Dear Friends in Christ—
There is a theological concept of time known as the “already but not yet.” And, boy, are we living into that concept big time.
The basic idea of “already but not yet” is that Jesus has already come and accomplished the work of salvation. He was born, died, and risen, defeating death once and for all. The kingdom is here. And . . . the kingdom is also not here. We look around and see that the work of salvation is not complete. There is still suffering, pain, and loss in the world. Already, but not yet.
The theology applies on a cosmic scale, but I have also been thinking of it closer to home as we manage COVID. We are already there—we have a vaccine, and a way out. And yet we are not yet there. Variants are rising and making us limit our activities again. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and the light didn’t go away, but the tunnel sure got longer.
I want to say something about this in practical terms, and in theological terms.
Practically, Grace Church continues to take COVID seriously. Your Executive Committee and I worked to develop guidelines which correlate increasing mitigation efforts with increasing infection rates. You can read these guidelines, check the rates, and know what to expect at church. (Last weekend, Alexandria’s rate ticked up to the point that we are now distancing further in church and, as a result, asking for sign-ups for our 9:00 service.)
Not every individual is emotionally experiencing or practically managing COVID risk in the same way. My hope is that these guidelines—while not perfect—will be transparent. You can look at them and make an informed choice about whether you want to worship in person or via livestream.
Theologically, we are waiting—and while this is hard, it is also something Christians know how to do. We talk about waiting every Advent, and we acknowledge what we are waiting for every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer: thy kingdom come. We are looking ahead to God’s reign. And so, even when we are tired—tired to the point of despair—we have cause for hope. I want to remind you that this is who you are, and this is what we Christians do: hope.
God is coming to be with us in ways that bring healing and flourishing to this world. It hasn’t happened yet. But God is with us already, and God will never let us go.
Yours in Christ,