Sanctuary Doors

We stopped attending worship in March.
Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter happened at home and online.
We watched live-streamed labyrinth walks and posted #stayhome selfies, grateful to gather in this way.
The sanctuary doors remain closed,
Save for a dedicated crew who virtually serve the body of Christ.

“A little while, and you will no longer see me…”

We had heard reports of the virus for weeks.
It didn’t seem real.
Then we learned about social distancing and non-essential businesses.
Then it forced our doors closed.
When would we see each other again, take communion, sip coffee in the fellowship hall?

“…and again a little while, and you will see me.”

Like a thief in the night, holiness transformed our loneliness.
Encouraging chalk messages appeared on sidewalks:
“Stay safe!” “Love is stronger than fear!” “He is risen!”
Pink, green, yellow and blue letters bearing good news greeted us in the morning.
Daylight hours lengthened.

Parents and their kids drove through a neighborhood,
Pausing and honking their horns in front of a house where a four-year-old celebrated his birthday
Behind closed doors.
Neighbors anonymously left groceries on doorsteps.
Strangers in masks cried for each other over job losses,
Trying to make sense of it all.

In a little while, we saw Him —
In each other, in creation, in ourselves.
We still mourn our losses,
But the sanctuary doors are flung wide open today,
In the broken heart of the body.

You Send, I See

You send the September breeze
When my heart aches at seeing summer end.
The breeze ripples through the maple boughs,
Still bendable in the early fall heat,
So that I hear the trees whisper
Of beginnings in the endings.
Of going underground to work the magic of growth.
You send what You know I will see.

Years ago, that Arizona noon hour,
You sent a white dove for me to see
As I wandered, crushed, defeated,
On the crowded sidewalk in that mountain town.
Your dove strolled ahead of me,
With her feathered head bobbing,
Past the best burger joint in town,
Flipping through discarded potato chips
And dodging hurried footsteps
Of people on their lunch breaks.

I was grateful that You sent
That impossibly white dove
On that impossibly discouraging day,
To remind me of Your provision.
Of course it was You,
Holy Spirit,
Helper,

Or maybe the dove was a daily visitor on that street,
And You simply shifted my gaze
Toward her bobbing head,
As she nibbled on crumbs, blissfully unaware
That we see You in her.

When We Had First Begun

I wondered if I’d pass this way again.
Stained glass shimmers in the morning sun;
Worship service ends at half past ten.

“I miss them,” was my thinking now and then;
My soul’s rest in God had just begun.
I wondered if I’d pass this way again.

Bible studies met an idle pen
And contemplation formed a church of one.
Worship service ends at half past ten.

This morning, though, I remembered when
They welcomed me in late October’s sun.
I wondered if I’d pass this way again.

Emerging from the womb of my den,
I join old friends to praise the risen Son.
Worship service ends at half past ten.

Voices soar in praise and sweetly blend,
Recalling days “when we had first begun.”
Grateful that I’ve passed this way again;
Worship need not end at half past ten.