Kerry Rhoads Mansir
Christ Episcopal Church
March 29, 2020
Lent 5: Facebook Live Sermon
Yesterday, I started writing this sermon while sitting on my back deck. The sun was out, the breeze was mild, and it felt delightful. Birds were flitting around the feeder. Jeff was out for a run, and the kids were indoors doing their Saturday morning chores. I could hear my neighbor warming up his motorcycle for a ride. I could imagine for a moment that everything was just as it should be in the world.
It feels like to me we are a little bit in limbo here in central Maine—living in a time of not what once wasbut also not yet what will be. And I imagine that we are all reacting in different ways. Some of us are enjoying this time of forced solitude. We might be spending more time with family, catching up on house projects, pursuing a hobby, or just being still in ways that are not usually possible.
Others of us can’t tear our eyes from the media images flashing across our screens of other parts of the country and world where they are already in the worst of the crisis, and we’re terrified of the scenes of desperate healthcare workers, trying to care for the sick and dying without the proper equipment or enough hospital beds.
Still others of us see our downtown stores closed up and hear the stories of our friends who have been laid off and worry about how the economy will survive this.
Or if you’re like me, you have ALL of those feelings: joy, terror, concern, in the span of a day, maybe even an hour. None of us know how to feel today because we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. And so there’s a sense of unrest. And grief.
David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief is already talking about how our society is being affected by the pandemic. He points out that we are collectively grieving because we know that the world has changed, and we have no idea what it will look like when this is over.
So I just want to say to you, that whatever you’re feeling right now, it’s okay. And whatever you may be feeling 15 minutes from now, that’s okay, too.
As Christians, we have this book, these sacred texts in our Bibles, that we turn to for wisdom, particularly in times of distress. This morning we heard two dramatic stories. From the prophet, Ezekiel, we heard of the valley of dry bones where the breath of God brought life to the dead. And in John’s Gospel, we heard the story of Lazarus, dear friend of Jesus, who died and was laid in a tomb, but four days later, Jesus called him back into life.
We all know, too well, that these stories don’t mean that God will bring our loved ones who have died back to life, to continue on in this lifetime by our sides.
But they are stories of great hope in the power of God. Stories of the mysterious ways that God brings life out of destruction.
In the coming days, when we are grieving, weary, and feeling hopeless, we may feel as if we are gazing on a valley full of dry bones as Ezekiel did. Or maybe more accurately, we will feel as if we are gazing at a great expanse of nothingness in the empty streets. But empty streets don’t mean that God isn’t present.
I read the most beautiful thing on Facebook this week.
“When you go out and see the empty streets, the empty stadiums, the empty train platforms, don’t say to yourself, ‘It looks like the end of the world.’
What you’re seeing is love in action. What you’re seeing, in that negative space, is how much we do care for each other, for our grandparents, for our immuno-compromised brothers and sisters, for people we will never meet.
People will lose jobs over this. Some will lose their businesses. And some will lose their lives.
All the more reason to take a moment, when you’re out on your walk, or on your way to the store, or just watching the news, to look into the emptiness and marvel at all of that love.
Let it fill you and sustain you.
It isn’t the end of the world. It is a remarkable act of global solidarity.” *
Isn’t that beautiful? Rather than seeing the ruin around us, I hope that we see the great hope embodied in the actions of our fellow humans taking their quarantine responsibilities seriously. Putting love into action.
What can we do with these days of quarantine? First, take them one at a time. And focus on what we can control and let the rest go. Concentrate on what we can give. Spread love and kindness. Speak out against hate and cruelty.
Just as God’s breath brought life to the dry bones and just as the words of Jesus unbound Lazarus and set him free, the love of God can reach even those desolate places within us and empower us. Empower us not only to make it through another day, but to love those around us in the process.
We don’t have to simply survive this new reality. If we allow ourselves to be stretched and challenged during these days, we can even grow through them.
Two weeks ago, Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, began sharing on The Episcopal Church website, Monday meditations called “Habits of Grace.” The meditations are lovely reminders of what we can be doing right now.
During this unprecedented time, my wish for all of us is that we will be able to take the time to develop some of those habits of grace. They aren’t complex, but in fact, very simple. Habits like praying, practicing gratitude, centering ourselves, performing small acts of kindness.
Even singing is a habit of grace. I will spare you my singing this morning, but there is a beautiful song from our hymnal that someone reminded me of recently because of its perfect refrain for this moment in time. I have been humming it all week. The hymn is “God of Grace and God of Glory,” and the first verse ends with these words, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour.”
May God grant you wisdom to face this hour. May God grant you courage for these days. And may you rest in God’s grace and promise that new life comes even out of devastation. Amen.
*No author was given for that message on Facebook.