12 Mar It’s Been A Year
Can you remember back to that moment in 2020 when you sensed your world, or life as you knew it, was changing?
I remember hosting our community group in November of 2019, and one of our members began to talk about a virus that was making the news in China. He, though not an alarmist, humbly insisted he believed it looked like this virus was going to be a big deal, a much bigger deal than most people thought. We nervously shrugged him off (we’ll never make that mistake again!).
Then 2020 came around, and the news (and our vocabulary) started to change.
We learned words like coronavirus, pandemic, respiratory droplets, N95 masks, and social distancing.
We started noticing everything we touched.
We washed our hands a lot more.
We started to notice if someone sneezed or coughed around us.
Then, I remember, and of course you do as well, the second week of March 2020.
I remember our staff trying to work through every logistical challenge we could think of, in an attempt to continue to meet in person and yet keep everyone as safe as possible.
The NBA, NHL and NCAA all canceled their seasons or tournaments; people were trapped on cruise ships in a hellish version of Groundhog Day.
Grocery stores began to display bare shelves. Traffic began to thin.
Personally, for me, March 13, 14, and 15 were really when everything changed.
On Friday night, March 13, out in Taylor, Texas, my son’s high school baseball coach gathered the team and parents behind the stands of the fields after the game and told us the season was being suspended. The boys would be cleaning out their lockers and staying home for the foreseeable future.
Saturday, March 14, we made the decision to cancel our Sunday morning service for only the second time ever (the first was due to the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey), and we scrambled to work through how we could, without a full livestream set-up, pull off a virtual worship service.
Sunday, March 15, I walked up to an empty parking lot, and, as you’ve heard me joke before, two personal, pastoral nightmares became true: I was turned into a televangelist, and no one showed up.
I briefly paused on the front entrance steps of our facility and wondered, “What is happening?”
Yeah. So, it’s been a year. And I mean not just that it’s been a year since many of us have seen one another, but that it’s been a year.
And yet, God has been faithful.
And yet, our church, while some have left, overall has grown.
And yet, people have still come to faith in Christ, people have still been water baptized, people are still gathering in community groups, people are still getting married and families are still having babies.
We have been able to, through your generosity, be a bright light to the city and to many of the most vulnerable.
We have developed a much more robust online community and worship experience, and we have expanded our reach.
We opened for about three months last fall before temporarily going back online only, and during that time, multiple vaccines were developed.
And when we reopened last Sunday, I saw some for the first time in exactly a year… and it was an unexpectedly emotional moment for me.
There was person after person who came and told me, “It’s been a year since I was here, Morgan. I’m so glad to be back gathered with my spiritual family.”
And while I don’t know all that God has done or is doing (who does?), I do believe a few things:
I believe that while COVID-19 has spread, so has the Gospel of Christ. Throughout history, things like persecution and plagues, while dispersing the church, always purify it and accelerate its growth.
I believe that because Christ is the head of the church, He holds all things together, and He has held us.
I believe that we are better than we were a year ago. Maybe not necessarily more emotionally triumphant, maybe not more socially secure, but as Christians, we are more holy, we are more committed to Christ, and we have been forced to dig more deeply for our meaning in Christ.
In short, I believe we have lived Romans 5:3:
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
In that light, and because of that truth, let me tell you this: I have hope for us, and I am not ashamed of you, of us, or of the Gospel.
And there is reason to believe that our lives, increasingly over the course of this year, will much more resemble what they were a year ago, except, I hope, better. Deeper. More content. And more loving.
I’m encouraged by all God has done and is doing among us.
And maybe even most of all, I hope to see you soon.