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Reflection: Lent 4, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 Livestreaming Worship

         I’ve been searching out words of hope and encouragement and have found a number.  I want to share one of those inspirational reflections with you this evening.

         I subscribe to an online newsletter from the Rolling Ridge Study Retreat Community.  It is a wonderful community of 5 families living near Deer Spring Creek near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  They provide a retreat opportunity for pilgrims arising out of a Quaker tradition.  They welcome folk from every spiritual tradition, and as if says on their website, we welcome all “who seek to walk gently on the land, mindful of our interdependence with all living beings in this peaceable kingdom and respectful of each other’s age, gender, colour, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, cultural identity, and all the nuances of diversity that infuse our common humanity.”[1]

         Lindsay McLaughlin wrote a piece about Hope that she shared on the Rolling Ridge website and I share it with you because I was very moved by it.  She refers to spring as a symbol of hope for us; the spring where Lindsay is located is a little ahead of us and this piece was written a week ago.  This is what she wrote:

The vernal equinox is a handful of days away, announcing the astronomical beginning of spring. On a morning last week, as dawn chased the darkness from the forest’s edge, the moon was a glowing, golden plate resting on the western horizon. Tiny purple crocuses peeked up through pale brown grasses. Bright daffodils nodded on slender stems. Lacy green fronds adorned the old willow stump. On the edge of winter and spring, the moon, stars, and sun grandly and reliably

spun a new day. The land offered delicate, deliberate promise of renewal and returning life.

But we know that around and just beyond this idyll, a maelstrom whirls at speed, carrying all manner of things ill and fearful. The virus raging through global humanity is a visceral, microbial emblem of a planet and a world profoundly undone.

“To be alive at this time,” says Michael Meade in a recent email, “means to be caught in the great unravelling that strands us near all the loose threads of creation…”

Mary Evelyn Tucker writes, “…we feel in our bones some kind of unspeakable angst that will not leave us in the depths of night or even at daybreak when the birds greet the sunlight again…”

I wonder if it is the moment to dig for hope at great depth, in the ground, in the bowels of what we know. Ancient wisdom from every spiritual tradition beckons us to kneel down in the dark hummus and dig with open hands. Who knows what is to be found there?

It is the peculiar darkness of the state of things now that the comforting habits of human society are forbidden to us. Being mindful to keep our hands and homes clean, standing at a distance, bowing, waving from windows–these are the gestures of love, care, and communion left to us in the current era.

In recent days a poem by a Unitarian-Universalist minister and writer, Lynn Ungar, has made its way like a flash of light around the world web. “Pandemic” has these lines:

…when your body has become still,
reach out your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)

In the grimy morass of our present dilemma, amid the dis-ease and wrenching separation, lies the buried treasure of our belonging: our deepest passion.

“Hope,” says another poet (Jane Hirshfield), “is the hardest love we carry.”

While we descend on down through uncharted territory, just a breath away spring unfolds. Earth, as she does, begins again.

In the full light of morning, two hawks are resting on the still-bare branches of the old oak, high up against the azure sky. From their lofty perspective they behold with penetrating sight the eternal patterns below: the flat, brown grasses, the tender shoots rising. Hope.

         This sentiment of hope is what I’ve heard others—including our health leaders and politicians—say; it’s been something like, “we live in a time when we’ve retreated to our homes and closed our doors, when we greet one another with hands crossed over our chests while standing at a distance, in some places from windows looking out at the world due to mandatory quarantine, but we greet one another with open hearts.”  That is what we must remember: open hearts.

         And that really is the message of John’s Gospel and the story of seeing but not necessarily recognizing Jesus on the shoreline in this resurrection story.  “What does it mean to see?” asks John.  It is to see with our heart.  The idea of having sight in this story of Jesus appearing to his friends is all about seeing with our hearts.  that gives me hope.  Getting our biases out of the way, our heads that think too much, and letting our hearts guide us into new expressions of solidarity and love.

         So, in this time of crisis, we open our hearts to see the world, the human beings that we share it with, the animals and the plants, with new eyes.  The eyes of love.  The eyes of spring.  I pray for you all and for all in our world for we are all facing this crisis… but we are finding ways to face it together.

         Peace and love!  Amen.

[1] Go to the website: https://rollingridge.net/about/.

 

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