Does anyone remember February?

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Does anyone remember February? When even people who didn’t live in the same house could go to a restaurant and have a meal brought to them by a waiter while sitting within two feet of each other. When the disinfectant section in the grocery store actually had something to buy. Or that over 62,000 people could attend an event like the Superbowl and only the players wore facemasks.

Life has changed dramatically in a few weeks. People with whom we meet are mostly pixels on a screen who often look and sound like actors in a badly dubbed movie or if we do see someone in the flesh, they’re dressed like a bank robber. When I stop to buy a cup of coffee, I am reminded of the Soup Nazi episode on Seinfeld where each person waited for the order window to open, then made an exaggerated step forward to quickly place their order and then made another exaggerated step to the side to be served.

Now if some of those comments made you smile or even chuckle a little bit, I am glad because in this time we need to have some levity. What was sold to us as a quick pause in order to flatten the curve is stretching out to be longer and longer because the objectives that would justify lifting the lockdown keep changing. So, we sit feeling depressed, oppressed and compressed. Or, to use an Old Testament term, we lament.
N T Wright recently wrote a column about our current times published in Time magazine. He wrote:

Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.

He goes on to give examples from Scripture and then closes with this:

It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.


Our story about Stephen skips the 60 odd verses before this of how Stephen testified to a tribunal about the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed to Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David and the prophets. Stephen lamented the fact that his own religious leaders did not recognize Jesus as the way, the truth and the life.

Peter is exhorting his readers to recognize Jesus as the cornerstone, the foundational stone on which a building is constructed. Both Peter and Stephen desire that the ways of the world would be built as Jesus would have them. That Jesus is accepted the truth of our human existence and that only through him can we be truly free. Only through Jesus can we have life that goes beyond death.

In this epidemic we can see flashes and glimpses of the self-sacrificial way of Jesus. Healthcare specialists, transportation workers, meatpackers and a multitude of others braving infection to help keep us safe and comfortable. Scientists who are plumbing the secrets of the human body to find a cure or at least a way to stem the tide of this disease. Countless others who do their best to be available to those who must self-quarantine to remain safe. If there is one good thing about this pandemic it is to show the shallowness of much of our political polarization and to heap scorn on those who perpetuate it. Christians don’t play gotcha, they play helpya.

When we lament, we strip away all of the false strengths we believed in before. Bereft of our former crutches we turn back to the real strength, our faith in a God who loves us. A God who laments our absence but welcomes us back with no questions asked.

So, as we lament what we have lost, let us use this time to see what God has revealed about Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. Let us be the shrines that show the way of love not spite. Let us strive for truth not just score points. Let us live as Jesus would have us live, with abundance to those who are lacking, with peace to those who are troubled and with grace to those who are negative.

To say that God is using this pandemic to punish us is wrong but to say that this pandemic can renew our relationship with God is the good news that has been ours forever. Amen

Taken from Trinity Episcopal Church’s Tidbit Tuesday emai blast 5/12/2020


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