There is so much happening in our world that is profoundly worrisome and disappointing. The rise in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths is nothing short of devastating. We all know someone personally who has been ill and many of us have lost someone to this invisible virus.
With this troubling trend come major disappointments. Schools moving back to being fully online. We know this is terribly disappointing for students, teachers, administrators and families. For some, it goes beyond disappointing: it means that school is inaccessible, inadequate or simply ineffectual.
Many of us have had to change our Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. Perhaps it will be the first year without family or friends, big meals, caroling, a candlelit Christmas Eve service inside our church's sanctuary. For those of us who will gather with family, we realize this poses increased risk and that it may require strict quarantine ahead of time. And there are those in our wider communities who are wondering if they can afford Thanksgiving or Christmas at all this year, whether they'll have a roof over their heads, enough to eat.
We are living in a time of great fear, disappointment, loss and grief.
What does our faith have to offer us in such a time?
I think of Jesus weeping as he approaches Lazarus's tomb with Martha and Mary. A story that reminds us that grief is allowed and Christ grieves with us!
I think of this Sunday's scripture reading from the very end of Matthew (chapter 28:16-20). It's worth reading the whole of chapter 28 to give yourself some context. The chapter begins with the women going to Jesus' tomb early on the morning of the first day of the week, finding the tomb empty and then encountering the risen Christ. Verses 16-20 (Sundays' reading) is the only encounter between the disciples and the risen Christ depicted in Matthew.
Now remember, the disciples have just had their leader executed. They are profoundly disappointed. They are grieving. They must be worried and afraid. What will happen to them? Can they return to their old lives? Is there anything left to salvage from the new life that has grown up within and around them as they followed Jesus?
And yet, through their disappointment, grief and fear, they have faith and hope. They trust the women's account of Jesus' resurrection. They go to Galilee adn climb a mountain. And yes, when they see Jesus, some of them doubt (as I know I would have).
And into their disappointment, grief and fear, Jesus offers them two things: (1) a purpose, a mission, a calling: "to make disciples of all nations" (verse 19), and (2) the reassurance that they are not alone: "I will be with you every day until the end of the present age" (verse 20).
I think about those two messages:
1) That we are not alone.
2) That we are sent out to care for others, to invite them to be disciples, learners of Christ's way of love along with us.
On Tuesday, as we discussed this text in Lectio Divina, a teacher reminded us that we teach, not by what we say but by what we do. We teach by example.
In this time that really is so difficult, that really holds so much disappointment, fear, loss and grief, remember that you are not alone. Christ is with you always. Christ is within you. And you are invited and called to share Christ's love with others, to teach them by your example.
As we look towards Thanksgiving and beyond to Advent, what does it mean for you to carry Christ within? What does it look like to share Christ's love with the world?
In humble gratitude and great love,