It’s Tuesday, March 17, 2020 (happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way), and I’m sitting in my office at home feeling somewhat imprisoned.
As of yesterday the Governor of Delaware and the Bishop of the Eastern PA and Pen-Del United Methodist Conferences have issued orders restricting public gatherings to groups of no more than 10. Delaware is following most of the country in closing casinos, bars, restaurants, gyms, schools, even churches for at least the next two weeks. With schools being closed, our high school senior daughter will be home 24/7, a challenge in itself.
A friend who was a former member of one of my previous churches texted me yesterday: “These are really troubling times. What is your opinion on all that is going on?” It was a straightforward question that could have evoked any number of responses, but I chose to respond with a straightforward answer: “The most reassuring truth I can think of — and which I bring to mind in times such as these — is that we serve a God who specializes in bringing order out of chaos. If God was able to create the heavens and beyond, I believe he can lead us to a solution for COVID-19. Remembering that, I feel no anxiety for the future.”
I get the feeling that my reply didn’t meet her expectations, because she responded with a simple, “Thank you very much. Be safe.”
And yet, I don’t see that we need to know any more than that. Throughout the history of the Bible, God’s consistent plea has been, “Come to me.” The Israelites were reminded often to place their trust in God as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. Jesus himself offered the promising invitation to “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” It seems to me that, at all times — but especially during times of challenge and/or burden — God’s greatest desire is for God’s children to run to God’s open, welcoming arms.
Who can say that we have not been thrust into a time of challenge and burden since the spread of the coronavirus was made known? This microscopic entity has already been responsible for the closing of businesses, affecting the livelihoods of millions of small business owners and their employees; for the closing of schools, affecting graduation plans and impacting the required 180 days that schools are required to hold classes; for the closing of houses of worship, preventing the faithful from coming together for spiritual enrichment.
In times like these, the words of invitation offered by the Old Testament YHWH and the New Testament Jesus offer a comfort we would be foolish to ignore: “Come to me.” Where else could we be safer than in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and God’s Son?