This past Monday evening, our community learned how the Ankeny Schools will handle education during a pandemic. The “Return to Learn Plan” is a hybrid plan, holding together elements of a physical return and on-line, physically distanced approaches. Not everyone is happy for lots of reasons. That is probably not a surprise.
Practically speaking, the fairly settled routines of beginning a new school year have been put in a blender. Everything has changed. The return to school is just one more way in which adapting to the changing landscape of life wrought by Covid-19 brings disruption, anxiety, frustration, and fear.
What we all seem to need in the face of life in a blender is a little peace. Peace between those who disagree. Peace for those beleaguered and battered leaders making decisions. Peace in family kitchens as the strain of a new logistic strains the tie that binds. Peace in the hearts of all struggling to figure out what life is supposed to look like today, and then tomorrow.
As the Philippian church faced persecution and crisis, Paul wrote them a loving letter. Toward the end he left them this counsel in the face of all the change, upheaval, and the frustration of life in a blender:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
This deep and abiding peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells in you. We need only to focus on the peace and its source instead of the disruptions of life to find our center, our strength. As Paul says, it “passes understanding.” You can’t understand Christ’s peace. You can, however, receive it. In fact, it is already yours.
Julian of Norwich is a noted Christian mystic who lived from 1343 to about 1416. When she was young, she fell ill and prayed mightily that she would be united to Christ in death. She had a vision in which Christ instructed her to meditate on the cross alone. After letting go of every other worry and seeing only the cross, Christ spoke to her saying she would not die and that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'
This is the peace that passes understanding, a gift from God. When crisis seems at hand and we are overwhelmed, we look upon the cross and see a God who is united to our trials and a Messiah who overcomes. That tells us that all will indeed be well. If Christ is raised from the death on a cross, then the universe is unfolding toward wellness, wholeness, and joy.
Brothers and sisters, rejoice always – even in the face of a pandemic and a chaotic start to school. Embrace the peace we can’t understand for all manner of things will be well. God promises.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor