Last week, I started a hydroponic garden on our kitchen counter. I planted micro greens, basil, lavender, dill, and parsley. As I watch the seeds begin to sprout I am reminded that some seeds grow faster than others. They all have the same water and the same light, but I noticed that the micro greens are all at different stages. One micro green pod hasn’t quite sprouted yet and the other plants are also slow. I like to think these seeds are a little like church: some ministries grow faster than others. Some ministries grow strong roots, some die quickly, and some never really sprout.
Ministry is hard right now! Just as we began to feel “free” again and made plans for fall ministry, the delta variant arrived. Few things are certain about the fall, but we continue to move ahead. We continue to adjust and adapt. We continue to re-evaluate and re-invent. It seems like things continue to change daily and, frankly, it’s exhausting!
Ministry in a pandemic is full of unknowns; it requires flexibility and adaptability. All of these things are as difficult for pastors as they are for congregations. Sometimes it feels like we are just treading water… for eighteen months… with no end in sight.
I often find myself turning to Jeremiah for comfort and encouragement when the constant change feels overwhelming. Jeremiah speaks words of hope to the people in exile: “I know the plans I have in mind for you, decares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”(29:11) But Jeremiah’s call includes “to dig up and pull down, to destroy and demolish, to build and to plant.” (1:10) When do we take time to dig up and destroy the old so we can build and plant something new? We don’t usually choose to dig up the old, instead destruction is forced upon us.
For example, we wouldn’t choose to start a forest fire, but we actually need some fires to restore and rebuild the forests. Yes, we have too many uncontrollable fires and other problems that lead to severe problems, but some fires are part of the forest’s life cycle. Death makes way for new life. In a similar way, I think the pandemic has given us an opportunity to let go of the old and build something new. You might say we have the chance to plant new seeds in freshly tilled soil. Some of the seeds fell from the plants that died eighteen months ago, and other seeds may be completely new!
I look forward to seeing what new life God has planted among us. The hard part is, our ministry garden will never look like it did 18 months ago. Things will never be what they once were. And maybe that is a good thing. Maybe the disruption of a pandemic is actually a blessing; a cleansing fire that allows us to plant new seeds in fresh soil. And maybe we need to be okay with that reality. Life and ministry will never be the same, but God has a future filled with hope.