Sometimes we miss the point, we get lost in the details of life rather than focusing on what really matters. I'm just as guilty, being a process driven person, sometimes I get muddled in the details while missing the point. These details are important right now in a world where a computer screen is between you and I, in the midst of a challenge not seen in recent human history. Wanting to be safe at the moment often feels like wanting to be right in the midst of all this constant information we are having to digest. Do we mask or do we not? Do we need four months of supplies or not? Is soap better than sanitizer, what about clorox wipes rather than toilet paper. What even is the issue with toilet paper?! I think we are getting stuck in the details asking for validation while the works of God’s kingdom pass us by.
When I sent the parish out into the world last Sunday my voice quivered with a deep sense of what Christ and the disciples felt on Holy or Maundy Thursday. That great night, when Jesus gathered with his disciples for a final meal, the Eucharist, and served them by washing their feet, is rife with feelings of unease, fear of difference, the unknown, isolation, and even betrayal. We were sent out into a world that is hoarding food which is beyond comprehension, into a world that is treating minorities and the sick with suspicion and hostility, into a world full of questions, difference, unknown about what life in this season of self-isolation means for us. So it's normal for our human brains to want to boil down to the why and how of what's happening, just like the gospel we just heard. We feel more at ease when it’s possible to sort our lives into boxes and compartments, but just like this challenge which is changing everyday, we follow a God that moves beyond our boxes and invites us into a way of life which transforms not just us but the world in which we live by manifesting an experiential life which we are asked to live today.
Just a few short months ago we celebrated Christmas and in that great feast of the church we heard again John's gospel, just 8 chapters before our passage today. Remember? The Word became flesh and moved into our neighbourhood, altering our way of life forever. Nothing, not fear, not death, not hate, not violence, not COVID-19 can remove us from the love of God made flesh in Jesus Christ because of that single moment when God moved into our neighbourhood. And ever since that moment Christ has been showing the manifestations of himself to us over and over again, and we’ve continued to focus on our need for proof, our desire for safety, our hope for rules and regulations to explain what these works of God, which are the transformation of ourselves and our neighbourhoods, actually mean. I mean it makes sense, we are human and not perfect. However, what the gospel shows us this morning is that we are moving from the head and into the heart and we are about to live what it means to experience the works of God.
God’s purpose in the incarnation was to become eternally inseparable from us, to be as close to us as our own breath, as permanent as our neighbour, which took the cross of Christ for us to finally believe that the God of our covenants, the God of scripture, the God of redemption throughout all of human history, was actually telling us the truth- that this is not the end. That the cross which we are currently experiencing in Covid-19 is not the end of our story, it is only the beginning because through the cross God brings new life into the wastelands of our lives. But what is this new life, in the midst of this death? What is this hope in the agony and anxiety of this cross we bear? The news continues to assault us with death and fear everyday, and the situation is very serious and very real. There can’t be any hope in this, just trauma and isolation, fear and anxiety, or is there? Indeed I believe that vacuum of hope is what the disciples felt on that Maundy Thursday evening. And yet, God did not abandon them even at the cross and has not abandoned us in this midst of this challenge. I know this, because you and I are here today, offering our lives to God in prayer and praise, as we seek a way to be and respond in the midst of this. I firmly believe that the vitality of our witness, of finding ways to be together in worship despite what is going on, is the experiential testimony that Christ points to this morning. It is not about who is right or wrong in this challenge, rather, it is what are we going to do because of where we find ourselves today? As Christians we are called to do the works of God, works that transform this world from fear into love, a love that can never be removed from this world again because of Christ’s presence among us. But where do we start?
So then what do I mean, then, by these works of God? Let me be clear. Do not act against health authority advice and precautions. That is not a vital witness, it is a risk without a purpose. Listen to the health authorities. Rather, what I am saying is that in the midst of this we are called to witness to the humanity and compassion of Christ in everything we are and do by being present to each other in such ways like:
- Stop panic buying food or resources and going to the doctors or hospital out of fear, because it continues to keep those on the edges, the elderly, the infrim, the frail, the marginalized, who actually need these items and services from getting them. This is not the end of the world, there is enough for everyone if we stop panic buying and acting out of fear. If you feel unwell call 811 for guidance.
- Check in on the vulnerable, both those you know, and those you don't. The single parent down the hall. The isolated senior across the street. The new friend from Church. The barista or service worker next door now laid off. Stop and talk to the homeless, observing social distancing. Do these people have food, do they have access to sanitary supplies, are they safe? And if they don’t, let's find ways for them to get what they need to survive this too.
- Monitor your mental health in the midst of this, and find ways to unplug from the news cycles that keep us in tightly coiled knots of fear and anxiety. Find safe ways to embrace life giving patterns in the midst of this. Don’t repress the fear and anxiety, name it and let it be known, while finding healthy ways to live.
It's okay to be afraid, there is no shame in fear and there are a lot of unknowns, but will our isolated fears and perpetual anxiety change the outcome of this challenge? No. We can’t personally control this, no matter how hard we try, but we can control how we decide to show up in the midst of it. As Christians, the way in which we show up in challenges like this throughout history is in the vitality of our witness to presence as an experiential manifestation of the works of God, something we are practicing by simply logging into this service. Church we are not alone, but the world very much is, yet God is in this which means not even the darkness of this challenge will overtake us. In order for the light of God to reflect in the midst of this challenge and fear we need to live a life full of God’s works of compassion and presence- work you and I are called to do together. So how will you show the world the vitality of our witness in the works God is calling you to live for your neighbour this week?