April 1, 2020
Hello, I’m Pastor Marla Amborn, of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Almelund, Minnesota here for a fireside chat. If you’ve been tuning in to these chats, you’ll notice we are in a new location. We had been coming to you from the fireside room at Immanuel. But today, as Minnesota’s governor has asked people to stay home, we’re following his guidelines and bringing you this fireside chat from the fire pit in my back yard. It is just one example of the adjustments we are all having to make during the time of this corona virus pandemic.
As I sit here by this fire pit, I am reminded of people through the ages who have sat around fires like this one. They cooked their food over the fire. They gathered around the fire for warmth. As they did, they told stories. The fireside became a place for making meaning. The fireside became a place to learn about who they are and where they came from. The fireside provided a chance to talk about their place in the world, their place in their family, their place in the family of God.
So today, at this fireside, it is fitting to think about the stories of God’s people as we try to make sense of what is going on in our world.
One of those great stories of God’s people is the story of the Exodus. It is the story of God leading his people from slavery in Egypt into the promised land. As you may remember, before anyone could take the first step out of Egypt, God used a series of 10 plagues to convince Pharaoh to let his people go.
Does it feel to you like we are in a time of plague? This corona virus has filled our land. It is causing all kinds of disruption to our daily lives. If you have a parent, you may have your children home from school. Suddenly you need to figure out how to use technology in new ways and be a teacher to your child to help them learn from a distance. If you are an employee, you may be using the kitchen table as your home office. You may be having meetings using Zoom, trying to figure out how to use that and other new technologies. Or maybe you lost your job due to layoffs, like millions of Americans have in the last couple of weeks. You wish you could be on one of those Zoom meetings. If you’re retired, you may be finding yourself feeling more and more isolated. You can’t get together with family or friends. You can’t go to church. You’re nervous about going to the grocery store. If feels like a plague is in our land.
At the time of the exodus, the plagues did not exist just to cause suffering but as a means to bring God people from slavery to freedom. It was a long journey. It took 40 years of wandering through the wilderness between the time that the people left Egypt and settled in the Promised Land. Traveling through the wilderness was frightening. People encountered new challenges each day. They were not sure where they were going or how they were going to get there. At times people looked back longingly to their days as slaves and sense of normalcy it provided.
But in this time of wilderness, God found ways to make his presence known. God led the people as a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night. There was a clear sense of God’s presence with them, guiding them each step of the way. Ultimately, they made it through. They made that transition from slavery to freedom
How is God at work in our world today in the midst of this plague of corona virus? I believe God is at work in ways that are big and small. God is at work through leaders, giving them wisdom to make good decisions. God’s love is revealed in the kindness people are showing to one another – bringing food to one another dropping it off on the doorstep. God is at work as people around the world are tuning in to worship experiences like this one that are now being broadcast in ways that allow people from down the street and across the globe to all worship together, to hear God’s word together, and to be God’s people together.
The experience we are living through today is historic. It will change life as we know it. We don’t know how long it will take. We don’t know how this story ends. It is unfolding as we go. But we can trust that God is at work in it all, working for our good. We will get through this. God will guide us. God will make his presence known. Through it God will bring us to a new place of freedom, a new way to live as God’s people.
In this time of trying to make sense of our lives and the world, I invite you to keep gathering around the fire. We’ll continue these fireside chats each Wednesday afternoon, and worship each Sunday. But I also encourage you to gather around the fireside with family and friends in your own settings – even if it has to be virtually. Share your stories with one another. Notice how you see God at work in all that is going on. Look to see the ways God is guiding you. Trust that God will lead you through to the new place of freedom.
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you
May the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.