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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Piel: Can you celebrate Easter with closed church doors?

Our neighbor George recently commented that the arrival of the novel coronavirus has changed everything including how (or should I say where) we worship. George has a friend who is bemoaning the fact that he would not be able to celebrate Easter this year because his church had canceled Easter morning worship services.

George said his friend’s comments bothered him in two ways. First, it was true that he also would miss celebrating Easter in a church building with its candles and flowers and people singing “Christ the Lord is risen today.” At the same time, he remembered that the first Easter was not celebrated in a building but rather with people running around proclaiming good news. That first Easter was not a prisoner of a building but was a celebration of new life. Even a virus could not stop it! As a friend put it “Easter this year is not gone — just different!”

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George believes that we are challenged daily, possibly like never before, to celebrate the real heart of Easter. Challenged to proclaim not only that “we are the Easter people” but “every day we celebrate resurrection.”

To be set free by the Easter message means I can cross the road to give aid to my enemy and build a bridge of understanding as we tear down a wall of separation. It means I am free to witness to my faith and how God has changed my life. Being free means I am challenged to work toward the day when no child goes to bed hungry, or how a family can return home even when the place they knew as home has been destroyed by war, or when we invite someone who society has placed in the back of the line to go first. To be free means that my faith and its teachings go beyond, far beyond, what my political party tells me to believe. To be free means we can stand for good health as a right not as a privilege and I can risk my life to stand for justice, goodness and righteousness. Could we go further and say that to be free means that we could help our enemy Iran which has one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world with critically needed drugs and supplies?

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Let us shift gears to something that is occupying all of our lives at this moment, the “coronavirus.”

Writer Michele Norris wrote “This virus isn’t particular about who thinks what. It doesn’t check at the door to see who plans to vote for Trump or Joe Biden. …..This is a virus that reaches across borders and continents, it’s impact varying from one country to the next….”

Columnist Fred Hiatt adds “Many Americans will be harmed, not directly by the virus, but by measures being taken to limit its spread. People are losing jobs, some never to be recovered. Small businesses built up over years or decades are shuttering, some never to reopen. Children will fall behind in school. Stress, loneliness, even hunger will contribute to illness and even some deaths.” He added “we are going to have to summon our common purpose….”

Both Democrats and Republicans have voted to give a stimulus, a direct financial payment, to individuals, couples & children (along with numerous businesses not only to keep them afloat but to protect their workers) as a response to the coronavirus outbreak to help heal the financial hurt. There are many of us who desperately need that check who have seen our hours cut, jobs lost, health care limited, etc. At the same time the truth is that many of us are not dependent on that check. If you fall into this category when you get your check why not join us and donate it to a local charity and direct it to help someone who has lost their job or who needs medical or food items or pay their monthly rent and can’t afford it.

Our neighbor George remembered a small congregation in Finksburg which has a community Pancake Brunch each year. Recently the planning committee met to discuss the breakfast. They had to decide between raising money and protecting the health of others. They voted that health must always come first.

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A church email was sent out letting all on the pancake brunch email list know that the breakfast had been canceled. One person wrote back that this was a bad and unnecessary thing to do and added we should, instead, “put our trust in God to protect us.”

About a week after that in the local newspaper someone wrote that “the virus concern is overblown" quoting the president, who said “within a couple of days, it’s going to be down to close to zero” and added “It’s going to disappear, one day. It’s like a miracle.” They ended with “we should have faith in God who will put a safety shield around us.”

Words like “trust in God to protect us” and “have faith in God to put safety shield around us” sound very religious but what do they actually mean?

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Like the preacher who said “let’s all pause and pray for those who are suffering financially at this time.” We ask, pray yes and then do what? Maybe it is apocryphal but I remember a story regarding Martin Luther. The monks were saying morning prayer on their knees. Martin got up and his companion asked him “are you finished” To which Martin replied “no, my prayers are over, now it is time to put them into action.”

George added, “I hate to say it but sometimes when people say I will pray for you that’s the end of it.” It’s one thing to feel sorry for someone who is going through a difficult time — another to put our feelings in action to make a difference.

Let the dialogue continue. We only ask that you think on these things.

The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis “Lou” Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at julo1@verizon.net.


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