After the COVID Exile

After the COVID Exile

Author: Mark Fenstermacher
May 28, 2021

We had been in Estes Park, Colorado for a week. That area of the world is a special place in our lives. On the day we were leaving, heading back to Denver to catch a plane home, I remember driving out of the valley. The road wound around the mountains, climbing higher and higher, and I pulled over to look back. It was important to me to take a look back. I remember putting on a CD of the Byrds and listening to them singing Bob Dylan’s song “My Back Pages”: “Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.”

Over the past two years we have all been on a journey we never expected to take. At first we heard a news report here and there about a virus on the other side of the world, and then soon enough—despite those who would downplay the threat—our lives were turned upside-down. Things we had taken for granted, like going out to eat, singing hymns/praise songs in worship, or hugging our friends became highly risky. Getting too close to the people we loved, the people we worked with and the people we worshipped with put them in danger so we stepped back. 

Broadway went dark. Churches stopped in-person services. Our favorite restaurants scrambled to survive by going to curbside pickup and on-line ordering. Instead of going into the office to see our doctor, we “went in” for a check up via Zoom.

We’re making our way out of the pandemic, although parts of the world and families are still being devastated by the virus, and so we want to look back to see where we have been. We are about to begin (the first three Sundays in June) a three-week sermon series titled, After the COVID Exile. 

On June 6th, we’ll look at what we have lost and what we have found. There will be a time to lament our personal and public pain, and also give thanks for what we have found along the way. On June 13th, we will explore the lessons we have learned during these past two years. And, finally, on June 20th we will look together at how we may have all been changed by this unexpected journey.

One of the central stories of the Hebrew Bible is the experience of the exile in Babylon. The nation of Israel was defeated, the leading citizens of the nation were carried away, and they spent more than fifty years in a strange land. Scholars tell us that the experience of the exile was not only terribly difficult but it also was a profoundly formative experience for the Jews. Their pain in exile shaped them in new ways and altered the way they related to God.

Pray for us as we prepare for the messages on June 6, 13 and 20th: After the COVID Exile. Invite your friends to join us in person or on-line. Also take some time to think about what you have lost, what you have found, what you have learned, and how the past two years may have changed your life and our world. We're asking people to video record their comments after worship this Sunday morning in Fellowship Hall. You’ll also be able to share by filling out a card on Sunday or send us a note at office@auburnumc.church.

In Jeremiah 32, the prophet talks about how God will bring the people back home from exile: "See, I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. They shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them…” (:37-40, New Revised Standard Version)

Before I drove out of the valley, I pulled over to look back at where I had been. I wanted to see it again. And, then, I stepped back into the car and focused on the road ahead. The road ahead, the journey itself, would be different I knew because of where I had been.

Please be in prayer for the leaders of our church as the Administrative Council meets on the evening of Monday, June 7th, to plan the months ahead as we prepare for a new chapter. I’m so thankful I can do this with you. (People keep asking me how long I will be here, and I tell them at least another year. God has good work for us to do, love and joy to share!)

Grace,
Pastor Mark


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First United Methodist Church
1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN 46706
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