Sermon for March 22, 2020

Everything has changed and it happened so quickly.  We have been changed in big ways. There are no large gatherings, all types of entertainment have been canceled, we cannot attend church together.  And it can be found in the little changes that cause us to feel uncomfortable.  We took our granddaughters to the neighborhood park which had signs saying “use at your own risk.  This has not been sanitized since March 11th.”  Here I am talking from the lectern which I never do.  We cannot touch anyone.  I find myself very anxious and concerned.  I alternate between wanting to know the latest news about the coronavirus outbreak and being so depressed that I don’t want to follow the news at all anymore.  I worry about what will happen to our society and how we will come out of this?  How can I stay in touch with people and do the job I love to do?  

I miss so much our coming together on Sunday.  I miss seeing people and greeting them as they leave.  I miss chatting with folks at the coffee hour.  But most of all I miss sharing in the Eucharist together.  I have always felt a spirit in our church. I always feel as if we are supporting each other in our lives and that God is with us in our worship.

I ask everyone to help us stay together.  I plan to continue having a Sunday service available to you on Youtube that can be accessed directly or from Facebook.  Please look for emails about other online events that we will offer.  Please follow us on Facebook and other sites.  The church office hours will be minimal.  A group of volunteers will call all of our parishioners and check in with them.  I ask each of you to reach out to people that you know in the church on a regular basis.  I am most concerned for people who are unable to get around and the poor.  If you have any concerns or questions, please call the office or call my cell phone.  I also encourage you to go to the Diocesan Web site at azdiocese.org where you can find a list of resources if you need them.

In these times we might ask where God has gone.  We miss interacting with God at church. But the truth is that God is not located just in this church.  God is everywhere and God is with us at all times.  In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus told the woman at the well that God will not be found on Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans worship and God will not be found in Jerusalem where the Jews worship.  Rather we will worship God in spirit and truth. We find God all around us. 

Throughout church history people asked if God left or wondered where God was in all of this mess.   When Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the people were taken into exile, the Jewish people wondered.  They believed that God was located in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple had been destroyed.  If you read the beginning of Ezekiel we have an answer.  God was lifted up out of the Temple by four living creatures with wings and four wheels.  God flew to Ezekiel and to his people in Babylon.  So it is with us today.  God is not found only in the church of the Transfiguration. God is with each one of us.  God is with you now. 

I find such great comfort in the words from our reading of Psalm 23.  It is as if that Psalm was chosen for us today.  We speak the Psalm when we have a memorial service.  It provides solace to those who are grieving.   I believe it provides comfort to us in our current situation. I found this reflection, “Sheep are nervous creatures, easily stampeded.  They are frightened by fast, flowing streams, and can drink freely only from water that appears still.”  I am feeling like a sheep this week.  I am easily worried about things that are changing so quickly.  I am looking for the calm waters that seem to have disappeared.  That is why I am comforted by Psalm 23.  The Lord is my Shepherd.  God will be with us always.  God helps us to find our way when we are uncertain.  God gives us food to nourish our souls.  God is with me when it feels as if the world has darkened all around me.  God is there to take away our fears, not so we can take foolish chances but rather to keep us on a safe path and to comfort us when we are anxious. 

In the gospel Jesus heals a blind man.  Jesus simply takes some saliva and mixes it with dirt, puts it on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash.  He returned able to see.  Many people had questions. The disciples asked who caused this problem, was it the parents of the man or the man himself?   But Jesus was focused not on what or who caused this problem but rather on the person and on healing.  Francis MacNutt wrote about this, “Jesus came to save persons, not just souls.  He came to help the suffering.  Sickness of the body was part of the kingdom of Satan that he came to destroy.”  We are thankful for Jesus who came to save us from all of our problems.  We ask Jesus to come and be with us today, to heal us of any sickness, to give us peace.  

Others were interested in the law not in the healing.  The Pharisees were upset that he healed on the Sabbath.  They decided to investigate, to figure out who caused the problem.  They interviewed the man and his parents.  In the end they decided to kick the man out of the church because he must have been a sinner. 

Jesus came once more to do the healing that he can only perform.  He invited the man to be his follower.  Jesus accepted this man who had been rejected by others.  Just as Ezekiel told the Jews that God was not contained within the Temple, Jesus told the man that God was there with him even though he had been kicked out of the church.  The man followed Jesus and believed in him.  Let us then follow Jesus and believe in him even when we are stuck at home unable to go anywhere, doing our best to keep ourselves and the entire community free from this virus. 

The other lesson we learn today is to be cautious about our judgments.  It will be easy to blame people for causing this virus to spread.  It will be easy to blame someone who gets the virus to say that they did not follow the rules.  Let us at least pause before we do so.  It is possible that the person will have done nothing wrong. I believe that despite the ugliness of our situation, God has chosen to be with us and to carry us through this terrible time.

Perhaps the hardest part of all is that we don’t know what will happen next.  We don’t know how bad things will be and we don’t know when things will get better.  We don’t know how to plan.   In these times, I have hope.  For Jesus gives us hope.  I hope that we will find the correct way to deal with this virus.  I hope that this time will bring us closer together. 

It seems certain that we will not be able to celebrate Holy Week or Easter Services together.  But that does not mean that Easter will not come.  Jesus was raised from the dead.  Let us rejoice on that day even though we will not be together in person to celebrate.

Let us pray that everyone will be safe.  Let us pray that people will follow the directions of the authorities as they try to contain the virus.  Let us pray that the medical professionals will be cared for.  Let us pray that God will bring us together in this time of need.  Let us pray that the poor will not be overly burdened by this outbreak. 

If you are afraid or anxious, if you are uncertain or confused, listen to the words of Jesus, “‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  May you feel God’s presence in your life, giving you comfort, strength, wisdom and peace.  Amen.  

 

Last modified on Sunday, 22 March 2020 15:32

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