Sunday 14 March 2021: Lent 4
You are God’s work of art
Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
Context: a Family Eucharist in an urban parish on Merseyside
Aim: encouragement to look to the future with hope in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic to remind the congregation that we are all called to care
Everyone here today has this much in common: we survived 2020. On its threshold many remarked that 2020 would be a special year, a year to remember. Indeed, no truer word has been spoken in jest!
‘20-20’ is the shorthand for perfect vision. Could we call our 2020 experience perfect vision? It certainly was a time when our eyes were opened, though our vision was in turmoil and our minds were being questioned and lives were being ripped apart as they had never been ripped apart before.
This was not a question of a particular group or a particular country, this was worldwide, from the young to the old, from the newly born to the recently dead. No one was left unscathed. For many, I am sure one large frightening thing was that solutions seemed so slow in appearing, while numbers rose inexorably, and governments sought to control events by limiting people’s movements.
All of us carry innumerable memories, sometimes too painful to express. We will need to help one another face the scars this time has left, some not yet totally revealed. But we can see the effects sometimes in people’s faces. I would dare to say that this year has harmed everyone in one way or another, young or old, sick, or healthy. For many it’s meant lost jobs; for the young disrupted education; for the seriously sick delays in treatment. Those who were unable to sit near their loved ones or possibly could only watch through a window as a family member breathed their last will never forget that pain. In a way I am surprised that we are not experiencing more reaction. Is this a time of shock, a time of a certain paralysis within ourselves; or is it more than that?
Isn’t this the moment when the Lord Himself is moving us forward, nudging us on? Saint Paul reminds us so beautifully: ‘We are Gods’ work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.’
Let us stop here for a moment … Silence says much more than words.
There have been such moments in our daily routine: loud crashing events that hit the mind like waves on the rocks; but then a gentle whisper, as when water touches sand. From these moments, inspiration has been created. Someone, somewhere, remembered the great sign of hope, the rainbow, and from that moment rainbows appeared: large ones, small ones, knitted ones and toffee ones, large and small; each stating that our news is hope, hope is our message.
That hope is our feeling was confirmed when dusk began to fall. Men and women and young and old united universally. Everyone began to show their gratitude for how people were working for others. The sound of clapping filled towns and villages, from country to country. A united thanks seemed to fill the earth. This was no casual expression, no light-hearted gesture. I am sure that this was an expression of a response to all the prayers, all the invocations expressed in churches and temples, in fields and in homes, a calling out to a God who saves.
The rainbows have slowly, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, disappeared from our windows. Our weekly clapping may be held over for another time. But what has remained for so many is the desire to continue the fellowship created so many moons ago. People are still looking for ways to continue their hospitality. For a while we have been made aware of our need for each other, acknowledging those who work for us, from nurses and doctors to shop-keepers, street cleaners, window cleaners.
Let’s pray that we will never take each other for granted again. This has been a very hard lesson for us all, one we would not wish for in any way shape or form. But it may have been the only way for our world to understand the command to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself.’
And for us God-folk, this neighbourliness has a taproot and a source, the ‘so much love’ shown by God in Christ. It doesn’t give us 20:20 vision of the way ahead, but it frees our hearts to move forward, together, as God’s work of art in progress.
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