How many of you feel overwhelmed right now? How many of you feel like the disciples in the story we just heard, holding on to something, anything as the waves of life crash all around us. Things might be out of control in your life right now; you might feel that things are as bad as they can get. Maybe you have decided that you are not going to go outside for the next few days or weeks or months. The world seems to be spinning out of control, and along comes Jesus and reminds us that all will be well. He places his hand on our shoulder and says to us, fear not for I am with you.
This passage has brought me great comfort this week, and I think it might be the passage that we adopt for the remainder of Lent. Jesus never promised us that our lives would be easy, Jesus never promised us anything other than he would never abandon us and that he would love us no matter what and I find great comfort in these words this morning. Things are out of our control, we cannot change what is going to happen, but we can prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually.
This was undoubtedly not the sermon I was going to preach this morning. I can tell you that the one I had written for today was one of my best, but I guess we will never know. Circumstances have changed how we are being church this morning, and the vital thing to remember is that we are indeed the church. Nothing has stopped us from gathering and worshiping God in the midst of the storm. The waves might be crashing over the side of your boat, but here comes Jesus to calm your fears and bring some peace to your life.
So here we are, my first Sunday with you. I bet none of us will forget this Sunday. I know I won’t. I have had a lot of first Sundays with congregations, but this is a first for me. But we make do, and we do the best we can. I am encouraged by the number of church communities around the world that are gathering today in this virtual way. I am thankful that we have the capacity and the technology to be able to have this time to spend together. Next week we hope to be able to have some music along with our service if the technology cooperates.
You have been through a lot in these last months, and I am happy to be with all of you. We will spend time over the next months getting to know each other better. I want to listen to your stories and find out where you have come from and your desires for the future. I know there is the desire to “just get on with it,” but we need to slow down a little and take some time for holy rest. We have been busy with the business of the church, and now it is time for us to be the church for a while. I am certainly not equating myself with Jesus, but I am here to calm the winds of change and to settle to waters that might be crashing over the sides of your boat.
Although it might seem a bit chaotic at the moment, things will calm down if we take the time to calm ourselves first. These days when nothing is going on, are good days for us to center on our spirituality. Perhaps we can use the time we might typically set aside for the hockey or basketball game to read and study Scripture. Maybe we can use this time for some reflective prayer, writing, or reading. If you feel safe, go outside and go for a walk in nature, and explore the beauty of creation and listen to God, speak to you through his created world. Watch the wind blow through the barren trees that are just starting to show signs of new life. Nature is a reminder that after the storm, after the darkest days, life springs up again, and soon the earth will send for that life from its slumber.
Here is a radical idea: take time to talk to each other. I would encourage you to check in with each other young and old. Call people that maybe you have not spoken to in some time. Send an email or Facebook message to see how they are. Check on your neighbors to see if they need anything who knows; you might be the one that calms the storm in someone’s life.
One of the ancient practices of the church is what is called Lectio Divinia; it comes to us from the tremendous monastic St. Benedict. Lectio Divina or Divine Reading is a way of letting the words of Scripture wash over us and allows us to drill down deep into the passage. I want to ask that we spend some time this week with this passage from Mark that I read this morning.
Find a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable chair. Open your bible or print out the passage and place it on your lap. Read the passage through one time. If you can, read it out loud Scripture was meant to be heard not read. Then close your eyes and try to shut out all distractions around you. Sit with the word of God for a few moments. Then open your eyes and reread it, slowly, stopping on any words that might speak to you and listen to what they are saying. Don’t worry if you hear nothing, primarily if you are not used to this type of contemplative reading. Just let the words wash over you, and you read them, pausing, listening, asking God to speak to you.
Try this for 10 minutes or so at first and build up.
You can use any passage from Scripture you like, but I would like us to use this passage this week and read and pray together.
I want to end the sermon today with this prayer that I found just this morning. It was written by Michael Kurth, and Episcopal priest from New York and is called A Litany Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak.