Dear Grace and St Peter’s,
I was hiking in East Rock Park this morning. It was a lovely, if somewhat cool, spring morning with tiny leaves emerging from dormant tree limbs and rain drops dancing on the mirrored waters of the Mill River. As you can imagine, between the weather and virus concerns, I had the park pretty much to myself.
Walking along, I thought of all of you—all of us rather—hunkered down in our homes, not sure when it will be safe to go out, when it will be safe to gather again as a community of faith. I thought of all of us holding each other in prayer and feeling ourselves sustained by the prayers and good wishes of each other in spite of the physical distance between us.
How much we must be like the early Christians dispersed around the Mediterranean basin, unsure of their safety in a hostile Roman empire, unsure of when they might be able to gather to celebrate together the wonderful Good News—of God’s unquenchable love, of Jesus’ victory over death—that they had heard and believed in. What could they do in their expectant but anxious waiting but write letters of encouragement to each other?
Thus, words like these from Paul’s letter to the Romans: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” And, “It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Or these words (that I take only somewhat out of context) from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Or these modern words, lyrics from our own Dan Kovner: “Even in his sorrow, he offers us his majesty; he offers us his majesty, indeed!”
This is a gift that our present situation offers us. We are reminded—obliged to remember really—what it feels like to be distant from those we love, but to feel their presence and and graceful support in spite of that distance. We are reminded that faithful community is not limited in space and time, but stretches through centuries and around the globe. We are all in this together! And we are reminded, as St. Paul delights to emphasize, that no adversity, not even death itself, can break the bonds of love that bind us to one another and to God. “I am with you always,” Jesus says at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. He is with us now, loving and caring for us just as we love and care for each other.
Be without fear. New life will spring forth from this dormant time just as leaves appear in spring on the trees in East Rock Park. Today’s rainfall will nurture tomorrow’s flowers.
Be well, be safe, be joyful knowing that Jesus watches over and protects you just as a shepherd watches over and protects his flock.