We all have moments in our lives that are momentous, significant times we will never forget. The easiest example in my mind was when my children were born. I will never forget holding Evelyn and Spencer for the very first time. The way they looked at me with those newborn eyes. Eyes alert with the realization that this man looking down at me is my dad. I am sure you have had moments like this, weddings, promotions at work, getting into colleges, and for some burying people you love. I know many of you will cringe when I tell you about another significant day in my life. Watching as Kris Bryant picked up a soft ground ball throwing it over to Anthony Rizzo as the Cubs won the world series in 2016.
Last week another one of these moments took place. The CDC took the regulations of masks off the table. If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask or social distance. I probably texted thirty people. I wanted to run to church and tear down all the signs. I wanted to put away the masks, the hand sanitizer. I wanted to return to normal. But, I had to pause. Those actions may not be the most Christian especially in view of our neighbor.
As your pastor, I have heard hundreds of people over the past few weeks speak to me about mask mandates. They long to return to normal with unbridled faces. A major wish would be for all of the rules and regulations to end. However, in those moments, I am reminded of the words of Jesus. The pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment. Love your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
While you and I may be excited with the news, others may not. Other people in our church are dealing with a new reality. Some are immunosuppressed or have children who are. They will still wear masks and that is okay. Many children and teenagers will not have the vaccine and still will be wearing mask. Some during the pandemic have gotten used to the idea of wearing masks, due to allergies or even just plain comfort. Many people will have anxiety, worry and be all around nervous with new guidelines. Which is why we, as the church, need to continue to take things slow. This is all okay.
As much as I want to run around shouting about my new found liberation from masks. The reality is there are many around us I would make uncomfortable. The church is called to loving, kind and gracious to those around us who are not where we are. Even if we think they should be where we are. During the past 15 months Covid-19 could have driven a wedge right through the heart of the church. It did not and it will not. Christ and His gift of love and mercy continue to move forward from the lips of His people. So, we as the church, are called to be kind and considerate of those of us who do not feel the same way we do about new guidelines and masks. As your pastor, and on behalf of the pastoral staff, we will continue to navigate these new waters as we always have. Carefully, but with the boldness and faith of our God who will guide us through this new reality.
Even I have anxiety. I am daily dealing with this new sense of dread. A dread I have never had before. Yes, we have new mandates, new guidelines, people vaccinated, people returning to life as it once was. But, I have some serious post-pandemic stress. Everyday I look at the news waiting for us to reverse everything we have come so far on. Sending us months back and having to pivot once again. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. And yet, I have peace in the midst of it all. Understanding and knowing if that does happen, our staff, through the gift of God’s spirit will manage, we will right the ship and continue to speak the Gospel.
But, for now, I pray we can be kind and full of grace. We understand it will take some time for people to return to the pews. It will take time for some people to unmask. It will take time for our church to be as full as it was fifteen months ago. But, until then, may we continue to live in the grace of God as we spread the good news of His Son who has been raised from the dead.
Pastor Ryan Taylor