground, in the strange land of social distancing and face masks. Everything that once seemed so secure, so certain, so steady and reliable has become fragile and we have become susceptible, and vulnerable. But we are still here and it’s time to begin asking God what God is calling us to now. Yes, we are still here trying to find a natural courage that casts out fear. Yes, still here and looking for patience in the crisis, trusting that Christ is working to transform even this cross into resurrected glory. Perhaps it’s time to reassess, to once again discern our gifts, seeking transformation.
Grimke turned to Psalm 91: “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust” For He will deliver you…from the deadly pestilence…” Trusting in God in similar distressing circumstances, he said “it is a good time for those of us who are Christians to examine ourselves to see whether our faith is really resting upon Christ, the solid Rock.”
So what is the next step? We are challenged now to renew our trust in God who is always with us, especially in our unknown future, calling us forth into something new and perhaps strange, but with the assurance that God will bless us always with visible signs of invisible grace. We just need to trust.
Rev. Lorrie Skinner