The message remains the same

Years ago, I borrowed the title of a book, An 8-Track Church in a CD World: The Modern Church in a Postmodern World by Robert N. Nash, as the title of a sermon. In that sermon I described how Jesus used the technology of his day to share his message of love. Check it out in Luke 5:3, “[Jesus] got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.”

How is that technology you ask? The wood of the boat and the surrounding still water were sound boards reflecting his sound so that he could be heard, a first century sound system. I then spoke about how a song, say Amazing Grace, has been recorded on a Gramophone, a 78 rpm, a 33 1/3 LP, an 8 Track tape, a cassette, a CD, and is now available as a downloadable Mp3 file.  Each time Amazing Grace was recorded, the recording allowed the message of the song to be shared with others. The message remained the same, only the means of transmission changed.

It’s no different if you change the tune, like when Sue Giese sang Amazing Grace to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun. The message remains the same, only the means of transmission changes. Have you ever sung Amazing Grace to the tune of the theme from Gilligan’s Island? If you can remember Gilligan’s Island, give it a try.

With the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus we, the church, are exploring new ways to share Jesus’ message with the

technologies of today. I shared in worship a couple of weeks ago that as a child watching Robert Schuller on TV, I never imagined I’d grow up to be a televangelist.

Yet here we are, finding new ways to broadcast worship to you rather than you coming to the church building. With cancellations everywhere, let me be clear:

worship online, is not canceled; quiet time with God is not canceled; praying for the sick, is not canceled; checking in on a friend by phone, email, or note, is not canceled; helping others as you can, is not canceled; being the church, is needed now more than ever.

From where I sit, I can see much that makes me grateful for this congregation. I’m grateful for Toni Knutson’s leadership and encouragement, Mike Suchecki’s expertise and willingness to adapt, our liturgists and musicians.

The gratitude doesn’t end there. I’m grateful for Damian Russell’s nightly saxophone concerts on Facebook, all those who have shared in our Tuesday and Thursday Prayer Times on Facebook Live at 4 & 7 pm and to Joe Perez and Ron Knutson who have offered to pick up groceries for homebound members. I’m also grateful for the Membership Committee and others who are reaching out to members who don’t get email to help, for Chris Wray’s leadership on navigating a path toward online giving, and for the calls and emails I’ve received from several of you letting me know how you’re reaching out and supporting one another.

The message hasn’t changed but the means of delivery continue to evolve. This is what I’m talking about when I say, the church building may be closed but the disciples are deployed, you are the Body of Christ! You are making a difference in the world.

It remains to be seen what lessons from this time we will carry forward with us as we move beyond the current pandemic. Yet, I remain confident that God, who is beside us now, is leading us forward. For now, we live in our present reality and, so, I conclude with this prayer, A Prayer for Healers by Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen.

May the One who blessed our ancestors

Bless all those who put themselves at risk to care for the sick-

Physicians and nurses and orderlies

Technicians and home health aides

EMTs and pharmacists

Hospital social workers and respiratory therapists

Who navigate the unfolding dangers of the world each day,

To tend to those they have sworn to help.

Bless them in their coming home and bless them in their going out.

Ease their fear. Sustain them.

Source of all breath, healer of all beings,

Protect them and restore their hope.

Strengthen them, that they may bring strength;

Keep them in health, that they may bring healing.

Help them know again a time when they can breathe without fear.

Bless the sacred work of their hands.

May this plague pass from among us, speedily and in our days.