St. Mary Nanoose Bay
April 19, 2020 John 20:19-31
Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter
Almighty and Eternal God
the strength of those who believe
and the hope of those who doubt,
may we, who have not seen, have faith
and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ! We are on the other side of Easter. We are in the miracle days where we grapple with the truth that death is not the end. And not only that God never deserts us, God doesn’t punish us for our shortcomings, sins or outbursts. God doesn’t ever withdraw love from us when we doubt, fall away or forget. God’s love is beyond what we can really grasp yet it’s worth our every effort to allow God’s love in to change our hearts and ways. In 2015, when Jim and I walked the path along the Grand Canal in Ireland, from the west coast to the east, I found myself praying the prayer I learned 25 years ago at my Cursillo:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us Your faithful
and kindle in us the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your spirit and we shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Walking for hours on end everyday, I never knew what I would see around each bend in the path, although after a day or two, I became familiar with the formerly unfamiliar surroundings. I didn’t know the names of the plants growing by the canal, but I came to recognize them. The peat farms with their rich dark earth were unlike any farms I had ever seen, yet within hours of starting to walk, I went from “What on earth is that?” to, “Oh, that’s another peat farm.” The first day walking, my mind could not stop thinking, “When are we getting there?!” and by day two, there was room for other thoughts, ideas and questions. By day 5, my mind was floating lightly and I was so much more aware of all the little details around me – how the light changed as the day progressed, the difference in the birds’ songs, and little movements as ducks wove in and out of the weeds. I noticed the clouds and the sense I would get that it was going to rain soon. I was acutely aware of my surroundings, my thoughts and my responses to both. It was a lovely sense of “being in the moment” and sensing my place in Creation. I wasn’t at the centre; I was a tiny, yet beloved, part. And I knew that with every footstep I was being changed; I wasn’t sure how, but it was all OK with me. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to arrive in Dublin, I was enjoying the journey so much!
….we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth.
We are in a time of great unknowing. The familiar has changed. In early March could we even guess how different our lives would be within a couple of weeks? Yet here we are, part way through a journey to where, we’re not sure. We’re in a desert time, and we don’t know where the promised land is. We just know it is promised to us. And let’s be clear, there is plenty of life in the desert. It’s just more hidden. We have to look for it and we have to be prepared as we live and move through it because water and food are more scarce. We have to be prepared; we have to be alert; and very present to what life in the desert requires of us.
I once was looking to do some spiritual work and investigating where I would like to go on retreat. One of the places I was looking at was in the desert, and the person I spoke with at the retreat centre there told me: “Come to the desert, there are few places to hide. You will see quickly where your spiritual work is, as you will not be able to run and hide from the truth.” That appealed to me….. and terrified me in equal parts!!
During this time of Covid-19, our “stuff” is going to come up. And instead of feeling overwhelmed, or fearful, we can use this time as a gift to do our own inner work.
I have learned that liquor sales have gone up 40% in the last month. I heard a woman interviewed on CBC say that there has been a sharp spike in domestic violence. What really caught my attention was when she said, “The Covid virus is not responsible for this violence, it has only exacerbated what is already there.”
This time of Covid is a time to look at the changes we see in the world around us – the good and the bad. Both the good and the bad have been amplified. Are we paying attention? What is our response? Are we waiting impatiently to “get back to normal”? Or are we doubting, like Thomas, that hope for a new world, a new life, is possible/real?
As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, there is no going back to “normal.” Yes, with time we regain the ability to reconnect with the world, but the world has changed. Our loved one is no longer in it. And so we adjust to the new normal. We come to accept the presence of their absence.
We are not going to be able to go back to “normal.” Not with what we’ve seen and learned. We have seen how most people are willing to sacrifice their personal freedom for the common good – something we haven’t seen on this scale for many decades. We have seen how systems may not be adequate, but people’s care and compassion and generosity have made the difference. We have seen how problems that seemed impossible to deal with are being dealt with quickly and sensitively. Money is getting to people who need it. Shelter is being found for people who need it. People are using the time to learn life-serving skills – cooking, baking, planting and caring for vegetable gardens. Relationships are either under unbearable strain, or are blossoming as people invest the time that they were too busy for before the pandemic. Children are spending more time with their parents and hopefully learning really important life lessons in the security of their own homes.
Yes, the economy is suffering but was it really sustainable as it was? The poor were getting poorer and poorer and the rich were becoming ridiculously wealthy.
The environment, which has been at the forefront of our awareness, is healing without our best efforts; simply by our staying home and not rushing around, the earth is responding positively. And we are benefitting from cleaner air and water.
Do we want to go back?! To all that pollution and stress on our planet and our bodies?
This is a time to live into our response.
Jim and I have been traveling a lot in the last decade – going to Europe every other year to do pilgrimage. A worthy thing, yes, and walking does wear very lightly on the earth. But flying to and from Europe has a heavy footprint. We are now talking about making a commitment to travel less. We’re not ready to say “not at all,” but we are having the conversation because we want to respond to the changes that are happening in our world in a concrete and meaningful way.
I’ve said this before, but Jesus came and turned the world upside down. Some people walked with him through enormous change, saw the world change, and were changed forever themselves.
We have an opportunity to use this time when our world has been turned upside down to sustain or make the changes necessary to make this a kinder, cleaner, more just world for our children and grandchildren and their offspring.
We don’t need to make commitments right now. But let’s start talking and sharing ideas!
If you have doubts, or worries, or concerns, don’t fret. We have an open relationship with Jesus. We don’t have to pretend to be other than we are. We are simply asked to share our doubts, fears, and worries with Jesus. And He will answer! Look at how he responded to Thomas with his doubts. He didn’t shame, he wasn’t punitive. He met Thomas where he was, and gave him what he needed to move forward.
Are we being asked to see this time of Covid as an opportunity to move more closely into relationship with God and God’s plan for our future?
The question is always the same – are you in relationship or not? Because a relationship with God, as with anyone, is dynamic. And these are dynamic times. Are we on the other side of the cross and grave? Or are we still at the foot of the cross, wondering? Or are we completely denying the miracle in our midst and trying to “do” life ourselves?
Christ has risen, Christ has risen indeed. And this knowledge lies our hope and our future.
Loving God – Help us receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing so You can renew the face of the Earth.