I recommend a book of pandemic reflections titled God Holds You. Sarah Scherschligt pastors a diverse-in-every-way church (Peace Lutheran) on the western edge of Alexandria, Virginia. When the world shut down on March 15, 2020, she sent an evening missive to the people she pastors after she put her children to bed.
“This thought came to mind as I cuddled my little one to sleep tonight: God will hold you,” it began.
She continued sending out evening missives for the next 13 months. Our lives, the economy, and our politics were in more-than-the-usual turmoil. But in her gracious reflections, Sarah invited the members of her church - and in this book invites us - to see our tumultuous world through the eyes of her soul as pastor, mother, activist, wife, and neighbor.
You might use her reflections as daily devotions. I read them one after the other, and halfway through the book I realized they had indeed given me a freshly vivid sense of God’s presence in the everyday.
Since I’m an analytical sort of person, I asked myself, “What makes her think God holds us?”
I quickly reviewed the first half of the book, writing down the specific events or thoughts that gave her a sense of God-with-us. I continued taking notes as I finished the book.
Mostly, she sees God’s presence in relationships with family, church members, neighbors, and society. She also sees God in nature, art, children, and inspiring efforts to address big social problems (the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of those months, for example).
Listing these signs of God made me think of something St. Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Sarah has made this way of thinking a habit.
Her reflections are also laced with references to Jesus, Bible stories, and worship services. They encourage her faith that God is with us, hope even in terrible times, and love for everybody. They lead her to be politically active and to teach others to be active on both environmental and poverty issues. This kind of pastoral work is a foundation for a lasting improvement in the politics of poverty.
Sarah uses her book to lead pandemic reflections for groups via zoom or in person. She also has a group reflection guide she is happy to share. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The photo I'm sending out with this post shows me with Sarah and an activist neighbor, Christy Schwengel. Christy introduced me to Sarah and invited us to her home to discuss Sarah’s memorable book.