St. Paul’s Congregational Church

March 22, 2020 – Lent 4A

Psalm 23, John 9: 1 - 41

The Rev. Cynthia F. Reynolds

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

These extraordinary days continue – filled with anxiety, fear, discomfort, turmoil all around us, aren’t they. It’s so easy to get swept up by all this – I know that – but let’s take a break. Let’s breathe. Let’s center ourselves in the fact that no matter what, God’s love and care surround us – but we know that doesn’t absolve us of doing our part however we can these days to curb the spread of the virus, to take care of ourselves, to look after each other however we can. Through all of this, we’re never alone.

In my conversations with many of you this week, we’ve often talked about where is God in all of this chaos – how can any good come out of this pandemic – why does God allow something like this to happen? I sure don’t have all the answers to these questions – often those answers are known only to God. But what I do know is this: God is walking with us through it all. God loves us. God cares for us. God cries with us when we hurt. And I do know if we have the eyes to see, we’ll see opportunities to have a part in bringing about God’s realm on earth as it is in heaven.

God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, no matter what, no matter who. Yes, that includes not coming together in person for services but coming together as we do today….joined together in worship wherever we are – creating a different, even a more expansive kind of community where those unable to come to worship on a regular basis can be with us remotely – where those who, for whatever reason, don’t come to worship can be present remotely and enrich all of us by their presence. Churches are reporting stunning numbers of people who are participating this way – from around the world even. One of the reason churches exist is to spread the good news – and today we have the opportunity through this crisis to explore how we can expand our outreach to a hurting world.

Our common mission includes caring for each other – we’ve all seen and heard of acts of compassion in so many ways – phone calls, texts, grocery runs, more smiles from our neighbors as they walk the dogs, inspirational messages through social media - the list is endless, isn’t it. I thank God for these wonderful examples of kindness and caring. We all need reminders to care for each other in the midst of busy lives, don’t we – this experience we share of being forced to slow down, to spend more time at home, while it’s hard, may just be a gift from God, reminding us that in both good and hard times, we are connected. We once were blind, but now we see. What a great time to be church – the Body of Christ in mission to the world.

Psalm 23 reminds us that God leads us beside still waters, green pastures, restores our souls – take some time to savor God’s wonderful creation these days. On Friday I finally went outdoors to enjoy the sun and get some fresh air. After I did some much needed raking, I walked around my yard and enjoyed the signs of spring with so much new growth happening, and I took pictures of the early spring flowers that are always so good to see. I posted them both to my own Facebook page and to the St. Paul’s page – that time outside, really seeing new life coming forth, the colors, hearing the sounds of the birds – that time was sacred, it centered me, and made me realize that no virus could take away the beauty of God’s creation. And the responses I’ve gotten seem to indicate others are finding the same sacred space in the midst of the chaos of the world today. Please do find your own sacred space, your still waters, your green pastures – they will restore your souls. A real gift that is ours to receive, if we so choose it.

There have been so many resources published for such a time as this and I’d like to share a poem by Father Richard Hendrick: listen for his words of faith and encouragement:

Lock down

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan (China) after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi (Italy)

People are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighborhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,

Sing.

- Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM

Friends, we will get through this time – together. Open the windows of your soul; open yourselves to God’s speaking from unexpected places and through unexpected people. God is creating something new in our midst and isn’t this is the work of Lent. If God is truly our shepherd, we need not fear this journey. Blessings on us all as we navigate these uncertain days, surrounded by God’s love and care. Amen.

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10 St. Paul's Place
Nutley, NJ 07110


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