“What will it look like to be Church and practice Sabbath after the shelter-at-home phase of Covid-19?”
Honestly…I have no idea. I sense, however, that there is a significant and emerging God invitation to the “new thing" spoken of in Isaiah 43. The question is – “Can we perceive it?”
This Covid-19 experience makes me think of Walter Brueggemann’s book, The Message of the Psalms. He writes about Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation. Right now, we are in the middle of disorientation where we feel vulnerable, lost, angry, afraid, frustrated, and undone. It doesn't mean we lack faith, but it presents the question, “What does it mean to be a faithful presence during disorientation?” Disorientation is a time of more questions than answers, of waiting, listening, and trust. It is an invitation to spiritual discernment. And, it's uncomfortable. We tend to want to rush through disorientation because not knowing can be extremely uncomfortable.
Question: What are your intentional spiritual practices of discernment during disorientation?
For most of us, we begin to see and then seek immediate practical answers to the question, “What’s next?” Will we have to meter people entering the church? Will we need hand sanitizer and individual packets of Kleenex in every pew? How will we clean every community area? Will people need to sit six-feet apart? Will masks be required? Can we hug, shake hands, fellowship? What about communion? What if someone sneezes, or begins to weep? The people of the church will want answers.
Disorientation and discernment, however, are about deeper questions and a deeper shift. It invites leaders to slow down, to linger with questions rather than rush through them to answers. What is underneath the practical questions? What is God inviting us to see and become? It’s like walking the road to Emmaus in the space between the resurrection and Pentecost. It’s liminal. Nobody saw anything until God “opened their eyes.” We don’t know what we're saying good-bye to nor do we know what is emerging.
In Easter terms, we don’t know what is dying and we don't know yet what new life is emerging from the tomb(s). During disorientation, none of us have answers to the deeper questions of how Covid-19 is changing us and what is God up to. We're waiting, and discerning.
As I think about the question of church and Sabbath after Covid-19, I don’t think Sabbath has changed and that’s is good news! Instead, I think we are being invited to change. How will we explore and discover who we are in response to the Sabbath invitation? Covid-19 is reminding us how deeply and desperately we need each other, that we cannot do this alone. This is true for community and its true for leaders.
What I sense emerging out of Covid-19 liminality is a new community where the vulnerability of not knowing is OK – even for leaders. It strips us of all certainties and as one people is turning our eyes and hopes to God. After this is all over – do we really just hope to go back to being the same as we were? Or, will we risk leaning into the "new thing" of Isaiah 43? I don’t have an answer, but God does. We are invited to sit in the liminal space until “our eyes are opened” and reorientation emerges from God’s heart.
All of us need to find a rhythm of Sabbath--of rest.
Especially in times of crisis and disruption.