COVID19 is ______________. There are plenty of descriptions that can be put into that blank... and none of them would be kind! COVID19 has ruined businesses, caused major upheavals in ways of life and challenged the very society that we have enjoyed. Families have experienced the illness ranging from a runny nose to death.
While we share in the sadness of how this pandemic has affected lives, we know the effect it has had on our schools, too. Health protocols, schedules changes, professional development specifically on the virus and staff changes have all been sensed by Lutheran schools. The summer of 2020 will be one where principals will look back and exclaim, “That’s why I’m so drained! I never got a break!”
Principals have also taken on counselor duties as teachers express exhaustion on additional duties and parents and students show fear and anxiety.
At one point in this school year, a national listserv email strand shared ways in which administrators were dealing with the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion of their staff. Extra time, special treats and parent led lunches were shared. All of the ideas expressed thanks and encouragement.
The aforementioned email strand was extensive in demonstrating the depth of the issue. So it was disappointing to notice that not once did anyone suggest a direct look to God and lean on His gifts of word and prayer. Not once. No pastor interceding. No time for faculty prayer.
It might be that those are automatic for a Lutheran school and not seen as unique for dealing with a crisis. However, over the years it becomes more apparent that what is not said is not said, and what is not talked about doesn’t go into action.
Are our first reactions pray, praise and give thanks? Lord have mercy.
So to this point, let’s consider Lutheran schools modeling of receiving God’s gifts and how they are shared in Divine Service. Is this too big of a jump? Doubtful. Lutheran worship is unique in its understanding and practice. If we want to be a strong witness of those that have gone before us, we will find joy and confidence in the liturgy.
Divine service is a history lesson put into action. With our culture’s desire to remove the bad of our history and even to rewrite history, maybe we too share with the culture of today of ignoring our history and the realities of the past. But if we embrace history, recognize there is “nothing new under the sun” and enjoy the narratives that demonstrate God’s continued grace to fallen man, maybe we would also grow in our love for Divine Service.
Think about it. Our liturgy starts with mission and identity. We begin in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Why? We remember our baptism and who our new lives are joined to. At the same time, we remember Jesus' Great Commission of going, teaching and baptizing. And above all things, we remember that just as in our baptism, in Divine Service God is going to do all the serving. It’s not our work; it’s His. Think of the richness that one sentence already brings! Identity in Christ. Precious in his eyes. Joined with the faithful.
Next we walk the walk with the saints of old and ascend to Mt Zion. The entrance hymn, the Introit, helps us connect with the Isralites as they walked the mount to the temple. They sang psalms, hymns that recalled God’s goodness and his faithfulness.
Next we remember who we are and who is coming to us and join with the angels in Christmas glorias, glorias that were sung as Jesus came to be one of us.
We sit as students, eager to hear about God’s promises and His word fulfilled. We hear those Old Testament prophecies, Paul’s teaching of the Gospel and Jesus’ redemptive work. We listen to the preaching of the lessons and respond with the Church's common confession. We share a creed that unifies us to scripture, to confessions and the historical church.
Divine Service is the balm for our exhausted soul and body. There we commune with the source of life and strength. There we share with the One who knows life eternal and has made it ready for us, his chosen people.
So why do we shy away from it? Why do we call it old fashioned and out of touch. Nothing should be further from the truth!
As COVID19 continues to have its effect on everything having to do with our schools, be sure to make worship part of the plan for working through these tough times. Prioritize Bible study. Prioritize prayer- for others and self. “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth. (Ps 121:1-2)