"Coronavirus precautions and cancellations have pushed many of us into a desert time."
These opening words from a sermon preached on Sunday, March 15, by Pastor Kelly Jane Caesar at East Hartford Congregational Church, remind us that in these forty days of Lent we remember our Lord's desert time, and that of the Israelites after escaping from Egypt.
Pastor Kelly Jane suggests that we face three spiritual challenges in confronting this especially difficult and stressful desert time: loss – of freedom to do what we want to do, of control, and perhaps even of income; self-control – away from meetings, worship, office, we can skip out, avoid, defer; and caring for the least of these –we may be immobilized by fear and fail to continue our outreach to those who may lose their jobs, be anxious, need support.
The staff and instructors at Mercer are working from home, while scrambling to find alternative ways to continue our educational programs online, via email, or just by keeping in touch with and encouraging each other and our students.
"Deserts can be viewed as barren, bleak spaces devoid of water and life. Deserts can also be seen as places of openness and exploration; Indeed many mystics retreated to the desert in search of a closer relationship with the Divine. Instead of a crowded forest of activities and responsibilities, we find ourselves with space to breathe and explore space to see the Divine anew.
Pastor Kelly's closing prayer for us:
In this desert time,
may we practice sabbath in the midst of loss,
care for others with humble honesty about our gifts,
and support one another in the midst of temptation,
that we might use this desert time to draw near to God.