Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27 NSRV)
Beloveds in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Holy One. Amen.
This time of year always brings to mind a quote from “You’ve Got Mail”, where Tom Hanks’ character says he would send his pen pal a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils—if he knew her name and address, that is. Of course, many of you have still had to do back-to-school shopping, albeit with some technological upgrades this year. With the majority of school districts working remotely, and many of our colleges and universities combining a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, the bouquet of pencils has turned into slim computer tablets.
All these changes to what was previously considered our normal has meant that once again, we have to adapt to a new normal in the time of Covid-19. Once again, we have to figure out how to keep our families safe, how to work—either at home, or out of the home—while our kids are largely being remotely educated. Once again, we have to change everything. So much change in such a relatively short amount of time. It’s no wonder we’re all exhausted.
Change. A 6-letter word that might as well be a 4-letter word, given the ferocity with which many people respond to its utterance. While there are people who thrive on change, and cannot bear to be still or in the same place for too long, many of us would probably claim to prefer something constant to something constantly changing. If only change were as simple as a new brand of freshly-sharpened pencils.
As Jesus prepared his disciples and friends for what was coming—his arrest, execution, resurrection, and ascension—he wanted to make it as clear as possible that change did not mean that he was abandoning them. That he wouldn’t be abandoning us. Even though life was about to look radically different, and much scarier than they could have ever imagined, Jesus reassured his beloveds and us that God was still in the midst of it all. That God goes before us and with us, so that no matter what life throws at us, we never have to go through it alone.
Covid-19 has forced us to live lives that are radically different, and scarier than we could have ever imagined. We want the world and the way we have to go about our lives to return to “normal”. We want all the changes to stop happening. This is hard and it’s scary.
None of us can predict the future, but no matter what the future holds, God is there. God has already gone ahead of us, preparing the way and getting those future spaces ready for us—both in this world and the next. There is no time or place where God is not already present.
I know God has called us to mutual ministry—to pray, dream, and work together to share God’s good news. My prayer for our church is that we are willing to share our ideas, hopes, and dreams with one another. My prayer is that when we have reservations about an idea, that we share those reservations with compassion and care, and that we do so directly. My prayer is that we trust in God, and how God is at work in us, as we do this hard work. We are in this together, and no matter what happens, God is with us through it all.