How does all this end? With news of the easement of isolation coming and heightened conversation about returning to public life, questions swirl about what is the end game for this pandemic. Together we have been exploring these questions ourselves through scripture since Easter, listening, waiting, praying, about what God’s normal is in the midst of this, and what normals in our everyday lives are worth rushing back to. So here we are again, in the post-Easter world of the disciples trying to integrate our knowledge of a post resurrection world into a pre-Easter story. This isn't about proof texting our experiences to confirm some assumption about Jesus, no, it is more than that, it is about actually knowing more deeply who Jesus is by seeing throughout his life with us what he was actually doing for us. In him, during his life among us, Jesus was revealing God’s glory and calling us into a salvific community, community that changes the world by taking refuge in God, but what does that even mean?
Taking refuge brings about many different mental images, like those scenes from disaster movies where people find safety from the storm in a bunker or building. These scenes are about preservation of life, and we are taught from an early age to do these kinds of things when storms rage, but that’s about something exterior. This exterior refuge cuts us off from the outside, from the danger, and keeps us isolated from life in our safe concrete bunkers until everything is clear again. This is why far too often when real trouble hits us we often hear people question God’s existence, because if God did exist this challenge, this pandemic, this death, wouldn't have happened. We hear that throughout scripture, when Jesus falls asleep in the boat during the storm and even at the death of Lazarus. Yet this isn't about seeking refuge that takes us away from the world, away from the hurt, into our bunkers, until safety has returned, but it never really does, it's about seeking refuge above all terror and beyond all challenge. Think about it for a second, death is the ultimate in pain in our lives and is the one thing we are often unprepared for emotionally. Remember, our Gospel this morning is set on Holy Thursday evening, the disciples have just heard Jesus tell them he’s going to die in the chapter before today's Gospel. They are in disbelief like we would be when faced with this news. So just like us they want to bunker down with proof, something to hold onto and trust in, yet like them when we bunker down in isolating refuge we hope that it means we never have to experience that pain of loss. However, Christ dies the next day and we will be touched by death again. History always repeats itself, so the refuge we are called to through Christ is not about a bunker but an embrace of God's living presence among us in the peace of Christ’s resurrected life.
This week’s readings from the Psalms and Acts also deal with the topic of refuge and seeking peace, a peace that will last. Our Psalm reminds us that God is a refuge from danger, while Acts reminds us to fix our troubled hearts on the kingdom and our heavenly home. The peace received in these reminders is not focused on some other world distraction, but in the lived example of Christ’s life among us. The living kingdom here today seen in the glimpses of kingdom life all around us, in love of neighbour, sharing resources, human dignity for all people and more represent the peace of Christ that brings us strength in the midst of challenge because it shows us that this way of life is possible, not just a pipe dream. Christ did not come to us in order to protect us from the hurts and harms of the world. He came to us so that we can live a differently oriented life in the midst of these challenges, a life which is orientated into the peace of his life, a life which sets us totally free in connection to God. So what do we do with this peace? How do we really take refuge in it, without abandoning our need to be safe? We trust in God.
Trusting God is not about ignoring health precautions and proclaiming “God’s got this, I don't need to worry" in the face of COVID-19. That's nothing but sheer stupidity and ego that pretends safety is possible in separating ourselves from reality. It’s about following God’s call, God’s vocation in our lives, that sweet spot where we feel totally alive and fulfilled in everything we are and do. Throughout his ministry, Christ trusted God’s direction and followed him, despite the storms that raged, the hate and anger at his message, the lies and rebuttals, the doubt and the fear, Christ trusted God’s direction and followed him, even into the cross and grave. He followed him and invited us to join him in that journey because of the freedom it brings to our lives. No longer do we need to worry about having all the answers, no longer do we need to worry about being accepted, validated, included, because in God we are all those things and sent out to build the kingdom. In God we are brought to our highest, most gifted abilities, and asked to use that for the betterment of the world, a world that needs our gifts even more than before as we seek pathways back to life.
In isolation we’ve seen all over the place glimmers of where these gifts have bubbled up around us. From our Neighbourhood Ministries determination to find ways to continue to serve our homeless friends, to the seven o’clock healthcare salute. Companies turning their breweries from alcohol production to hand sanitizer, neighbours helping neighbours shop, and even our own community gardens becoming a gathering point for people as we seek out beauty and nature, we are finding ways to develop the kingdom of new life in the midst of this isolation. We are creating impact in the community by reaching out beyond our boundaries in the peace of Christ, and trusting in God’s providence as we listen for how we are to return to life after this pandemic.
The way we are invited to do that, to take refuge in God’s peace and providence, is to continue today to seek out and know Christ, listening for where Christ is nudging us into something new . . . that real excitement at something that comes from the gut. Knowing God and responding in faith with our lives greatest ability is the foundation of our lives as we journey along the road of faith wondering what all of this means and seeking refuge and shelter when life gets too hard. One shelter, our bunkers, cuts us off from the world, another shelter, shelter in God, sets us free to minister to the world in his name, using our gifts and talents given to us from God to help bring about the transformation of this world into the Kingdom of God. A kingdom where fear and pain are no more, where life and ability reign, where hope and peace are normalized, and there is room for all. Despite all the storms that rage around us this becomes our unshakable truth, God is our rock of refuge and salvation. That is a refuge worthy of our attention today, my friends as we ask ourselves, how will you take active refuge in his hopeful peace and share that peace with the world this week?