Wednesday, June 17, 2020
How shall we be seen. . .
What does this mean? It means taking every reasonable precaution that does not preclude who we are in liturgical form and sacramental life. So you will not hear from me any suggestion that we should abandon the physical distancing that has become the norm everywhere nor will you hear from me the suggestion that it is time to toss the hand sanitizers and go back to life pre-COVID 19. But neither do we need to retreat from our gathering together in the Lord's House to some virtual assembly which is anything but real. Now is our time to show forth our discretion, our discernment, and our diligence. We can do this without being labeled by or accused of fostering an unsafe community or encouraging risky habits. We can do this without going back to many services of few attendees and we can do this without withholding the Sacrament and we can do this without giving up congregational song. But we must school our people and exercise responsible care of our people so that we are acting both with liturgical integrity and concern for those around us.
We will be watched -- not only by those in politics, medicine, and government but also by those who are venturing out of the refuge of their homes for the first visits to God's House. We will be judged -- not only by those who seek to restrain our rights or restrict our assembly but also by those who want to be present but who have been gripped in the fear of this pandemic for months. We will be watched and judged by God -- not only for our faithfulness to Him but also our love for our neighbor (especially the weak and fragile ones). So while we maintain our insistence that the people have a right to assemble that cannot be abridged, we will act responsibly and compassionately and faithfully without using that right as license to act with callous disregard toward those around us. Which, if the government had asked for our cooperation instead of treating us as a non-essential gathering of people doing non-essential things, is what we would have done in the first place. Sure, there will be kooks and fools who will grandstand in their rights to do whatever they please but, I pray, that is not who we are or how we shall respond to the concerns for a spike.
We need to show those around us that we are not indifferent to their concerns and that we can gather God's people around His Word and Sacrament while honoring those concerns and being faithful to the command of God to worship Him. We do not need to resort to gimmicks or virtual reality shows or the like. To be faithful to God, to be faithful in our pastoral care of God's people, and to be faithful to our relationship to our neighbors need not compete or conflict. That is part of what I have been saying all along and it is no less true now as the formal restrictions are being lifted but the numbers do not seem to be declining. . . yet.