This week I have been back in the school building helping teachers in their preparations and packing materials for the summer. It is quite unusual, to say the least, to be doing this with more instructional time in front of us. However, in order for students to be able to get the materials they left at school before the closure took place due to the virus, we needed to do some work in gathering it all together for the great “get your stuff drive-thru” in a few weeks. It is also both unusual and disconcerting to be unable to get closer than six feet to those beside whom you have worked throughout the year. (And in some cases for many years.) My first inclination upon seeing them was to reach out and give handshakes or hugs and it felt so strange not to do so.We had to maintain social distancing, continually wear masks, and wash our hands a lot. What was nice was to have conversations with people face-to-face even if it was from 10 feet apart. One of the most profound conversations I had was with a teacher I admire greatly. After pleasantries we began discussing the virus and church. She asked me how I thought that the virus was working into “God’s plan.” I think I shocked this person greatly when my response was that I did not believe it was part of God‘s plan at all. Smiling a crooked grin, she said I thought you were Presbyterian and you Presbyterians believed in predestination. I laughed and said predestination yes, but what she was talking about was predetermination and I didn’t believe in that at all. It led to a wonderful and deep conversation about God and faith and theology. I was moved by the earnestness of her desire to grow in faith and the grace she showed me in my inadequacy to explain Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the grace of God in times of suffering. I was saddened to hear how so many folks she knew believed that God had planned this event and the suffering as punishment. Or that this pandemic which has caused so much suffering was God’s plan. Folks, these ideas are neither Presbyterian or even sound theology. Predestination has to do with God’s choosing and loving us even before we were born like a parent who loves their child. That kind of love includes giving a child freedom and then even when the child inevitably messes up, being there to lovingly help pick up the pieces. For “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28 So, when folks ask you is this is part of God’s plan, you can tell them that tragedy is never a part of God’s plan, but that God through God’s gracious providence will use it for good. Because we know God chose to us love us even before we knew God. That, my friends, is indeed Amazing Grace. Thanks be to God. After my conversation I went home and did a lot more looking and reading and came across this great video created by the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic. I encourage you to take the time to watch it. Have a great week! Stay safe. Stay Healthy. And social.........distance!
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