To My Beloved PBBC Community
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
…Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(from Romans 8)
I have always loved these words from the apostle Paul’s letter to the early church. We usually hear them read during our Ash Wednesday service, offered as words of assurance following words of confession, spoken in hope for starting out on our journey through the wilderness of Lent. They promise a new beginning, a clean slate, a chance to be forgiven and begin again.
It was on Ash Wednesday this year, at the end of February, that many of us gathered in our sanctuary for the last time before the pandemic would separate us from one another. These seven months apart have surely felt like another kind of journey through the wilderness. We have known loneliness and fear, sadness and despair, frustration and uncertainty. We would love nothing more than the chance to start over, to try and get things right, make things better.
My daughter, Heidi, is serving as co-director of music for the Andover Newton students at Yale Divinity School, and this week she hosted one of their first online worship gatherings for the fall semester, beginning with these words: “Greetings, beloved community, wherever you may be worshipping from tonight. I am convinced (and you may recognize that I am paraphrasing from Paul here) that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor distance, nor COVID, nor Zoom, can separate us from the love of God and from the embrace of this community. I am so glad to be with you all tonight.”
She is right, and Paul was right. This pandemic has changed many things but it has not changed this one thing…that nothing can separate us from God’s love or from each other. Every day is another chance to start over, to feel embraced, and to find our way through the wilderness.
Wherever you are today, I am so glad to be with you all on this journey…Pastor Claudine