The year was 1520; the Reformation had just begun 3 years earlier. Martin Luther would face the Diet of Worms in just a few months’ time. The Muslim armies from what is modern day Turkey were making their way north across Eastern Europe, nothing seemed capable of stopping them. A continent had just been discovered and sailors not only infected people in the new world with European diseases, but they also brought back to Europe new diseases. There were still outbreaks of bubonic plague that could throw whole villages into panic. In 5 years, 100,00 peasants would be killed in the Peasant Revolt in Germany. It was a tumultuous time in Europe. Some were sure it was the end of the world. If these were not the end times, then what else could they be?
A famous remark by Luther at one of his Table Talks, when a student asked him, “Dr. Luther, if you knew the world was going to end tomorrow, what would you do?”, he replied, “I would plant an apple tree.”
What was the point of that? I am not sure, but I think Luther was trying to make a point with his student. That we carry on our work as best we can despite the present circumstances.
What do WE do, when the world we live in is so very different from the world we started with 10 months ago? We plant a tree. We call our neighbor, we join the prayer chain, we roll bandages, we give our money, we donate food, we make meals, we study, we fix things, we build things, we pray, we grieve what we have lost, we go to work, we celebrate the milestones. We even make plans, with the knowledge that those plans may have to change, and then change again.
Faithfulness in these times, to me, seems downright heroic. Just to be good to one another, to me, seems valiant. Just getting the family fed, housed and clothed seems monumental. If they don’t seem that way to you, then give thanks.
Either way, I would admonish you to Celebrate the Small Victories. Take time to notice and celebrate even the minor accomplishments that in normal times we could easily overlook. A school assignment completed, a faucet fixed, a puzzle finished, a rare friendly encounter with a cranky neighbor, a donation made, a goal met, a new healthy habit started, you get the idea. There is so much we cannot control, but there is still so much to give thanks for. Gratitude can keep us from feeling overwhelmed. And as I have written several times before: Worship is an antidote to fear. God bless you and yours as you give thanks and praise, in these strange and difficult times.
Pastor Bob Albing