The First Sunday Of COVID-19 – A Reflection On Exodus 17:1-7

It was The Third Sunday in Lent. We had planned to celebrate the Holy Eucharist beginning with the penitential order. It ended up being a different kind of Sunday; not your usual Third Sunday in Lent.

  • We omitted the penitential order and began the liturgy with a prayer concerning COVID-19.
  • There was no water in the baptismal font. Instead, the font was filled with small sealed plastic cups of holy water. 
  • We kept our distance from each other. 
  • We exchanged the peace with gestures of affection instead of a kiss, hug, or handshake. 
  • We did not pass the offering plates. They stayed on tables at the front and back of the church.
  • We shared communion differently. Bread was carefully laid on open hands, no touching allowed. And there was no dipping your own bread in the wine. Instead, I took the bread from the paten, dipped it in a separate chalice for intinction, and dropped it onto open hands. 

It wasn’t just The Third Sunday in Lent. It was a different kind of Sunday. It was The First Sunday of COVID-19. 

A new liturgical season had begun. And each of us entered a new season of life. The Old Testament reading for that day (Exodus 17:1-7) was about a wilderness journey. That was appropriate. We had just entered the wilderness of COVID-19. 

Like the Israelites we are journeying “by stages,” figuring it out as we go – one day at time, and sometimes one step at a time. Long journeys, especially when you’re not exactly sure of the way or how long it will take, can make you impatient, grumpy, and fearful.

It’s not surprising that the Israelites grumbled and complained. I can imagine them asking if they are almost there, or complaining that they’re tired or bored. “How much longer will it be?” “When will we get there?” “We’re thirsty! We want something to drink.” 

I remember that Spring Break ski trip Cyndy and I took the boys on. We planned to drive straight through from Corpus Christi to Breckenridge. It started out fun – music, snacks, and laughter. But then the grumbling and complaining began. “How much longer until we get there?” “We’ve been driving forever. Are we almost there?” “He’s on my side. Tell him to move over.” 

“Dad. I’m thirsty,” Randy,  my younger son, said. “Why can’t we stop? I’m really thirsty.” “There’s a store. Stop.” I had been listening to that for 5000 miles (and yes, I know it’s only 1100 miles from Corpus to Breckenridge). “Dad, I need something to drink,” he said. That’s when I turned and said, “Well swallow some spit and be quiet!” 

That was not my finest moment as a parent. But I’m pretty sure that even Moses – in more modern times – would have turned and at least said, “Don’t make me stop this car.” 

Wilderness journeys can be difficult and challenging for everyone. We get thirsty for the usual and familiar routine, thirsty for answers and clarity, thirsty for a destination, thirsty for an end to the unknown, the risk, the fear.

I suspect we’ll get thirsty in the wilderness of COVID-19. Be gentle and patient with yourselves and others, wash your hands, and swallow some spit. The Israelites got to the promised land. Cyndy, the boys, and I got to Colorado. And we’ll get through the wilderness of COVID-19.

One of the things I noticed on The First Sunday of COVID-19 is that, even with all the changes we made to the liturgy, I didn’t miss what we omitted or the way we used to do it. I missed people who weren’t there. And I found myself being more intentional about what we were doing and more attentive to who was there. 

It wasn’t liturgy as usual. I was present in a different way. The changes allowed for and even demanded a different type of presence.

What if we let the current inconvenience and disruption focus our attention on who and what really matters? What if we let it make us more intentional about what we choose to do or not do? That sounds a lot like a holy Lent, the kind by which lives are changed, and resurrection is experienced. I pray you a blessed and holy Lent.


  1. Insightful and wise. An apropos analogy. Thank you. Personally, I’m noticing exactly how much I trust in God – or rather, keep making the choice to trust in God. I have a ton of food – as much as usual. Maybe a bit more. I do NOT need to go to the store NOW for more. What if I run out of bananas? Buying more bananas NOW is not going to give me fresh bananas in 2 weeks. What if I run out of tissues? I use a lot of tissues! I should go get more tissues! I have 3 boxes – they won’t be gone in 2 days. Do I have enough dental floss? Soap? I need to find beans! There aren’t any BEANS!!! I have 10 cans of beans. I always have about 10 cans of beans! It’s okay if I get down to…2 cans of beans. Or 0 cans of beans. So God has been working with me for a while now on “enoughness” issues (my own perception of myself, my finances, bringing dessert to a party – am I bringing ENOUGH??? Should I make MORE???? etc) So here we are. Down to brass tacks, as it were. It activates, I look to God, He tamps it down. So I continue to not run out to the grocery store, reminding myself that in God, I have all I need. And He will provide. Besides, I don’t have room for 500 rolls of toilet paper anyway LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Judi, that’s such a great comment and made me laugh. Thank you. I suspect we all live with that question of enoughness – not only do I have enough but am I enough. This time of pandemic sure holds before questions about what and how much is enough, what really matters, how we want to be.

      I hope you are well. Take care.

      Peace be with you.


  2. June of this year will be my second year since being ordain as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. I am sure that I am not the only one who has never gone through times like this. I don’t believe in coincidences and I searched hard to think about ,not so much what I would give up during lent but what I would exchange for Lent. Many weeks ago I exchanged Trust for doubt. Not doubt about my spiritual life but doubt in handling everyday life. I think exchange is a good way to put it, because if our glass is full it won’t be able to take anything else on. So I chose to take Trust and remove Doubt. Well it is being tested and tested well. These are hard times, but by grabbing onto and holding firm to the trust that God is with me in all I do, amazing things happen. I am able to focus on where I am to be in all of this. Where do I serve when the places I normally serve no longer let us in. How do I serve those in Rehab Hospitals, Out Reach Centers, those with addiction. How do I serve the parishioners since we cannot meet publicly. I am taking the time to trust and listen to what God is telling me. Practicing the very things that he has been instructing me to do throughout my Deaconate process. I listen for the gentle voice of the one whom I chose to serve. As Deacons we are charged to be out in the world. Now we have to find creative ways to continue to do that without totally endangering ourselves or those around us. Sorry for the lengthy writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and insights. There is a lot of wisdom in exchanging rather than just giving up. Something will always fill the space created by what we let of of so better to choose it than wait and see. Your questions about how we be in the world are going to be with us for a while, I think – even after the pandemic is “over.”

      Blessings on your ministry and those you care for. May God give you wisdom, creativity, and imagination – and keep you safe. Peace be with you.



  3. There was the time when Moses escaped Midian in fear. But then he sat down by a well and it seems that God came to him and his life was never the same. Maybe there is something to be said for “be still and wait.” Just a thought.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s right on point Jerry. It’s a common theme in scripture and good wisdom for life – discerning when and how to act but also when to wait, listen, reflect.

      God’s peace be with you.


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