God is good.
When I was about 15 years old, there was “the incident of the running cows” that is forever seared on my mind, and on my left palm. Growing up on a farm was a daily adventure, and this particular muddy, rainy spring day brought me new perspective on the preciousness of life. Down at the soggy bottom of the barnyard, the fence needed fixing, as all the cows were on the other side of it. Going to investigate required me to mingle in among the herd to get right up close to the fence for a good look at the gap. My father had run barbed wire across the top of the page-wire, but these clever cows had found their way through underneath – the grass was definitely greener on the other side.
As I was examining the fence, my brother started driving the tractor over to help repair it and to work on rounding up the loose beasts. The cows were startled and began to run; one of them barged between me and the fence. I was terrified. In sticky mud almost up to my knees, I was not going anywhere fast, except over backwards into the path of the other frightened cows, so I grabbed the nearest (mostly) solid object and hung on for dear life. It was the top wire of the fence – the barbed wire. My hands were a bit torn up, but I lived. Coming out of that experience, the bigger picture was the sheer will to survive that took over without a moment’s thought. “Hang on. Do not let fear take over. Stay alive at all costs.” I came out of that experience a different person, in more ways than one.
We in the established Church are in a time of great transformation, which can feel chaotic, disruptive and deeply unsettling to our accustomed ways of walking together. We are sometimes afraid, and in our tender humanity we feel hurt and betrayed by the changes that leave our comfortable pews behind. I encourage you to hang on, for dear life, and be not afraid. What we are doing together in community is life-bringing, and for many, life-saving. At this time in our calendar year, we come face-to-face with the resurrected Christ. The humanity of Jesus was transformed by his experience of death and resurrection; and his wisdom, his life-bringing teaching, his divine word to us, is this: “My peace I give to you, do not be afraid.”
In the changes that we have to make to accommodate the new times, let us love one another, discerning fresh ways of being disciples together in our beloved and flawed, human-made Church. As we share the good news of Jesus, continue to find ways to work for truth, justice and reconciliation. We are boldly called and radically loved into being by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to feel and be the intense and radical love of God for all humanity, for all of creation. We are in the doorway, between what was, and what is to come. In our Church, it is a time of transition, change, transformation; a time of re-formation and redefining how we worship together, how we allocate resources, how we prioritize our ministries. Learning together how to ask the right questions and by ever asking more questions in faith, we can expand our awareness of this threshold moment we are occupying right now.
From 2 Corinthians 10:15: “Our hope is that as your faith increases, our sphere of action may be greatly enlarged, so that we may proclaim the good news.” Contemplative inquiry will move us forward – as communities, as families, as children of God together – into the future in faith in Jesus, who is the living way. The whole of creation is involved in what God is doing in Christ. Our work is resurrection work, as the gospel touches all aspects of our life together and we develop connections of grace. Jesus is inviting us into new life in him, in vital connection with the Spirit of Life. Even when you have every justification to be afraid, remember these powerful teachings that Jesus shared: My peace I leave with you. Do not be afraid. I am with you always. Thanks be to God.