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Devotion – Rev. Dr. Linda Wright Simmons

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Devotion for the Lord’s Day
March 15, 2020
Rev. Dr. Linda Wright Simmons

In what was probably our last large gathering for awhile, we were delighted to hear Beethoven’s 9 th Symphony performed by the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra, thanks to Alice and Larry Fortunato. The pinnacle of this wondrous work is, of course, the joyous chorus that we know as “Ode to Joy.”

It’s no surprise that “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love” has become my handwashing song.

A year – or even a month – ago, did we think we’d be stretching out washing our hands by singing 20-second songs? Never. But here we are in a strange world of Not Knowing. Will we get sick? Will our loved ones get sick? Are we already sick?! Will our wedding, graduation, long-dreamed-of event take place? What will happen to the economy? What will recovery be like? Will our systems hold?

As I followed the wise and insightful discussion of Dan and Helen and the Session about how to lead and support the congregation in this time (with attention to the wider circles each Park Laker touches), it became clear that this is uncharted territory – how to be the Church in a pandemic. Of course, the Christian church experienced the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the Black Death. But most of us did not.

A strange world, uncharted territory. As people of faith, we are familiar with these, but we might call them by different words, like wilderness or exile. Scripture brims with wisdom and hope in times of wilderness and exile: How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? the psalmist wondered, echoing the yearning of God’s people exiled to Babylon and far from their worshipping home (Ps. 137:4, KJV).

Let us remember that in exile God’s people learned something – that the Lord was with them even in their disorientation.

Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound of my pleadings.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him (Ps. 28:6-7, NRSV).

What will be the songs you sing in this strange land? With our songs, let us give thanks to God.