Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another.” Colossians 3:12-13b
The note was left for me at the front desk, we had no face to face interaction, not this time. In the past we had visited, shared stories and contemplated the mysteries of faith. There was usually coffee, a few cookies for the road, and sometimes money changed hands. No conversation this time, no niceties, just a few words scribbled on paper. The words came together resembling a legal document prepared by a lawyer in a hurry. It was written in pencil on copy paper, both of which were provided by our receptionist. The note read as follows:
Any Relation ship Bussiness or personal with Matthew Joshua Dickson* and the Lutheran Church is Terminated.
That was it; signed, not quite sealed, and delivered. No flowery words, no wasted thought, it cut to the chase, it had only one purpose and that purpose was clearly stated. It was folded several times, handed to our receptionist, and just like that, Matthew had walked out of the church and out of my life.
There was no event that caused this rift, no bitter words, no betrayal, no theological missteps. It was simply 2020, pandemic stress, isolation anxiety, anger without an outlet, fear of the unknown, grief over all that was lost.
Matthew is mostly homeless and he suffers from some form of mental illness. Though he never attended worship with us, the church was a safe place for him in a world that was often unsafe. He was treated with respect here, there was always someone who would listen to his concerns, share a smile and sometimes provide him with $20 for his next meal. He was fed here, but now he walked away, “any Relation ship Bussiness or personal… is terminated.”
This pandemic has harmed us, we walk around wounded, we long for the past. Like children we do not know what to do with our feelings, we stumble on, masks on our faces, not realizing how broken we are. The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. We are plagued by uncertainty; will the schools open, how will I care for my children, what if I lose my job, will I fall victim to this virus, will this election deepen the political divide in our country? It is a lot to carry, and we are all carrying more than we realize.
This anxiety caused by grief and uncertainty spews out sideways in the most unexpected ways; we lash out at those we love, we are short with those we work with, we are less than kind to essential workers, we terminate our relationship with the church. We walk away from the very place that feeds us, we retreat into the darkness of isolation.
Matthew was not mad at me, but the letter was delivered to me. In cold and legal language, I was informed of the termination of our relationship. I do not hold this against Matthew, it really had nothing to do with me, it was pandemic stress that vented in my direction. If Matthew comes back, the coffee will be on at TLC, behind the masks smiling faces will wait to greet him. The door is always open, our arms wait to embrace those who have wandered off.
My friends, don’t let this pandemic season tear us apart, let it bring us together. Be patient, bear with one another, know that everyone has been harmed by this pandemic. This time of testing did not come from God, but make no mistake about it, we are being tested. Together, we will make it through the night, we are not alone and we are ONE DAY CLOSER.
*Name changed to protect privacy