Coronavirus Message – May 6th

Can we exit the “wilderness school” a better community?


Beloved community,


A couple of weeks ago I reflected on Dan Erlander’s concept of “the wilderness school,” those times on life’s journey when God works with our ‘wilderness souls’ and seeks to open us, teach us and enliven us for the work of the reign of God, here and now.  This time of pandemic crisis certainly provides elements of a ‘wilderness’ sojourn for many of us.


The great story of “the wilderness school” in scripture was the 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai Peninsula of Moses and the Exodus people preparing to enter the promised land.  As Erlander’s overview of the Bible continues, the story of the people of Israel is transformed by God’s surprise, the story of God not giving up on God’s covenant people no matter how many times they turned away into wildernesses imposed on them and of their own making, the story of Immanuel, God with us.  The culmination of the story of Jesus, God with us, and his “troublemaking” was a mission entrusted to his followers, to invite all people to repent and receive the gift of forgiveness to advance a community of the reign of God, “a family where there is no hierarchy, no retribution, no hoarding, no oppression – only servanthood, only abundant manna and abundant mercy for all.”  (Manna and Mercy, p. 59)   Life in this ‘contrast society’ would be a sign of God’s purpose for all of creation.  Life in such a society would be a sign of ‘graduation’ from the wilderness school.


So, my sisters and brothers, can we exit the “wilderness school” of this COVID-19 pandemic a better community?  What can we learn from our ‘sheltering in place’ and the isolation of our required ‘distancing?’  Does God still inspire God’s people in their wilderness times?


I read recently of Dr. Sheyna Gifford, the Health and Safety Officer with the NASA Mars Simulation, a research project that spent a year locked up in a bunker at 8200 feet elevation on the side of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano.  In lockdown for a year with five other people, Gifford learned a few things about living in isolation.  One tip she shared for getting through such a time was, “When in doubt, assume the best of others.”


When in doubt, assume the best of others.  That simple maxim would turn our current reactionary practices of mistrust and antagonism upside down.  In recent years we have, as a society, seemed to respond with increasing consistency by assuming the worst of others.  Our tendency to polarized proclamation of the ‘other’ as ‘enemy,’ nurturing hostility and even hatred toward the ‘other,’ is certainly not among the best attributes in our 21st century political climate, a climate that spills over and  into our daily lives.  


We are challenged, while making our ‘wilderness school’ pilgrimage, to do better related to one another when our time comes to leave the wilderness of this pandemic.  In the May 5 “Interfaith Inform” column published by the Kauffman Interfaith Institute, guest columnist Kevin McIntosh shared this viral social media poem written by Laura Kelly Fanucci, envisioning what happens next when we emerge from this time:


When this is over,

may we never again

take for granted

A handshake with a stranger

Full shelves at the store

Conversations with neighbors

A crowded theatre

Friday night out

A taste of communion

A routine checkup

The school rush each morning

Coffee with a friend

The stadium roaring

Each deep breath

A boring Tuesday

Life itself.

When this ends,

may we find

that we have become

more like the people

we wanted to be

we were called to be

we hoped to be

and may we stay

that way – better

for each other

because of the worst.


When in doubt, assume the best of others.  May we become more like the people we wanted to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be, as exit this pandemic wilderness.  Life in such a ‘contrast society’ would be a sign of God’s purpose for all of creation.  Life in such a society would be a sign of ‘graduation’ from the wilderness school, and that we remain a teachable people in our covenant with God almighty.


A blessed Eastertime friends.


Grace and peace,


Pastor Bob Linstrom



2700 Fulton St. E
Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Our Mission

Trinity Lutheran Church is a dynamic family called by God to nurture each other in our daily journeys of faith and to joyfully increase our response to all people in need, sharing God’s gifts of love and grace.