God is good! The air is heavy and sweet this morning, with gentle birdsong and cicadas chirping. It is near the end of a long, hot summer, and the rain has brought new hope and dazzle to the tired, sun-bleached land.
We have come through a lot in this second summer of global pandemic and associated restrictions on connecting with community and family members. Good work! Look up. Let us continue on, as we follow a call to rise up and be strong, one day at a time, to keep steadily moving along into the next step of our journey together.
I speak for many as I confess that I did not really understand the implications of a global pandemic. As we learn how to adapt, evolve, speak our needs and change our dreams, I invoke each of you to remember that you are not alone, that you are beloved of God. Call to mind that beautiful word full of promise: Emmanuel, God with us. Call to mind the presence of everyday miracles in our lives. Simple and ordinary outward and visible signs of grace surround us, like the hum of bees gathering nectar for their winter honey stores, the colour of the leaves in autumn glory, the smell of the earth as gardens and fields are prepared for winter, fresh air to breathe, harvests to gather, communications to make with family and neighbours.
There is an opportunity at every turn to begin again, to return to the land that feeds us and connects us to all of creation. Every day is a new beginning, and sometimes it is deeply encouraging to know that every moment of every day holds possibility for a fresh start. Kindness and gentleness will help us get through the next chapter of our life together.
Although it is a pleasure, it can be very hard to receive kindness when we are so used to giving it away, to offering it, to being in charge of doling it out; ingrained in our hearts from Acts 20:35: “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” From the Prophet Jeremiah 8:22: “is there no balm in Gilead?” For a little moment, invite yourself to adopt a stance of gracious, open reception; it is also a spiritual exercise to receive, to express a grateful heart. Receive God’s blessing right now! The healing of our spirits will come with a comfort of compassion: “there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole… Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”
Let us lean into our imaginations to dare to explore where God is calling us to next, as individuals, as church, as a community both local and global. Who has the experience in what we are trying to do? How can we imitate, learn from, replicate? Our mission is longing for heaven to come to earth, building mutual solidarity, discovering gifts in the stranger, seeking to be a blessing to the whole earth community. Beyond surviving, we are called to thrive in our discipleship and faith journey, where care, belonging, trust, identity and agency lead to abundant life.
By now we have all seen that the Holy Spirit is not constrained to our conventional notions of church. In some cases, we will need to mourn this realization, as what we had was so familiar and comforting; in other cases, we can rejoice that God has spoken and we have heard a new call into the unfamiliar and promising ways of developing creative partnerships in community. The Holy Spirit is very active in this time of upheaval, and we are ever and always being invited to see what the Spirit is doing in our world. As we recall our convictions of abundance, grace, freedom and reconciliation as taught through the events of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost, we remember who we are. The many shades of our life together are a gift. From poet Mary Oliver, The Uses of Sorrow:
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
Let beauty fill your eyes and hope fill your heart, even for a brief moment this day, that you might feel refreshed once again. God is Love, and again as the Prophet Jeremiah (29.11) reminds us, Love has a plan for us, a plan for a future with a hope.