Dearest Hope Family,
It’s been a long couple of weeks in our home.
I tested positive for COVID on February 23rd. Mild symptoms had prompted me to rule out the virus. Once confirmed, I began the process of immediately informing everyone that needed to know along with the complicated shuffling of responsibilities. After the flurry of calls, texts, and emails, the hurry abruptly shifted to waiting out the 10 day quarantine clock and enduring all the waves of symptoms the virus rolls into people’s lives.
Mercifully, I have been spared the worst that comes with the virus: I never succumbed to a fever, never lost taste and smell, never had trouble with breathing, and never had to seek treatment in a hospital – though many do. Unfortunately, all three of our children tested positive and are managing their own quarantine clocks and realties – all quite well, too. Interestingly and with great encouragement, Margaret Ann, who has been up to her neck in COVID around our house, tested negative. Her vaccination has kept the virus at bay and enabled her to care for us and maintain her work as a nurse.
I write these things not to say the virus is nothing. It certainly is something dreadful. I would not wish it on anyone, especially as I emerge from quarantine today and count the cost both physically and relationally. I write these things not to say that I have conquered the virus and my experience should be heralded. I am certainly not a hero nor do I consider my bout with sickness exemplary. I do write because there are two points of reflection I do consider to be helpful for us as a representation of the body of Christ here in Winston-Salem.
Love for the Church
I love the church – our church – Hope Church. Our wonderful team of pastors, staff, and leaders stepped up and stepped into that shuffle of responsibilities my absence stirred up. I thank and commend all of them for their encouragement and hard work. Our wonderful congregation passed along sincere prayers, kind messages, thoughtful encouragements to us, and it helped me through the worst of isolation. Meals were delivered to our doorstep along with flowers to bring beauty into our lives and bags of fun activities and puzzles to ease the drudgery. Such tangible, concrete, simple expressions of love have made and are making all the difference for us. They are a deep well of encouragement. Many times over the past weeks I have wondered what our experience would be like without such a church, without such embodiment of love, and I have concluded just as often, “Woe be to any that don’t have such a blessing!” We are so thankful and honored to be a part of this community.
Longing for the Church
Reflecting upon our rich experience of the church in this tough stretch has deepened my longing for more people to experience the exact same thing. Why has Jesus redeemed and empowered His church with all the resources of grace? It is so that we can be instruments in the Redeemer’s hands to extend the same grace and care and love to each other and to the world. Rather than giving in to the first impulse towards self-protection, rather than primarily wondering “how does this affect me and mine?”, we express our faith through love (Galatians 5:6). The world is desperate for such care, and it is so much more compelling than fear-based self-interest. I long for the church – our church – Hope Church to keep growing in our response to Jesus’ love and blessing by growing in our expression of love and blessing for each other and the world. What a privilege we have to make Jesus more beautiful and believable by being his church!
As we near the culmination of our sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed, this Sunday we will consider the wonder of Jesus calling us to be his “holy, catholic church” and take the time to treat more fully what it means to love the church and long for more of it in experience.
Grace and peace,