St. Mary Nanoose Bay
March 15, 2020 - LENT #3
These are extraordinary times and we are called to be extraordinary people. What do I mean by that?
Well, the health officials have helped us develop protocols to slow down the spread of this virus that is traveling the world. We’ve all heard and been reminded about proper hygiene. How to wash our hands effectively and repeatedly, not to touch our faces, to sneeze or cough into our elbow or a hanky…. and probably new to us, not to touch others and how to maintain a safe distance. We’ve also been reminded that keeping our immune system strong is important – during this pandemic and always. We need to eat well and get enough sleep.
So, keeping our physical bodies safe is paramount. But, we are not just physical beings. We are social and spiritual beings. Worshiping together and living in community are critical to our health and well being also. Left to our own thoughts and anxieties, to our own company over long periods of time, we can lose our grounding and get unbalanced.
This is why we are gathered here today. To nourish our spirits – to listen to the living word that speaks to our situation today, to pray for one another and the world, to receive the bread that sustains us on our journey, and to remember our role as Christians – to be light for the world.
It’s natural to feel fear. Especially when something is new and unfamiliar. My son just told me about his cat discovering a mirror for the first time. She was freaked out! And it took time for her to get comfortable with seeing her reflection.
The Covid-19 virus is new. And people are scared. Understandably. We can put the pandemic in perspective by comparing it to how many people die in car accidents or from the flus that come through our communities every year, or from cancer, or heart conditions. Seeing the deaths from these different causes might help us calm down.
But fear is fear. And when we fight fear, we create a split inside ourselves. When fear comes up, we can either reach out to someone who has a calming effect on us, or we can learn to calm ourselves. Like a mother who doesn’t judge or argue with her child’s fear, we too can accept our fear and just give it some attention and care, and breathe. Breathing in love and God’s grace, and releasing the fear with our outbreath.
We are being asked to do something very different in light of this pandemic. We are being asked to let go of our agendas – to re-order our priorities. All the things we think we must do, needs to be re-examined - committee meetings, social gatherings, appointments. Is it essential that I attend? Will the world end if I don’t? Many of these decisions are being made for us as one organization and event after another are cancelled or postponed. What is important then?
That we think seriously about the prayer we will say soon – Hear O’Israel. We are being challenged to see ourselves not as individuals but as the Body of Christ, understanding that what affects one of us, affects the whole body. This is, and has always, been true, but often it takes something like this pandemic to wake us up to the reality of our interconnectedness.
These past few days I have been on the phone and on email with people I haven’t had the time to reach out to for months. Suddenly it’s become very important that I do. I want to check in with my loved ones, I want to reassure those friends and family members and parishioners who are destabilized by what they are hearing and learning. Interesting that suddenly I’ve made time for what’s important to me. I personally am not afraid of catching the virus. I am more afraid of catching it and passing it on to some vulnerable person or people so I am being very careful with my hygiene and with going out more than I need to.
This pandemic gives us the opportunity to do our homework. Are we prepared? This might not be the way our lives will end, but we know they will eventually. Can you use this pandemic to wake you to what you need to have in place? Is your will current, do you have a power of attorney, but more importantly, what are you waiting for? Do you have people you need to apologize to, relationships you have neglected?
As one meeting or date after another gets erased off our calendar, this is an amazing opportunity to get organized. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, turn it around to look at what you can do. You’ve been given this time and you can use it creatively! Consider this poem I came across this weekend that was written by the poet Lynn Ungar 4 days ago:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world different than it is.
Touch only those to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move,
invisibly, where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Just before I came to church this morning, I had an email from my husband Jim who is in Portugal.. He is there with students from school They were walking the Camino when they had to turn around in Spain and train to Lisbon where they are waiting to fly home. I had sent him this poem, and here is his response:
I love the poem. There are so many ways to see things. Last night we all had dinner together at a small seafood restaurant. Before we left the couple who owned it came out. The woman said she was worried about her children. Then we talked about how that worry is being shared by mothers all over the world, that we are all the same, and that we hoped the virus would help us realize that we are one human family. Give my love to everyone at St. Mary’s.
I’m asking this community of St. Mary’s to use this time for Sabbath –read your bible, read an inspirational book – (Trefor will help you pick one from our library), reach out to loved ones, reconcile with those from whom you are estranged, journal, pray, walk in nature, really watch Spring arriving in the world around you, try a new grace at meal times, and give thanks for all your blessings. This can be a rich time. This can be a time of great inner growth for our community. Parish Council will be meeting to work out ways that we can stay in touch when we’re not gathering here in our lovely church – ways to extend Sunday beyond our buildings. And this is a good exercise for us anyways.
I read a blog post this weekend by Kyle Norman, son of Peter Norman who served here as priest at St. Mary’s years ago. He wrote that this is a time to think about extending our time of worship and spirituality beyond our Sunday services. We can look at ways of caring for each other beyond what we already do. I’m asking you to (hold up Parish Directory) to call the next person in the Directory after you, today or tomorrow, just to check in.
Ask that person, “How are you doing? Is there anything you would like me to pray for? Is there anything you need help with? What are you grateful for today? “ And if they weren’t at the service today, share what you think they might like know.
If you are concerned about the person you have called, let me know and I will follow up. If you don’t get a call yourself, why not call the person behind you in the Directory, and so on, until you connect with someone. If you feel moved to, continue to connect with the person ahead of you in the Directory once a week until this pandemic fades away.
And I invite those of you who are interested to come together over the distances to pray together every day at 10am the prayer we will pray during Prayers of the People – I will email it to you.
God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to us as we wait in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make us the equal of whatever lies ahead.
Bring us courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.
You know, we can’t control what life puts in our path. What we do have control over is our response. We can make wise decisions based on the best evidence. And we can choose to respond from the place of faith, knowing we are beloved, trusting that we are held in God’s embrace – always, and knowing that even when the end comes, whether today or way down the road, we have a model in Jesus, who showed us that love is always the way through, scary and difficult as life can be, even at the end. We are not alone and our lives will be transformed. Our choice is to work with our fear, develop a discipline of prayer and gratitude, and to continue to turn back to God, the source of everything we truly need.
For today the flowers are blooming, babies are being born, people are falling in love, and God is blessing us with this community of St. Mary’s of which we are such an essential part.
Remember, proceed as if you are needed. And go out to serve in whatever way you can.
Thanks be to God.