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Reflections on Loss and Discovery

The past two years have been unsettling in many ways as we have traversed through the Covid-19 pandemic. Included in this unsettledness are many things that we have lost, occasions that we have missed out on, relationships that have been required to take a different shape, communications that have needed to adapt, appearances that have taken on a different quality because of masks, zoom, and aging. We have our lists of these losses, long lists of things we lament and wonder if somehow we will ever be able to recover.

At the same time I am wondering about the lists of new discoveries that have been observed in the past two years, new learnings, orientations that might have changed for the better. Perhaps they are necessary accommodations because of a loss, perhaps they are new adventures made possible by not being weighed down by the old, or maybe enlightened insights by the challenges before us.

For this Lent, I invite the community of Bethany to write Lenten reflections on the theme of “lost and found” as you have experienced it of late. Name a loss, and in a paragraph or two speak to the impact of that loss. Then, in equal space, share a new discovery found during this season of Covid, and what it means to you going forward. Perhaps what is lost and what is found are seemingly unrelated but together they represent a movement through this time.

In the Lenten season of the church, we move toward Holy Week, with its losses, including arrest, persecution, betrayal, denial, and crucifixion…insurmountable losses. And then we arrive at Easter, and the discovery by the women of the empty tomb. The losses remain, but a new discovery now accompanies them, and the journey is one where we are accompanied by Jesus.

We are looking for submissions for a Lenten Devotional based on the theme of Lost and Found. We would like to receive these submissions by Sunday, February 20th, if possible, at the church office. Included in the Bethany 2022 Lenten Devotional will be Scriptural stories about “Lost and Found”, including:

Parables:         The Prodigal Son
                              The Lost coin
                              The Good Shepherd

 Stories:            Jacob and Esau – Lost Siblings
                              Joseph, the Egypt Saga
                             Jesus, the Cross and Resurection

For many of these Bible stories, the punctuating sentiment is “Rejoice with me, for what has been lost is found.” While every story of loss does not end with rejoicing, perhaps we can rejoice in the small victories we discover along the way, and moreover in the final victory that is ours at Easter.

Pastor Paul

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Worshipping Faithfully

Every conversation I have these days seems to include a litany of people, usually family members of those with whom I am speaking, who have experienced contracting COVID-19. It feels very different than it did before Christmas, when such connections seemed much more remote and infrequent. It seems, regrettably, to thrust us back into a defensive posture in terms of the way Bethany needs to respond to this new threat.

Yes, the Omicron variant, while extremely contagious, seems as though it is considerably more mild than the Delta variant with which we had previously contended. And, yes, this has resulted in fewer hospitalizations and deaths by similar comparison. But to hear that Brother George or Aunt Mildred or Nephew Huey has COVID-19 is startling and worrisome, even with such a milder form, especially as I hear from those who experienced/are experiencing harsh symptoms.

Today, guidelines came to us from the NW Washington Synod, advising extra care in worship practices if conducted in-person. Fortunately, we have already been observing these measures for the most part. (On a side note, the Bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod today is advising congregations there to suspend in-person worship for the next 4-6 weeks. I’m so glad to be here on Bainbridge Island, WA…)

Given these conditions, Bethany will continue to conduct our Sunday worship service at 10am for those who are vaccinated and who are feeling no symptoms of illness. We will operate as we have been since September, and ask additionally that people wear masks, and minimize their interpersonal contacts, especially indoors. We are going to suspend our fellowship hour Sunday mornings, and we will not be holding our Saturday evening worship services and fellowship time during January. On Sunday morning, the FM transmitter will be broadcasting out to the parking lot for those who choose that option.

Perhaps the most important reminder is that worship is not suspended during this time. Our worship continues, even if in a different format and venue. For those who remain at home, this is a time for extra prayer and study, and perhaps connecting with those who may be feeling especially disconnected. For those in your cars, you get extra credit (although our Lutheran emphasis on faith/grace doesn’t lend itself to allocating extra credit). For those attending worship in the Bethany sanctuary, our worship in addition to our prayer, praise and thanksgiving, is also a ministry of presence, of bearing witness for those who are unable to physically be with us. It is a time when we are called to worship boldly on behalf of the whole community.

Thank you for being the church, the faithful church, especially in such a time as this.

Be well.

Pastor Paul

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