Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
The first rule of preaching is, “tell the truth.” Actually, the way that adage is more frequently communicated is more PG-13—“don’t preach no BS.!”
Preaching is about speaking the truth.
Speaking God’s truth—hopefully—with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking our truth—the truth of the world around us—and Gospel truth TO the world around us…“With the bible in one hand and the news of the day in the other,” as the saying goes.
And so as I stand here this morning…I cannot and will not lie…these have been a rough couple of weeks. For all of us. No one has been unaffected by this pandemic.
The endless waves of new and increasingly alarming information about closures…enforced physical distancing…the scramble to figure out how to use new technologies and continue to sustain ourselves at a distance…the waves of fear…of grief…the oppressive and ever-present uncertainty…they have infected every aspect of our lives…no one is immune…we are truly all in this together. Globally.
Today, we have to be more profoundly aware than ever before of how tightly woven, deeply interconnected, and incredibly fragile this web of life—that sustains all of us—really is. The deep awareness of that…as scary and maybe painful as that it…can be one of the saving graces of this time. Knowing at a bone-deep level how fundamentally woven together we are as the body of Christ even in a time of tremendous uncertainty is balm for our souls.
Hanging onto that sense of connection…and actively engaging many of those virtual connections…even as we are intentionally separating ourselves…is vital for the health of everyone.
I know we’re all asking many of the same unanswered and right now unanswerable questions: What’s next? How long will this go on?… And the truth is…right now no one knows. That will change…as time creeps forward, clarity will emerge, and things will change…but right now…the only thing we know for certain, is that this is going to take time. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Which means we need to take all of this…one step at a time…we need to recommit to that gospel truth of living day by day…”give us today, our daily bread,”…“do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34).
One day at a time to stay as connected as we can…One day at a time to stay as grounded and healthy (mentally, physically, and spiritually) as we can…One day at a time to help each other as best we can…and continue making the best decisions we can with the best information we have.
The truth is that I am deeply moved and encouraged by the day to day faithful responses that you have been making…from…the blossoming of online meetings—and prayer and support groups—the calls you’re making to check-in with and support each other… the checks that have come in from many to specifically help those who are going to suffer from loss of income. That is Gospel work. Those are powerful signs that God is very much in this…with us…and because we know God is leading…we will find a way through this extended Lenten desert…and into an Easter resurrection. It will take a while…it will take longer than any of us wants…we all know that Easter is not simply a date on a calendar…every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. Easter will come…because God is unstoppable.
I don’t know about you, but there was a lot in the Gospel reading that resonated with me. Here’s a group of people confronted with a mysterious affliction…an equally mysterious cure…and that generates a lot of questions and uncertainty…and unrest…Who did this? How? Who’s responsible? How can we trust what you say? Who are you to tell us what to do? Who’s to blame? Doesn’t all that sound familiar?
And in this midst of this communal uproar, Jesus reminds us that everything is an opportunity for God’s will to be revealed. Not in terms of assigning blame and meeting out punishment—it’s not about sin—or who or what is to blame—that’s not the point, he says, the point is how you respond to the situation right now, and can you see God at work in the world, or not?
Do you immediately look around and try to find someone to blame…or do you look around and try to figure out who most needs help?
(And remember, in the midst of a crisis, the person who most needs help, might be you—that’s not an invitation to be selfish—it’s an an encouragement to be really honest about your own capacities).
I saw something a Rabbi posted this week which said, “The audacious spiritual question in the aftermath of devastation is not “why did this happen?” — instead, it is: how do I bring justice, kindness, and humility to my life right now?” [source], and thus, to the lives of those around me? That’s the question Jesus encourages us to ask…and that’s the work we need to be most engaged with right now.
As Jesus reminds us today, everything is an opportunity for God’s will to be revealed…everything, even the death on the cross, is a way for God’s works to be revealed, and God’s love to show through. Because God is in all of it, as long as we are committed to the task of bringing justice, kindness and humility to our lives…God will manage the rest.
These weeks of enforced physical distancing are going to be difficult, but the day will come again when our kids will play together, and go off to school, and we will meet for coffee, and go out and have lunch, and have dinners together…and worship together…the day will come when once again we will be all gathered around one table…sharing one bread and one cup.
And just because we are not sharing Communion with bread and wine, does not mean that we are not sharing Communion with God. Another scholar reminded me on social media this week that “God is still at the Table that is spread among us in our hearts, in our prayers, in our service.” [source].
When we share prayers together over zoom and livestreaming…God is with us…when we call and check-in on each other…God is with us…we can’t share bread and wine now, but the Eucharistic feast we proclaim and celebrate never ends…nor are we ever separated from God’s love.
The time will come when we can all be together again, and the knowledge of what we have seen and heard and learned out here in this desert will come with us…the knowledge of how deeply we are connected to one another—how important and vital and fragile and precious all of those connections are—how all of our actions and inactions really do affect countless others…how fragile and vibrant the web of life is…and how God is in all of it. And everything is an opportunity for God’s will and God’s love to be revealed. Amen.