The Lenten season typically begins with the reading of Jesus’ wilderness temptations. As this unique Lenten/Covid season slowly slips into Holy Week, maybe we should glance at a portion of the story again. The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. It is the temptation to think that tending the physical needs of people is the only relevant work in the world. In fact, while Jesus often rebukes religious leaders, he rarely rebukes ‘the multitudes’ that follow him. On one of the few occasions that he does rebuke the multitude, he says, “ …you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…” (John 6:26-27). Jesus noted our tendency to think that only our physical needs really matter.
Faith is an essential part of human existence. The shape of faith, the approach to faith, and the expressions of faith certainly differ from human to human and culture to culture, but faith is essential. Even those who deny or claim no faith have engaged a thought process that has brought them to a place of peace. Call me presumptuous, but I would argue they have a different form of faith.
The ‘shelter in place’ orders that have been implemented in our state do not classify faith institutions as non-essential. They do forbid (and rightly so) our gathering for worship, classes, committee meetings, etc., but they do not forbid us from coming to work and providing necessary care for those struggling through this covid crisis. As aggressively as doctors and researchers are attempting to care for our medical needs and grocery clerks, truck drivers and others are caring for our physical needs; churches, synagogues, mosques and chaplains are working to care for our spiritual needs. It is essential. Physical care without soul care leaves a person barely cared for.
We will continue to drastically limit the number of those who work in the office at First Baptist, as well as those who participate in video worship leadership. We will continue to abide by all regulations with regard to distance, washing and gathering. In this careful process, we will continue to find ways to provide care and a sense of community…because faith is essential.