By Marcia Hotchkiss
My world as a college professor was rocked when the pandemic forced us all to shelter in place and to conduct classes online rather than in person. Since that decision, I have received at least three emails a day from supervisors, coordinators, and administrators as they attempt to guide us through this uncharted landscape. I can’t help but wonder if my time wouldn’t be better spent actually talking with students.
Unfortunately, this overabundance of information seems to have seeped into most of the church’s missives. We are told how to stay safe, how long we will have to continue this new routine, how to tune into the online worship services, and what the next steps might be. All a necessity, perhaps, but I wonder if there could be more.
The story of God becoming man, entering into our pain and suffering for no other reason than he loves us, still speaks to me even and especially in a pandemic. I long to hear the universal church proclaim Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).
People sick, people dying, people losing jobs, people going hungry — the Church needs to know and do all it can to alleviate this suffering. No question about it. The Church also needs to be telling the good news that God is always with us, especially in our suffering.
The Psalms tell us that the Lord knows when we cry and keeps all of our tears in a bottle. Isaiah 42:3 also says poetically, “A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench.” And even Jesus himself told us, “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
I want the Church to share a little more hope, a little more Jesus. The world needs hope and Jesus brings it. Maybe then we can see the rainbow after the storm. We’re always reminded in sermons that we, the people, are the Church so maybe we all should go tell it on the mountain. Or – at least – from our driveways, sidewalks, and living rooms while we are still hanging close to home.
Marcia Hotchkiss is director of public speaking at Tennessee State University and a spiritual director and retreat leader.