St. Andrew's
United Church of Christ

1320 Spruce Street, Reading, PA  19602-2161
"More than a Century of Service to the City"

Message From the Pastor

"Hope in the Midst of Pandemic"

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." - Psalm 23:4a

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly and inexorably spreads its tentacles around the globe to affect (and potentially infect) all the world's people, everyone is hunkering down as we wait for it to pass. In the quiet moments when I cannot force my mind to focus elsewhere, the image that comes to mind is that scene from Cecil B. DeMille's epic The Ten Commandments where the tenth and final plague is visited upon Egypt. As the Israelites gather in their homes, the lintel and both doorposts marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb, an insidious smoky mist begins to envelop the darkened streets of Pharoah's city. Huddled in their homes, the Israelites soon begin to hear the wailing erupt from nearby Egyptian households. It is an eerily dramatic moment in a story whose ultimate outcome is Israel's deliverance by God.

The story of the Passover is our Old Testament lesson for Maundy Thursday. It is unclear whether we will be able to gather as a worshiping community to share in that remembrance as we also recollect Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples. Given the unsettled state of affairs these days, we may not be able to gather together as the Church to mark the Ultimate Sacrifice of Good Friday this year, nor may we be able to rejoice together as we mark the day of Christ's resurrection, either. This year we may need to remember separately, in the confines of our households, in the company only of immediate family.

These stories, which recount the events that lie at the heart of our Christian faith, belong to all of us. And these stories, whether they are heard in the context of the congregation gathered together in the service of worship, or whether they are being read in the quiet confines of households forced by circumstance to "shelter in place," remind us of the central truth of our faith: that God loves us and will take care of us. This is our hope; this is our peace. This is what enables us to face the current uncertainty confident that God will give us the strength to endure.

Whether gathered or separated, I invite you to join with me in praying for those who are ill, for those who are mourning, for those who care for the sick, for those who have become anxious and fearful in the face of this disease, and for all whose lives have been disrupted. Confident in God and in God's love, we must strive to keep ourselves healthy and avoid doing anything that would endanger others. Even in the midst of enforced separation, we must work to maintain community both within our congregation and within the neighborhoods wherein we each reside.

Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses closed in response to this crisis. Make no mistake: the Church of Jesus Christ is the ultimate life-sustaining enterprise. Though it would be unwise for us to congregate in larger groups for the time being, whenever we can resume the more normal rhythms of our church life, that first Sunday will be what every Sunday is: a celebration of the day on which our Savior rose, overcoming even death. It will be our Easter for the year 2020, even if it doesn't happen to take place on April 12th!

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