Call it self isolation, mandatory stay at home, or a lock-down, we are all feeling the pressure of staying in and physical distancing.
We recognize that this is essential for the health of all those in our communities and we are grateful that they stay home for our safety.
Yet it feels like a sacrifice, especially this weekend when we are told not to go to Grandma’s house for Easter Dinner and not to flock to our cabins and migrate to our hometowns. Big celebrations without our families, are difficult times.
I get it. When you are the minister of a congregation one of the questions that always drive you “batty” is when someone asks, “are you going home for Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter? I am sure that it is a question with caring intent, but how can I go home when I will be here offering thanks/announcing the birth of the Messiah/proclaiming “He is Risen”. There have been years when I struggled with the separation from family and have certainly realized that my daughter paid a price for that, because of the work that I am called to do.
Those same feelings and realizations must resonate among the RCMP members, the Emergency Services Personnel, Emergency Room staff, firefighters and all those on the front lines. All those essential workers often live separated from extended family and rarely get a “holiday weekend” off. In your prayers this weekend I urge you to pray for them all.
Yet that very human need to have those connections is so very strong. I get that. When we are told not to travel for the Easter Weekend we fight that urge to want to visit Granny to go and hug our grandchildren. The desire to connect with those we love is strong.
I get that. I have been looking forward for two years to connect with good friends of mine in Ontario. I was going to link in a week’s visit with them before attending a Women’s Conference. The plans were made. The flights were booked. Then a pandemic spread across the globe. The conference was cancelled, the tickets were cancelled and the visit will not happen.
And frankly, I RESENT THE HELL OUT OF IT! It has been seven years without any significant contact with these friends. I was looking forward to long talks, a huge dinner with their children and grandchildren, endless games of Crazy fueled with wine and laughter. The “midnight o’clock” feast of the leftovers.
Yet when I listened to the briefing by Dr. Bonnie Henry and she said this is not the time to get together to celebrate. Stay the course. Stay home. I agreed with her. At a time such as this we sacrifice our own needs, wants and desires for the good of us all.
Yet after the briefing the news went on to report, long lines at the Ferry Terminal and an one sailing wait to get to the Island. I am certain the waits to get to the mainland were as long. There were announcements from the mayors of tourist towns to say stay away. Reports of alarm from residents of border towns about the influx of people from BC to Alberta and from Alberta to BC. The human need to connect is so strong.
While I appreciate that Dr. Henry often praises us because we have done the work of staying home and that we are showing signs of flattening the curve, I also know that she is using the “honey approach” and that by praising us for our compliance, she makes us want to give her more compliance. Yet she is a realist and a pragmatist because she also says that we won’t know for 10 to 14 days what results our actions this weekend will bring.
It led me to spend a lot of time thinking about how we are being asked to invest SHORT TERM PAIN to ensure LONG TERM GAIN. It also led me to think about the nature of Sacrifice.
We are not being asked to sacrifice, although we may complain about the sacrifices we make by not worshiping together and not going out to feast with one another. This are minor irritants, not sacrifices.
We need only to turn our eyes to the cross to see what a true sacrifice is.
It began with Jesus engaging in SHORT TERM PAIN for the eternal gain of all of us. He willingly gave up his Heavenly Home to live on earth where he walked with hot sore feet from place to place, slept on the ground wrapped only in his cloak and engaged in the exhausting work of healing the sick, teaching the disciples, feeding the poor and standing strong against the complaints and accusations of the religious rulers.
Then he died on the cross for our sin.
Max Lucado in his book “Anxious for nothing” writes that sin leads to guilt and that guilt leads to anxiety; and that along with all of that comes regret.
He writes: “unresolved guilt will turn you into a miserable, weary, angry, stressed-out fretful mess…Guilt sucks the life out of our souls. Grace restores it.”
That is what the sacrifice of Jesus is all about. Restoring us.
Restoring our lives.
Restoring our ability to live in love.
Restoring our desire to put our own needs aside for the benefit of others.
Restoring our relationship with God.
Restoring our desire to serve God and one another.
We are reminded in Lucado’s book that God’s grace is bigger than everything in our lives.
In a worship service that I live streamed this morning we were reminded that the Cross is the place where we gain the understanding of our pain and the world’s pain.
More than that as I tried to convey in the Good Friday service I wrote, is that in the Cross we see God’s caring. God cares about what happens to us. God cares about what we go through. God desires to give us his gifts of grace and mercy so that we will be stronger as we go through the deep waters.
We cannot avoid the difficult journey of this pandemic, which means isolation at least until summer and which may also mean other periods of isolation for the next 12 to 18 months. We have to go through it. If we trust God to walk with us and give us strength in the journey, we will go through it with less illness and less death. Surely that is worth our SHORT TERM PAIN.
I believe we will get through this, with the better outcome and in the shorter term. I have decided to keep my trust in God, even though I understand the desires of human nature.
My trust is in God because he sees the end of the story and will reveal it in it’s season.
One of my favorite hymns, and one which will be sung at my funeral, is In The Bulb
In bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree
in cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
and the last verse…
In our end is our beginning, in our time infinity
in our doubt there is believing, in our life eternity
in our death a resurrection, at the last a victory
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Let us pray:
SHORT TERM PAIN
Sacrificing God, source of mercy, full of grace
Hear the pain of our hearts
Open your ears to our pleading
Remember us in our sorrow
Touch our tears with your love
Teach us to look to you for the future
Enter our trembling hearts with grace
Remind us this is not the end
Mercy waits for us to turn to you in faith
Peace rain down upon us
Announce that grace that longs to burst forth
Invest in us, your people
Nurture us in your heart, now and forevermore. Amen