THE AFTERMATH | Pandemic Exile

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
 
We are in the midst of a pandemic and this crisis is beginning to change. Crisis moments call for strong, decisive action. We all want to know that someone is in charge and things are being managed. But once the initial crisis calms, a period of disorientation sets in as we find our way to a new normal. The resolute leadership style that worked well during the initial crisis won’t work well in this ongoing unsettled space. “Stay at home” does not work forever.
 
We are now in a “liminal season”, stuck between an ending and a new beginning. The word liminal literally means threshold. Now, we have no choice but to let go of the old normal. We occupy space on both sides of a threshold. One foot is rooted in something trying to end; another is planted in a thing not yet defined, something waiting to begin. We cling to structures, identities and relationships formed by our old experiences, although we know that those processes and practices will not serve us adequately moving forward. It would be a mistake to shore up the old structures and practices as things get “back to normal.” We need to take advantage of this moment to let old things die, to experiment, to take risks and learn.
 
The way we “did church” even two months ago is done. We have been asked by our government to not gather for worship in our buildings. We can reassure ourselves by pretending the disruption is temporary. As Pastor Dan and I preached on Sunday, no one knows what normal looks like after sheltering in place. Likely, we will resume many familiar things, but congregational life will not be the same. Some will be disoriented and confused. Some will fear coming back to corporate worship. There will continue to be grief and struggles with finances. 
 
I believe that this new season of change requires a different approach to our thinking and feeling. Our actions and responses must originate from a Spiritual center. We are called during this season to be less busy and more yielding. More than ever, I believe God is calling us to surrender. To surrender does not mean giving up or giving in. It does not mean we languish or grow lazy. It is quite the opposite. It means we lean into the disorientation and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. Striving, rather than surrendering, was the mood of the first season of this crisis. Striving is the act of working harder and longer to prove mastery, merit and worth. Through our hard work and determination, pastors and leadership figured out how to put church online. We toiled to demonstrate our care for people when we could not physically be present with them. We dropped off blessing bags and made phone calls. We learned new ways to connect with those in need. We set up Zoom meetings for small groups and had socially distanced events like our Easter Drive-in worship. We emphasized online giving via the website and texting. CROSSROADS leaders have done good industrious work. They have continued to be the church and offer hope to our community. 
 
This next season requires adaptive learning.  Learning begins with surrender. I acknowledge that I don’t have answers. I yield my spirit to God’s leading and invite the CROSSROADS family to do the same. In our Scripture passage from the prophet Jeremiah, we see hope and encouragement. The chosen people of God have been defeated by Babylon’s army and are taken into captivity. They know someday they will return to their land. Meanwhile they live in a liminal season getting used to the New Normal. Yet in the midst of their exile, Jeremiah reminds them that God is still with them and God has a plan for them. Those same words still ring true for us in our pandemic exile. May we continue to remember that God is with us. May we always seek out God’s plan for our lives. May all of us use this liminal space and time to surrender our will to God.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn 
 

Questions to Consider:

1. What is one “new normal” you are experiencing? How has this change affected you or those around you?

2. How does one experience peace during a pandemic? How can we draw closer to God during this time?

3. What does it mean to surrender to God during this liminal season? How can we still be productive and effective during this season?