Empty Parking Lots, Full Hearts

One of the strangest, almost eerie, things to see these days are church parking lots empty on a Sunday morning.  It is one thing to witness this during the summer months when churches often have different schedules, but during the regular program year?  In the middle of Lent?  Unheard of!

Of course, there is a good reason the parking lots of churches are empty on Sunday morning.  We are all currently practicing social distancing as a means of combating the coronavirus, Covid-19.

With the Melrose Day Care out of session and virtually all other programming halted, it is very odd to have our church so quite.  It makes you realize how blessed we are to have such a bustling church in “normal times”.

But times right now aren’t normal, are they?  There is, instead, a new normal.  That new normal, however, does not have to resemble our parking lot during the past few Sunday mornings.

The emptiness of the parking lot doesn’t have to equal emptiness of heart.

In fact, I would say that our hearts are very full right now.  The question is: What are we choosing to fill our hearts with these days.  For too many people, their hearts are filled with fear and apprehension.  If that’s you, take a peek at my article from last week as well as my daily audio postings on the church website.  That may help.

But I’d say it is quite understandable that anxiety has taken up residence in our hearts.  There’s good reason.  That’s why it takes a special effort (call it a Lenten spiritual discipline if you want to!) to cast out fear.

Fear doesn’t like to leave.  And we don’t necessarily want it to leave either.  That’s because fear is easy.  It’s what everyone else is feeling so it must be right to feel this way.  In fact, being positive would feel like a kind of betrayal or a denial of what’s happening right now.  At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

Here’s what I would say: Being upbeat and positive has never been more important.  It is not at all the same thing as putting your head in the sand.  It is, instead, an act of defiance of sorts.  One way of fighting this virus is to stand up to the negativity and fear it is generating and say “No!  I’m not going to be dragged down again today.  Today I’m going to be optimistic.  I’ll fake it if I have to, but I’m going to set out to find things that are going well today.”

Right now, I don’t know of a better way to fight this virus’ assault on our mental wellbeing, spiritual life and social interactions.

And in those moments when you feel fearful and unsure, remember that the light of Christ surrounds you each moment of your life.  Some people even find it helpful to “claim the cloak of Christ”.  That is, to mentally picture surrounding yourself with the cloak of Christ’s protection, guidance, love, and renewed energy.

God doesn’t want you have a heart that is empty like our parking lot has been recently.  God also doesn’t want you to have a heart filled with fear and worry.  Instead, God wants you to have a heart filled with love, peace, and wholeness.

It may take some intentional effort on your part, but you can show fear the door and welcome in a new approach to living these days that is filled with the very light of Christ.

In Christ,

–Rev. Dominic