Neil Diamond remakes ‘Sweet Caroline’ for coronavirus pandemic: Finding new ways to be the church

Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond recorded “Sweet Caroline” in 1969. The song sold more than one million singles and has been digitally downloaded more than two million times. It was selected by the Library of Congress in 2019 for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

However, the song has never been as appropriate or encouraging as it is today. Diamond rerecorded the song from his home and released it on Twitter, changing the lyrics to say, “Hands . . . washing hands . . . reaching out . . . don’t touch me, I won’t touch you!” 

Another celebrity in the news is basketball superstar Steph Curry, who is partnering with a major food provider to distribute millions of meals in and around Oakland. What makes their partnership especially unique is that the company will be employing idled basketball arena workers who need a paycheck.

“Drive-thru” confessions and a poet who will talk to anyone 

As I have written often in recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unprecedented in my lifetime. It therefore represents an unprecedented opportunity for God’s people to advance his kingdom in our broken world. 

Let’s consider some ways our secular culture is serving others that Christians could adapt in these critical days. 

poet in Italy published his cellphone number on social media with the notice that anyone could call him who wanted to talk. “I am available every morning from nine until noon,” he said. More than a hundred calls have come in from all over the country. 

People in China, Iran, and around the world are finding very creative ways to stay connected through digital means. Priests in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area heard “drive-thru” confessions over the weekend as parishioners spoke with them from their cars or while sitting under special tents at a safe distance. 

How many people could we serve if we made ourselves available to them through our phones, email, texts, or social media? 

A woman in Belgium with 20 percent lung capacity has started an at-home army of people sewing masks for healthcare workers. Passenger airlines are shifting idled planes into the freight business to generate revenue but also to relieve growing shipping congestion. 

What can we do to serve people we couldn’t serve before? 

‘The Holy Spirit will teach you’ 

These Daily Article Special Editions were started so we could speak specifically to the fears of our day with a “fear not” or similar assurance from God’s word. The fear I’d like us to address today is the fear of leaving our comfort zone, of offending someone by sharing biblical truth with them, of embarrassing ourselves in the eyes of others. 

This is an understandable fear most of us face when we take a social risk. But it is a fear we must choose to reject for the sake of those who deeply need what we have been entrusted to share. 

What if you don’t know what to say? 

Jesus assured his followers: “Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you should say” (Luke 12:11–12). If you are available, God will make you able. 

What if others reject what you share with them? 

Jesus told us, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). It’s not about us. The more people reject or ignore God’s word, the more they need God’s word. 

If God uses us in this crisis to lead people to himself, they will forever be grateful. And so will we. 

A perceptive note from a very dear friend 

A very dear friend sent a note to his Sunday school class over the weekend in which he writes: “Opportunity. A word that keeps returning to the forefront of my mind, as if God gently whispers: ‘Look past the fear and open your eyes to my work, for I am moving.’ Could it be that this pandemic is our opportunity to be light in the darkness? Or a neighbor to the neighborless?” 

He then asks: “Who is your neighbor? To whom can we be neighbors today? Do you know someone in need of the Samaritan’s help? Is an elderly neighbor in need of groceries? Could you call or FaceTime a family member in senior living who can have no visitors? Do you know a young mom struggling with isolation and school closure? Or who needs to be at work but cannot because her daycare is not available or because her employer sent her home?” 

My friend adds that he began each morning at work by sending a Psalm to all his employees. He is also leading them to select a social service ministry they can support together. He closes: “This day, as you leave your home, whether in person or through social media, ask God to present opportunities to be light and to be a neighbor. In the history of these last two thousand years, Christians are well documented to serve and to sacrifice. 

“Will we join them?” 

NOTE: I invite you to follow me on Instagram, where I post new content each day; on Facebook and on our website, where I post new articles daily; and on Twitter, where I link through the day to breaking news in a biblical perspective. I hope this additional content is helpful to you as we serve Jesus and each other in these days.