May 8, 2020

by Tom and Polly Hyatt

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these...Therefore do not worry…indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:25-33
The traditional Lenten-Easter ritual for many of us features food and clothing as important components. Normally we’re deciding whether to have ham or lamb; looking forward to an Easter basket full of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps; shopping for a new dress or shirt and tie, and, of course, new shoes.

We’re looking forward to our Easter Sunday worship and family celebrations. We pull out our tried-and-true preparations there too – the familiar music, the special bulletin and lilies on the chancel, the usher and acolyte scheduling, and the overflow planning.

But with shortages, store closings, travel restrictions, and stay-home orders, our practices have changed since Ash Wednesday.

Like the Peter Rev. Beverly Markham described in her Maundy Thursday sermon, we may have seen ourselves as able, self-sufficient, and perfectly capable of weathering a short-term storm on our own. Besides, we were pretty sure everything would be under control by Easter.

But the realities of extended and increasingly restrictive shelter-in-place orders have upended things a bit. Come clean: if you were not among the toilette paper hoarders, have you found yourself wondering where your next roll would come from? If you’re 60+, do you carefully weigh the trade-offs between going to the store during the crowded Senior Hour against just heading into the Heart of Darkness in the middle of the day with the rest of the masses? And even if you’re a shopaholic, did you really even think about an Easter dress before you saw those cute girls on the APC Easter video in their bonnets?

What you have been thinking is more likely, why do I need this Spring wardrobe now that I’m staying at home every day? What can I do to stay in touch with friends and loved ones? How can I help my neighbor when I’m not supposed to go visit or give her a ride? How can we create a worship experience that is accessible and meaningful?

From pew to pulpit, many of us have been transformed during this year’s Lenten season far more than we probably planned for, or maybe even thought we desired.

We may feel we’ve been imprisoned and deprived. But in this “in-between time,” most of us have experienced some changes that we’re coming to be grateful for. Set free from the confines of “normal” expectations, we’ve been illuminated, as Dr. Oliver Wagner described on Easter morning. In fact, we’ve been part of the illumination. At home, we’ve learned to enjoy new activities and family time. We’ve reached out or been contacted by long-lost friends, and found new ways to interact with current friends, neighbors, and family.

We’ve learned how to be creative with worship. We’ve sent in our videos. We’ve provided our music. We’ve “passed the peace.” We’ve shared our production skills and creativity. We’ve worshiped together in spirit. We’ve dared to dream and create. We’ve embraced the truth in the message that church is more than a building, and we’ve proven it ourselves.

“And do not worry about where you will worship, or what time you will worship, or what you will wear to worship, or what you will eat after worship.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for the lessons you teach us in the in-between times. May we remember that all things work together for good. Amen.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009