Distance Learning

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

I work in a school, and on March 12 we dismissed students a day early for our Spring Break because the Governor had ordered all schools to close due to COVID-19. Of course, we had no idea that school wouldn’t be back in session for the remainder of the academic year. 

Since then, like many educators, students, and supportive families across the world, we’ve attempted to cope with this new reality. From new distance learning platforms and video conferencing tools to drive-by graduation parties and online award ceremonies, we have been struggling to be human without the real presence of humanity. 

Now, we wait for a new normal to arrive without any idea what that new normal may bring. Will there be a second wave of this deadly virus? Will there be a vaccine or a miracle treatment that makes all this go away? Will the economy survive — and if so, at what cost in human lives? Perhaps most poignant of all – will life ever be the same again? On some level, I imagine this is what the apostles were asking Jesus when they said, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” 

We (humans) seem to have a bit of an obsession with returning to a prior state of being. I think we must imagine that it would be a bit like slipping into a favorite pair of sweatpants or putting on a good shoe that has formed itself to the shape of our foot. In our imagination, these favorite items are perfectly matched to us, and we are supremely comfortable in them. In reality, of course, those favorite sweatpants are now two sizes too small and that shoe has a worn-out sole. We are different creatures today than we were yesterday. 

When my school finally does open its doors again, it will not be the same. The loss of what was is certainly worthy of our grief, but we must not simply stand around staring. Now is the time to begin forming new rhythms and habits which will sustain us until the new world is born. 

The passage from 1 Peter is comforting in this season when it seems the whole world is suffering. Stay alert, lay down your anxiety, and remember that this season will pass. It may take another month or a year or perhaps even longer, but one day even COVID-19 will be a thing of the past, and a new world will have dawned. 

As Christians, this is surely a familiar message. The old world has passed away. A new world is coming. In the meantime, we’re stuck in the tension that exists between the two. Jesus used to be with us in person, but now he has gone away and for more than 2,000 years we’ve been practicing distance learning through the Spirit. 

In the midst of all that’s going on, our work has not changed. The format makes it more difficult to give and receive instruction, but the basic content remains the same. Our students must still learn math. We are still called to seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Perhaps you, like the disciples, are wondering if the world will ever be the same again.

Perhaps you are still staring up at the sky, wondering and hoping that everything will come to a quick and easy resolution. 

Perhaps you are hunkered down in an upper room, devoting yourself to new rhythms and practices to maintain your sanity as you wait. 

Perhaps you are already living in a new reality, navigating the new bumps and contours of a world that used to be familiar. 

Wherever you are in the story, I hope you know that you are not alone. Receive this blessing from 1 Peter: 

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will indeed restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.” Amen. 

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