I want to thank all the folks who have dropped a note or said a kind word about the sermon I preached last weekend. Some of you asked for a copy of the sermon, but I don’t write a manuscript. I share here a synopsis of the sermon.
In some small way, I think that the pandemic feels like a "diaspora" of a sort. We feel scattered, or at least disconnected, from the communal relationships that define us. Nowhere has this been more evident than in church.
One of the phrases heard frequently when traveling by train in Europe is “Mind the Gap.” It is a phrase that is repeated every time the train door is opened. “Mind the Gap,” in other words pay attention to what you are doing so that you do not fall or trip as you maneuver the steps to the landing outside the train. There is an open space, a gap, between the outside of the train and the sidewalk. “Mind the Gap.”
Maybe it is an illusion, perhaps a response to fatigue, but the number of questions that seem to demand answers is increasing geometrically. As the approach of fall brings a new school year, a new season of learning in the church, and a thousand other “new” things marinated in the odyssey known as the pandemic, every moment demands answers and spawns more questions. Speaking as one who is supposed to know stuff and provide answers, I am going to make a confession – and I don’t think I’m alone. I don’t know. I don’t know how to keep everyone safe, nor how to keep folks satisfied and connected to a congregation that is still mostly scattered. I don’t know when this will end, nor how the weeks and months ahead will unfold. I don’t know.
The Book of Revelation is a source of much conversation and speculation. Its wild images and often terrifying beasts and battles can make it hard to find hope, love, or grace in its pages. Martin Luther found the whole of John’s Apocalypse to be so unhelpful to faith that he thought it should be plucked from the canon of scripture.
I have been thinking this week about the Lord’s Prayer. Besides praying it, I have been contemplating what it means to pray, “God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven." Many challenges are interrupting the peaceful loving world we all desire.
The latest developments in our year-and-a-half dance with the Covid-19 virus are less than encouraging. Enter the Delta variant, and the world is again on shifting sand – everyday! It seems like a wet blanket is draped over our lives. If you are anything like me, you are tired, you are uncertain, you are grieving what might have been and what could be. It is all just too much. I don’t think that I am being over-the-top when I call this pall, this clinging cloak, despair.
The big news story this week is Simone Biles, the twenty-four-year-old gymnast who bowed out of Olympic competition because she needed to take care of her own mental health. Because of her tremendous achievements in the sport, she is seen as the “greatest gymnast of all time.” That’s quite a yoke to place on the neck of a young woman.
Jeff Bezos had a dream that became a reality this week when the Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket was launched. He was joined on this journey by a small cohort of others. This brave group began an adventure they never experienced before. I wonder what it was like. There is a part of me that would relish the experience, but then another part that says, “If you can’t ride on a roller coaster, you might not be a prime candidate for a rocket ship!” But I do marvel at seeing firsthand the vast space of the heavens.
I have a couple of shoe boxes on the top shelf of my closet that contain notes – love notes. They are from my wife and span the thirty plus years we’ve been together. We met in a distant past where people still wrote letters to each other. Those love notes, in letter and card, tell our love story. Once, in a moment of insanity, I took them down to throw them away figuring that I knew well enough the sentiments the boxes contained. This interrupted our marital bliss for a moment, until I came to my senses and placed them securely back on the shelf. My wife knows more about devotion than I do.