Quarantine…shelter in place…lockdown…social distancing. Whatever we call it, this is still a very strange time. Despite all the emergencies and catastrophes we have faced as a nation, this is a first for America, for the world, really.
In our history, we have endured wars, terrorist attacks, economic depressions, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, famines, pestilences, riots, and more. But I cannot recall a time when we were instructed as a nation to go home and stay as far away from each other as possible.
And for the first time in history, we have been asked to close the church doors until COVID-19 disappears. How strange! Throughout history, we can read about how the church became the most important place for Americans during times of crisis. Go back and look at some of those churches in our history that sustained and aided our nation and its people in times of trouble. Those stories are inspiring!
For example, after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, St. Paul’s Chapel, located in the heart of New York’s devastation, opened its doors to exhausted workers who could not go home, offering shelter, food, respite, and sanctuary. Volunteers from other churches and ministries quickly began to pour into St. Paul’s to help minister to the thousands of workers who would eventually come through the doors. St Paul’s became a symbol of hope and unity for the nation. It still is.
With not one stained glass window destroyed, but with debris covering its exterior, St. Paul’s Chapel lived out Matthew 5:14-16:
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (NKJV).
But what about now? Many churches are closed in order to physically protect their members. And most church members are quarantined at home, sheltered in place, and going out only for essential jobs or supplies.
How can we possibly shine our light now, when we are stuck at home, hiding under our own little baskets?
Amazingly, American Christians are finding ways to do just that. We are using the resources we have to share the love of Christ during this strange and trying time.
People are posting sermons, Bible studies, blogs, and scriptural words of encouragement on every available social media outlet. They are messaging friends, families, and neighbors. Calling to check on people that might be alone. Kids are sending notes, drawings, and cards (sprayed with Lysol) via the mail to elderly residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers.
Christians are really getting creative in order to shine their lights and minister to others.
Via Facebook, I have seen people tell neighbors to post certain colors of signs in their windows to indicate needs. Green signals all is well; yellow means there is a small need; and red means immediate emergency help is needed.
Some neighborhoods have organized “bear hunts” by putting teddy bears in windows for families to ride by or walk by and see. It’s a scavenger hunt of sorts based on a well-known storybook, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.”
Other neighborhoods have decided to have celebrate “Christmas in Quarantine.” They have put out Christmas decorations to give kids something exciting to see and to remind people about Jesus. He still is our unchanging hope!
And I have seen public school teachers and homeschool moms come together like never before. People are reaching out to help with curriculum and give assurance. Teachers of every discipline are offering to tutor online, while homeschool moms remind parents this is not a normal time for anyone and to keep the main focus on fun and family.
Schools around the nation are providing sack lunches that are made under CDC guidelines and then distributed a variety of ways to kids who might be hungry during this time. Online, I watched bus drivers, principals, coaches, cafeteria workers, and teachers deliver food with masks, gloves, and tears of joy when they got to see their students for the first time in days.
I have seen ministries across the world provide food, healthcare, and love in the most inventive ways imaginable. Go online and see all the myriad ways churches and ministries are working to help their neighbors. Check out what American Family Association is doing in partnership with Eight Days of Hope.
As a nation of believers, our growing level of service and ministry is almost unbelievable – until we remember WHOM we serve.
After all, Jesus Himself was pretty resourceful. He left His throne, put on the form of man, and came to earth to be with us, to save us. Yes, we have the perfect role model for servanthood.
So, today, I challenge each of us. Let’s look for ways to crawl out from under our baskets and shine His light into this dark time. Let’s find a way to help at least one person today – or five or ten.
Come on! Now is our time to shine!