Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 80, June 1, 2020
“Row to the end”

On December 2, 1940 Winston Churchill received a letter from Max Aitken, or as he was known by his official title, “Lord Beaverbrook.” A trusted ally of Churchill’s, Lord Beaverbrook had been enlisted to serve as the Minister of Aircraft Production, a critical role as Britain desperately needed to protect their skies. Beaverbrook served admirably, but occasionally he would get tired of the struggle of his office, and he would grow especially tired of his critics. Churchill received a letter from Lord Beaverbrook on December 2, 1940 in which Beaverbrook resigned, saying, “I am not now the man for the job. I will not get the necessary support.” Churchill responded, “There is no question of me accepting your resignation. As I told you, you are in the galleys and will have to row to the end.” (From Erik Larson’s new book, “The Splendid and the Vile,” p. 302)

I read these words of Churchill on Saturday, just two days ago. It was a splendid New England afternoon, finally warm enough to sit outside, blessed with a breeze that was gentle not blustery, birds singing and the sun shining. It was just about the perfect time for me to call up Mr. Coronavirus and tell him I was resigning. I’m done with this. You blew into town three months ago and you have had your way with us, but enough is enough. I’m done with you and I want to have life back the way I like it, normal, untroubled by you and your pesky pandemic.

Darn you Winston Churchill! You had to interrupt my fine resignation speech and state the reality that needed to be stated. Despite my wishes to resign and be done with Mr. Coronavirus, I am in the galleys and I am going to have to row to the end. Although I can be as self-centered as the next person and think something as meaningful as this quote from the great statesman is just for me, I’m pretty sure the message is for you as well. In fact, the message is for all of us. We are in this and we are going to have to row to the end.

When Julie was doing Interfaith work in Houston, her friends in the Jewish community introduced her to Rabbi Tarfun, who said, “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Julie started working at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston in the spring of 2001. At that time rowing in the galleys involved things like resettling refugees from Sudan, Liberia, and Afghanistan. At that time rowing in the galleys led to bringing different faith groups together and working to foster understanding and cooperation instead of conflict and division. At that time rowing in the galleys resulted in sponsoring a Day of Service for the whole city of Houston, restoring an African American cemetery that had become overgrown with weeds and numerous other endeavors to help the hurting. At that time rowing in the galleys included delivering Meals on Wheels to 30,000 people.

Rabbi Tarfun lived in the years after the fall of the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 CE. The fall of the temple was a devastating time for the Jewish people. Churchill served during the darkest days of World War II. Not long after Julie was introduced to the quote from Rabbi Tarfun planes struck the World Trade Towers and other targets. Our nation was called on to respond to the horrors of a terror attack.

Saturday afternoon, when I thought I had had just about enough with Mr. Coronavirus and I was composing my resignation letter, fires were burning in the streets of many of our major cities. Our nation was trying to come to grips with the senseless death of a black man who was struggling to breathe. Who does not want to resign and wish it would all go away?

Darn you Winston Churchill! Darn you Rabbi Tarfun! When I want to resign and run and hide, there you are calling me to row to the end and telling me that even though I am not obligated to complete the task neither am I free to desist from it.

And then there is that preacher in Hebrews who starts naming names, names like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Rahab, names of those who have lived by faith, names of those who did not desist from the task, names of those who rowed until their end, who rowed faithfully until their end, because they believed in a better future, because they believed in a better hope, because they believed God was not done with this world. After naming names in Hebrews 11, the preacher calls us to action. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” At that point the preacher in Hebrews then names the name that matters most. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

There it is. Jesus did not resign. Jesus did not desist. Jesus rowed until the end, until the very end. Because Jesus did not resign, it is Jesus who now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Anyway, it is Monday, June 1st. This is day 80 in our daily devotional. And here on Monday, June 1st, the message is pretty clear. Get back to the galley. Grab an oar. And keep rowing. Keep rowing until the end.

With the love of Christ,