God doesn’t like us

A little after 5:30 on March 28, Palm Sunday, I arrived at Trinity United Methodist Church. This morning at 9 we were holding our first outdoor worship service since the pandemic slammed our doors shut.

Lots of planning, thinking, teamwork, and communication had gone into the logistics for this service. There was an edge of nervousness among the staff. And of course for outdoor events, weather conditions are the pivot point.

This morning, I had some basic early staging that needed to be done. Placement of traffic cones, tables for checking in the congregation, that included COVID-19 protocols, and chalking the designated parking spaces/pods where families would gather during the service.

Our communication specialist had worked hard to make the technology easy for our congregation to reserve a pod. If needed, this also included a simple step for cancelling the reservation.

The staging was going well. I even chatted with a couple of early morning walkers from the neighborhood. They were curious about why an ancient geezer was rambling around in a parking lot before sunrise.

My old brain kept running through my checklist—tent, trash bags, chalk, podium, palm crosses, hand truck, extension cords,  and raindrops.

Yes, a few raindrops fell just before I started chalking the pods. But, as I finished the chalking, I heard something I didn’t want to hear—the rumble of thunder.

I checked the National Weather Service’s radar site, and immediately texted our son, the weather expert in our family.

Shortly, he texted back. A cell of heavy rain was tracking toward the church. But, there was good news, once this cell passed we looked to be rain free.

I called our senior pastor. We agreed to keep moving forward. I let our communication specialist know that we were still holding the service.

The clock was ticking, and the most critical piece of setting up was still to be completed—the sound system. When our modern worship leader and his wife arrived, the rain was coming down steadily. Inside, we did some staging of equipment and waited.

I rechecked with our son. He told me the cell had grown, intensified. But, he still believed that we could make it—I wasn’t so sure.

The rain was now coming down in buckets. Sharp lightning flashed through the windows in the Welcome Center where I waited. I put in a second call to our senior pastor. When he answered I told him—“I don’t think God likes us.” He laughed, and probably because of some heavenly connection, the service was still a go.

Gradually, the rain stopped. In an adrenaline fed frenzy, check-in tables were dried, pods re-chalked, a tent and sound system were set up, and we started.

The service worked out.  Maybe God does like us. 

 But, there are times I wonder how he could like us at all? What must he think as he looks down upon us?

We are a mess. Part of me believes the world has always been a wreck. In some ways, Holy Week confirms this. 

I will confess I don’t know that I fully understand the logic of God’s thinking. Sacrificing his son is a tough sell for me. Especially, when I know how hard his son worked to teach us about love.

I’ll leave Holy Week to the theologians and preachers to debate.

And perhaps, this is part of my struggle with Easter. I hold out every Easter for its hope. It is the same hope that I hold out for at Christmas too. 

 Hope that maybe, just maybe, we will wake up, and realize—you, me, we, us, America, the world, we can’t keep living this way.

This senseless disrespect and loss of human life is all around us. The tragic pain of these losses crushes the hearts of families everyday.

We can’t continue to blink and be numb to these foolish losses. 

Yes, I’m pretty sure at times God doesn’t like us.

But deep inside God’s heart, he too holds out for hope. 

Hope that somehow, someway, we will wake up, and collectively say enough.

And when we finally say enough, maybe then we will be ready to reteach, retool our hearts to love.

One of my favorite songwriters is a Methodist minister, Drew Willson. 

His song, “But We Could Love” acknowledges our differences, but offers a solution:

   “From the ground of all our being

    to the fabric up above, we cannot think alike,

    no, we cannot think alike, but we could love,

    we could love.”

Yes, we could love.

We’ve known about love for a long time.

No more stalling.

The time is now. 

We should love.

Trinity UMC Richmond, Virginia Easter 2020 photo by Bill Pike

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