Two remarkable things happened in my life this past weekend: card games and a choir rehearsal. Now, in and of themselves, playing cards and singing with others are not unusual activities for me. But the specific things we were doing? Those were noteworthy to me:

On Saturday evening, we played euchre in our church’s fellowship hall. On Sunday evening, we had the first rehearsal for the upcoming “Lamb of God” choral/orchestral production.

The last time both of those things happened was three years ago, immediately before the covid-19 pandemic began.

We had been having monthly euchre nights at Mt. Haley in the winter of 2020, and it was always a great time! People brought food to share, we were paired up with partners and opponents at random, and we shared lots of fun and conversation throughout the evening. Playing euchre was a low-stress way to gather people together, in ways that leveled the playing field. Sure, some people were better players than others; a few were just learning the game. But we all sat around the same tables, played with the same cards, bemoaned bad hands, and cheered for good plays. Our euchre nights drew people together from the whole community, not just from our congregation. Those evenings were wonderful experiences…but they came to an abrupt end in March of 2020.

“Lamb of God” is a relatively recent composition which tells the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection through choir members, soloists, and instrumentalists. It’s actually pretty cool: various people sing the parts of Peter, Martha, all the various Marys in the story, Thomas, Pilate, Judas, and others. A couple of people serve as narrators of the biblical story. But Jesus himself is represented by a cello: no words, only music. My friend Jenny Lowe pulled this event together for the first time in 2019, and we repeated it again in 2020. Both times, I sang the part of Thomas, the one who doubts that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead until he sees Jesus with his own eyes. We were fortunate to perform “Lamb of God” in February 2020, just a couple of weeks before public performances came to a screeching halt.

For the past three years, neither our euchre nights nor the “Lamb of God” performance has taken place in our community. But both of them are finally starting up again, and last weekend I got to participate in both. It was a surreal experience to do things that were so familiar and yet seemed so much like distant memories. I have grown and changed in the past three years, as have all the other folks around the euchre tables and in the rehearsal space. Last night, Jenny mentioned that one of the choir members from 2019 and 2020 had been persistently hopeful about singing “Lamb of God” again, but unfortunately that person passed away a few weeks ago.

Life is not the same as it was three years ago. When the pandemic began, we knew we would not go back to “normal,” whatever that meant. And we haven’t gone back to “normal.” We have moved ahead, changed, suffered, grieved, grown, wrestled, made mistakes, enjoyed successes, had failures.

But we can still (once again) gather around the euchre table and share life together.

We can still (once again) gather in the rehearsal space and sing songs about the life of Jesus.

As Thomas sings in his main solo in “Lamb of God”:

Not now, but in the coming years
It may not be when we demand
We’ll read the meaning of our tears
And there, sometime, we’ll understand
Why what we long for most of all
Eludes our open, pleading hand
Why ever silence meets our call
Somewhere, sometime, we’ll understand

So trust in God through all thy days
Fear not, for He doth hold thy hand
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise
Sometime, sometime we’ll understand

(music and lyrics by Rob Gardner)

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