Finding a Word, Listening to the Text

Believe it or not, the scriptures for today were chosen weeks ago! And yet, they speak so loudly and clearly to our present circumstances.

Listen again to words from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

And I would add, though there is panicked buying and closures, though there is worry and fear… God is with us! Even as we sit 6 feet apart! You know how I am always encouraging you to come close and sit together… not so much right now!

This is one of those times when I am very grateful for social media. For one thing, it enabled me to connect easily to ministry colleagues across the country and share thoughts, resources, ideas and support. It also enables us to broadcast at least part of the service for those who have decided that it is best they are home.

This is unknown territory for us. As one meme says:meme

Today was the day when the Transition Team was going to share the results of the Listening Circles with the congregation. I was so looking forward to that and facilitating the discussion that would determine next steps for us. And we were going to celebrate PIE Day, Public, Intentional, and Explicit support of the LGBTQ community. Things changed rapidly this week… on Thursday that was still going to happen… on Friday, we decided against it… and then yesterday, we decided to not even have coffee today.

When the basic things in church life, like physical presence, food and community are not possible, it would be easy to become discouraged. The last couple of days have been filled with trying to make contingency plans. We already have some good plans, like the KITS, or Keep In Touch program, we will be expanding that in this coming week. We already have a system set up where homebound people get the sermon and bulletin each week mailed out if they don’t have access to technology. We will expand that in the coming week as well.

And of course, how to continue to connect and support those who are most vulnerable. People like our food bank clients… People who don’t have the option of working at home… People whose work puts them in contact with the most vulnerable.
People who cannot afford to stockpile 14 days of food if they are quarantined.

This virus is not a judgment from God. It is however, an indication of how closely we are connected though. And perhaps an indication that to ‘live with respect in creation’ we must begin to live differently. How our health and wellbeing is intimately connected to our neighbours… the ones around the corner and the ones around the world.

Wisdom shouts in the street;
in the public square she raises her voice.
Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.
At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say:

Wisdom is calling in the streets.

Perhaps calling us to re-examine how we live. I am going to share some wisdom from other people.

Our Moderator, the Right Reverend Richard Bott has been very helpful in connecting, communicating and encouraging us. He has a gift for words.

On Saturday he wrote:

I‘ve got an exercise for you.
Think about the people you know.
The ones in your personal circle.
The ones in your community of faith.
The ones in your neighbourhood, or in your apartment building.
In a situation where people needed to maintain social distance, who are three people on that list who would need to be checked in on?
What would it take for you to contact them, and see if they would be willing to accept a daily check-in call?
Social distance can mean social isolation, unless we find ways to truly be neighbours to one another. (Moderator Richard Bott)

I asked a couple of people if they would share how the sermon series What Would We Do If We Were Brave impacted them; Janet MacLean gave me permission to use share these words:

The sermon series, “What Would We Do If We Were Brave”, confirms and affirms for me something I’ve always felt, that in relationship with Him, God calls us to be brave.
I don’t equate bravery with being heroic but for sure some events and actions seem larger than others. Our focus on “listening” this Lent has offered me a different opportunity to tap in to some resources to strengthen my “bravery skills”.

The practice of listening to the still small voice, of listening to others with compassion, of listening to evidence and discussions on issues that are difficult and perhaps thought of as controversial in the context of worship/church all give us something to “chew on”, dig deeper into and put into play as we bravely do God’s work in this world.

Trying something new, asking a question for clarification, looking at our communities with hope and possibility, seeing a neighbour with a new understanding, choosing to be informed about injustice and inequality and acting when needed, living joyfully and with possibility, and doing all of this in the context of faith…that’s being brave.

And this from Richard Hendrick, I haven’t a clue who he is, a friend shared it on her Facebook page:

Lockdown

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.

So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Our world, perhaps our way of life, is already changed in ways in which we couldn’t have imagined. And we will move into this future, with faith, with love and in community. Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of being the church, amen.

Proverbs 1: 20-23
Psalm 46: 1-7
March 15, 2020 – SMUC

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