This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, March 26, 2021
This week I have heard and read, in both real and virtual spaces, from colleagues who are really struggling to enter into and lead this year’s Palm Sunday, let alone the balance of Holy Week. I suppose every year poses a challenge to some degree. For every Jesus-follower, it is hard space to navigate, emotionally and spiritually, and overflowing with complex theological territory. For those trying to navigate and then communicate said territory, it can also feel hard to think of what might be offered, in new, renewing ways. But if that’s always the case, what makes this year harder? Has the pandemic made leaders whiny?
Whiny might be too harsh, but the pandemic has definitely made us weary, alongside everyone else. More to the point, though, the pandemic’s extended effect on our time together, in person, as a worshipping body, has really outstayed its welcome – most certainly beyond our fears, prayers, and expectations. No wonder, then, that at the start of this year’s Lent, at the start of our second Lent apart, writer after writer appeared in my daily messages, with lament for another go-round of a virtual journey to Jerusalem. The first one was hard enough, we cry, but we did it with the naïve hope that it would be a unique moment in time. This second time just feels unfair. I think, most accurately, it feels lonely.
Midway through this week, I received yet another reflection, but this one seemed to speak to my heart, where it needed it most. Written by Mary Stommes, and sent on by our Pat Lyster, it’s text that does the pandemic’s math with forthright calculation, and then calls me out of my unhelpful counting. I’ll paste it in below, so you can see for yourself, but for me, it serves as faithful reminder that it’s good to be honest about the breadth of my response to this season. So, too, is it good for me to choose courage and continuance; to see Who is here, rather than who cannot be. It is good, and it is necessary for me to remember that I don’t need to, nor can I have everything figured out, in or beyond this present moment. Instead, I need most and always to trust that, in and through Jesus, the Way has been offered to me, to us all, with gracious instruction and life-changing example. It goes like this: take this day first, and then the next, and then the hard week to come, and then the glorious beauty at the end. Season in, season out; pandemic waning, pandemic groaning on at length… move one moment at a time, with the timeless truth that we are not alone. “Never have been and never will be.”
Thank you, Pat and Mary, for the right words at the right time.
Thank you, God, for the right words, the fullest encouragement, the unwavering companionship, and the most unfailing Love, all the time.
With love to you all, this Palm Sunday, this season, and always,
“And he calls us to do the same.” (Joan Chittister, ‘The Breath of the Soul’)
To think that a mere forty days of Lent once seemed an arduous journey.
Who could have guessed at the outset of Lent 2020 how long the desert sojourning would last? That those forty days would be followed by forty more, and forty more, and so on and so forth until . . . Lent x 10. By my calculations—yes, I’m counting—by the time Easter arrives, it will have been about 400 days since the end of the world as most of us knew it.
Patience worn out by the journey, anyone? Disgusted with the wretched sickness and
death? Starving for face-to-face conversations . . . shared meals . . . meetings that are not virtual? Longing to hold a newborn, tickle a toddler, give your grandparents a hug?
From this vantage point, we might wonder if the Israelites were too quick to classify their desert complaining as sinful. After all, our friends the psalmists had no problem loudly sharing their every thought with God. If complaint and lament are where we are at, shouldn’t we be honest with God? Trusting that somehow, we know not how, God can take it.
We know not how? Let’s be honest. Where did we begin this Lenten journey? And with whom? In the desert. With Jesus. He gets it.
Long and painful as the road to Jerusalem was, his undying words are soothing balm: The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone. Jesus spoke this way, and we believe him.
Deep into this present and seemingly continuous Lent, Easter is on the horizon.
Honest to God, we are not alone. Never have been and never will be.