All norms are now abnormal when it comes to worship. No greeters standing at the door. At least not physically. Hmmm? Should we have greeters for a webinar? Greeters for the Facebook live portion? Someone to say, “Hi. Welcome. My name is …” when folks join the session?
There aren’t many folks around that were even born during the Great Depression that ended in 1933. But plenty has heard the stories about rationing critical supplies. This crisis is totally different. But I suspect a lot of the feelings are similar. A soup combined of portions of panic, despair, optimism, denial, and more, all stirred up and served throughout the day and night. A 24×7 buffet of emotions waiting to spill out.
This week we come to the end of Part II of our series, Woven. I’m more anxious than ever to get to the end. But I’m not expecting Easter to be normal. It may feel a bit awkward talking about all is right in the world, if it isn’t. Even if the numbers of new cases are trending down, and medical personnel is getting some much-deserved rest, the after-shock will still be all around us. Will we actually feel woven? Will we feel at least somewhat normal?
Last week I speculated that many of us are feeling like the world around us is unraveling. And some of us treat the symptoms of unraveling with distractions. But all of us, when our activity stops long enough for us to reflect, we can feel the threads of who we think we are, begin to fall away. And we soon feel naked and vulnerable with nothing to shield us from the eyes of God. We unravel.
This time between the parties of Mardi Gras and Easter holds special meaning in the traditions of the Christian church. It is a time of deep reflection. It is a time of unraveling spiritually. A time when we can feel the collision of all is well with the reality of all is not well. We sometimes can sense that death is imminent even as life calls us to keep moving.
But let’s not rush to the end and miss out on experiencing the journey.
In one of my favorite stories found in the Gospel of John, we again can observe a variety of responses to divine intervention. The story begins as an example of healing but quickly expands to shed light on the full range of human reactions.
Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?
Once upon a time, there was a blind man who was born blind. When Jesus and His followers encountered the man, one of Jesus’ followers asked whether the man’s blindness was punishment for something he or his parents had done wrong.
This is a very human response, isn’t it? How many of us wonder whether this pandemic is punishment for something that someone did wrong. Several folks have asked me if this pandemic is a sign of the end? Is punishment just around the corner?
Our responses are, for the most part, insights into the beliefs that shaped us. The tone of the follower’s question made it clear that the sculpting of the questioner was that bad things happen when we are inadequate. That there is a cause and effect when it comes to getting what we deserve. If the man was born blind, perhaps his parents did something to make God angry.
You will be happy to know that Jesus rejected this argument. The man’s blindness was neither the result of something he did wrong nor was his blindness punishment for something his parents did. But His response is also puzzling. Jesus explains that the man’s blindness provides an opportunity for the healing power of God to be seen. The blind man is healed with spit and mud.
This story clearly isn’t a promise that everyone who is physically blind will gain physical sight. Nor does it contain a recipe for curing physical blindness. But there is a lot of great news for all of us at this time. And an opportunity for us to unravel a bit further by reflecting where we fit into this story.
One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see
The story continues with a cast of characters representing varieties of sculpting. There are the antagonists of Jesus who want to protect their positions. The parents who distance themselves from what has happened. The crowds who aren’t sure what to believe. And the formerly blind man caught in the middle.
But the story ends with a message of woven-ness. I was blind, and now I see. Simple and straightforward. The understanding of the formerly blind man that his blindness would persist unravels. And the result is light instead of darkness. Unraveling is worth the journey.
For those who can stay home and catch up on a few spiritual activities, what a great opportunity to reflect and grow in your faith. For those of us whom God has put us in places where we are at risk, we need to know that God is at work alongside us and stay tuned to God’s voice, who is letting us know when danger is close by. For all of us, it is healthy to shed, to let go, of those threads of our identity that keep us from experiencing God’s grace and power. This is an excellent opportunity to unravel gracefully.
A reminder that we publish a weekly newsletter called the Circuit Rider. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to info@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
I invite you to join us for Sunday worship through Facebook live at 10:30 am. As more options become available, we will keep you informed. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.