I will not lie. I find Jesus’ words at the start of today’s Gospel more than a little annoying.
What I mean to say is, how can one’s heart not be troubled in these very troubling times?
For yes, my heart is troubled to hear yet again in this last day that another one close to our family of faith is suffering from this terrible virus. And as with all the rest, loved ones cannot be with her.
My heart is troubled that on Monday morning I will gather at a cemetery (wearing my mask) with a handful of loved ones to commend into God’s tender care one who lived 100 years. The service will be outdoors and abbreviated. Family will not be able to gather close together around the casket. Chairs will be kept at a minimum. Many will not be allowed to come at all.
My heart is troubled that too many are not taking this virus seriously and are putting others at risk…
My heart is troubled at the countless inequities this pandemic has uncovered in our society — inequities which have always been there, but which my own hardened heart had been unable or unwilling to see — or at least to think about for very long.
Indeed, my heart is troubled that too, too many are forced to choose between earning a paycheck and endangering their own health or that of loved ones.
And yes, so very close to home, my heart is troubled as I start to consider what gathering in worship may look like when and if it is even possible.
- For what does it look like for God’s gathered people to not sing — for singing spreads the virus more quickly than a cough?
- What does it look like for us to stand or sit six feet apart, to not reach out our hands our arms for a handshake or a hug, to not be able to see one another’s smiles hidden behind multicolored masks?
- What does it look like to not share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion for a time — or at least to do so in radically different ways?
And to know that all of this is right for the sake of the safety of those who come?
My heart is troubled.
More than that, my heart is breaking over and over again.
And yet, today, Jesus steps into that room with his closest followers, knowing all that will come in the next few very troubling days, and
- Jesus tells them to not let their hearts be troubled.
- To remember that this is not all there is.
- And to hold hard and fast to the certainty that between now and whenever we are all together again, Jesus is already a step ahead of us showing us the way.
And so it is today that I found myself looking back at other times I have reflected on these familiar words from John. I wondered to myself how our circumstances have changed, but what might possibly still be the same…
Just three years ago in a post entitled “I am the Way…” I offered reflections on recent hospital calls and how Jesus ‘shows the way’ in a manner that is much more than physical. I grieved to read it, knowing that my way of pastor-ing is necessarily so very different now, but I am comforted in the promise that the way of Jesus is also so very much more than just walking towards suffering down a hospital corridor. The Way of Jesus is and always has been one of kindness and generosity, of looking out for the weakest and the lowest, of raising up the poor and the suffering. And is there a more pertinent time than now to be and do all of this? Even if we have to do it in new ways, is there a better time than now?
And a few years before that when I wrote about “In My Father’s House…” I told the story of the house I have called home for these now more than thirteen years. Through my learning about this house, I came to a deeper understanding that the ‘dwelling places’ (or as some of us learned it first, ‘the mansions’) which Jesus promises now are not about physical structures, but about the relationship we share with God — even now. (Might, I daresay, not even about the church buildings we so love and cherish, but about the relationships which have been nurtured there: With God, yes. With one another, to be sure. And all for the sake of the world.)
Indeed, a great deal has changed between now and the last times I formally reflected on these familiar words of Jesus. And yet, even now when the necessary rules of ‘social distancing’ find us re-imagining what it is to nurture our relationships with one another, we can and must lean into the truth that God is dwelling with us. Perhaps now more than ever. Showing us the way. Again and again. And again.
May God bless all of our ‘troubled hearts’ as we seek to follow Jesus the ‘Way’ in new ways and in ways which have always been.
Oh, I expect that when we can finally look back on this time we will see God at work in powerful ways, leading us along.
May that time, may that clarity of vision and understanding come soon.
- How do you find your heart troubled today?
- How does the promise that ‘Jesus is the Way’ comfort and guidance for you now? How is the ‘Way of Jesus’ especially pertinent to you in and for our world today?
- How are you experiencing the ‘nearby dwelling’ of God in these challenging days? How is the promise of this gift coming true for you even now?