On the Way: The Next Step
Fourth Sunday in Lent
“…We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” --John 9:4-5
A friend and former colleague of mine once said that her frequent prayer during her time serving as bishop was “Lord, give me just enough light to see the next step.” I’ve been praying that prayer a lot during the last few weeks as the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus has grown, and attempts to “flatten the curve” of the virus’ spread have intensified. I’ve prayed that prayer a lot as, together, we have tried to figure out how to respond and adapt to these curve flattening measures, and as I have tried, personally, to figure out how to protect myself while still doing my job. You see, as a 59 year old diabetic, with hypertension and who last fall suffered from blood clots in my lungs, I check a lot of boxes on the “risk factor” list. While my various conditions are well-controlled and I am in relatively good health, I still worry. It’s in my nature.
I know I am not alone in my worry. Anxiety is high everywhere. I’ve had more than one conversation, email or text exchange with people who, like me, are trying to figure out their next step. One person said to me, “I feel overwhelmed with information, but I know nothing!” I know the feeling. Uncertainty abounds. No one really knows where all this is headed.
With all this swirling around, Jesus words to his disciples, “…night is coming when no one can work…” jumped off the screen as I read this week’s Gospel Lesson. With so many of our congregations in the AR-OK having suspended worship, and the looming prospect of not being able to gather for the celebration of Easter in a few weeks, it seems like night has fallen. But, we need to keep reading. Jesus’ warning about the coming night is more than balanced by his next words, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Those words bring us rays of hope in the midst of the night. He proves the truth and power of those words by healing the man born blind.
Jesus is still in the world. God is still with us.
That is true even if we cannot, for a time, gather together in person for worship. That is true, even if we cannot, for a time, gather around the Lord’s Table in communion with one another and with God. That is true, even if the next step remains shrouded in shadows of uncertainty.
Even though we may be cut off from gathering physically with one another, we are not cut off from the full power of God’s life-giving grace, mercy and forgiveness. God’s grace can still be found in the pages of scripture, in moments of prayer and meditation, and in the communion of being the body of Christ together even if we are physically separated.
Story after story in the scriptures bear witness to God’s steadfast and enduring presence as God’s people have faced challenge after challenge. The story of the Gospels is the story of God with us, of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and the good news that there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate us from God’s love. Not even death. Dwelling in the Word nurtures our faith, strengthens our spirits, and offers us insight and guidance for facing challenges and struggles in our lives.
Times of prayer and meditation can quiet our souls, keep us centered and help us become more aware of the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the world around us. Praying for all those who are being impacted by this virus, caring for the sick, making decisions for how to confront it’s spread, struggling with loss of work and income, loneliness, isolation, anxiety and fear, connects us to them and to God’s power and promise for us all.
Finally, we need to do what we can to stay connected to one another and continue looking for ways to care for our neighbors. We can make phone calls to check on one another. Connect through social media. Worship online. Contribute to ministries helping the hungry or homeless or others who are being severely impacted by the various measures being taken to slow the virus. Practice the social distancing, hand washing and other measures being recommended to keep ourselves and other safe. We are the church whether we are gathering or not. We are still the Body of Christ and, as much as we can, we can continue to do Christ’s work in the world.
After Jesus heals the blind man, there is a lot of disbelief, uncertainty and questioning about the miracle, its veracity and its meaning. People had a hard time seeing it for what it was: the power of God at work in the world. I think that, in the midst of difficult times, it is sometimes hard to see God at work in the world around us. But, Jesus is still at work opening our eyes. My prayer is that he gives all of us just enough light to see our next step.
Thanks for reading. Keep praying! I invite you to share what you see God doing in and around you by leaving a comment or thought.