A Letter from Pastor John Medwid, First Lutheran Church, Albany

My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 23-24)

This text from the Third Sunday of Lent which describes Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well provides us with a great deal of fodder for our reflection. We are in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic. What scares me the most is not the invisible microbe, but the very visible fear and panic that have taken hold of the population at large. Measures have been taken to limit gatherings of people. This has impacted our ability to gather as a faith community for worship as well as for meetings and social gatherings. Our communal Sunday worship has been suspended at least until April.

What does all this mean for us? I think that this is an invitation to be Church in a different way. In a recent sermon, I spoke of a church that, in the face of declining membership and finances, decided to make a radical decision to practice Sabbath rest. Two Sundays a month, they would gather for their usual Sunday worship. On the other two Sundays, they would have an amended contemplative service on Saturday evening and then on Sunday they would simply rest. People whose weekday activities were busy and chaotic would simply take time to rest, recuperate, and renew themselves. Some members would spend quality time with family. Others would intentionally gather for a meal together. What these church members were doing attracted the attention of the wider community and so others began to join them. The faith community that was dying began to grow and to show signs of new life and vitality.

In a sense, what that faith community did by a radical decision on their part, we are being forced to do because of our circumstances. How can we creatively embrace the concept of a Sabbath rest? On Sunday, it was strange not to gather with my faith community at First, but a nurturing encounter with friends for brunch was eucharistic for me (even without Mimosas!). We can creatively feed our spiritual hunger in a variety of meaningful ways. Whether it involves scripture readings, a breathing meditation, a social encounter, or an activity that we are passionate about, we have the capacity to be church in a variety of ways. That is what Jesus is talking about in his dialogue with the Samaritan woman. Jewish people and the Samaritans of Jesus’ day vehemently clashed about many religious topics one of which was where to worship God: whether the proper site was Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim. Jesus speaks about a new kind of worship in spirit and truth which was not dependent on a physical, geographical location. How appropriate are these words of the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth for our day and age! What worship in spirit and truth looks like is up to us now!

It is important during this time of “exile” that we stay connected. Council members have been calling members to check in and to provide support. I am very grateful for all that the Council members are doing to support our community at this time. If anyone needs anything or would just like to talk, please do not hesitate to call me (518 542 1454). Technology provides many ways to connect and this is an excellent time to put them to use. Hopefully, we can get a weekly message on our YouTube channel (First Lutheran Church, Albany). Potentially, our Sunday worship may not resume in time for Holy Week and Easter. If that is the case, then I would propose that we make Easter a movable feast this year and celebrate it on the first Sunday when we gather together again as a faith community! What a celebration of resurrection and new life it will be!

Until then, let’s remain united in spirit and truth! Wherever we are is holy ground! Our divine Source is with us challenging us to be the answer to the very prayers that we express! As we raise holy hands in prayer, let’s make sure that they are thoroughly washed and sanitized!

Until we meet in person, I raise my hand to you in the Vulcan salute and say, “Live long and prosper!”

Peace,

Pastor Medwid