Random Lenten/Corona Thoughts

“If I only had time, I’d write more.”
“Without distractions, I’d get more done.”
“If only my children didn’t have so many activities, we’d be a closer family.”
“If only my wife/husband were home to help with the children…”

Are you finding, as I am, how weak are most of the excuses we tell ourselves? In addition to this observation, what else are you learning about yourself during these days of enforced isolation? What suspicions about your heart—things that busyness and crowds and schedules masked—are rising to the surface? The Hebrew cry to God is one that we (I) too often overlook or ignore. The words have a poetic, musical tone that can easily divert our attention from its hard message:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.*

 Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase packs an unexpected punch:

Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Can Corona Isolation—along with Lenten quiet—lead to deeper understanding, repentance, new life?

Another thought:

I have a friend who, when she recommends a book, I take special notice. When she casually mentioned her chosen Lenten devotional, I had no idea it would become my mainstay during these Corona/Lenten days. See if these words from Walter Brueggemann’s A Way Other Than Our Own resonate with you. (Incidentally, this book was published in 2017 and probably written a year earlier. Truth knows no time restraint.)

(On Isaiah 54:7-9) Ours is a time like the flood, like the exile, when the certitudes abandon us, the old reliabilities have become unsure, and “things fall apart.” …We grow more strident, more fearful, more anxious, more greedy for our own way, more despairing, and, consequently, more brutal… From out of the chaos, however, emerges this other voice rooted in memory…shaping our future not in hostility but in compassion, not in abandonment but in solidarity, not in isolation but in covenant, not in estrangement but in well being.

The Easter claim is not simply about resuscitation but about a new reality in the world that is unrestrained by the force of fear, or violence or privilege.

 There is a way into the future in your life, because God is at work doing strange, wondrous things for you and in spite of you, and your job is to get your mind off your ways of need and control, to give your life to God’s large hidden way in your life.

 And finally, this prayer:

We are constricted by stories of scarcity. Break through these false tales with the surprising truth of abundance. May we bask in your shalom and then perform your story of generosity over and over again.      Amen

*Psalm 139:23-24

Corona Virus and the Christian

The words barrel into us with a paralyzing thud: corona virus, national emergency, airports, schools, churches closed, store shelves empty, hospital beds at a premium. How does a follower of Jesus live well in the midst of the crisis? We have memorized and quoted scripture’s “fear nots,” but in the dark hours of the night or when mesmerized by media, we realized that the words have not walked the journey from head to heart.

We in the Western world are now living the reality that our brothers and sisters around the globe face daily: distress, deprivation, denial. We, like they, are called to live sacrificially so others can heal, prosper, and find peace with God.

Walter Brueggemann* writes about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus: Jesus says to him: “You’ve got to start over! …You’ve got to become as vulnerable and innocent and dependent as a little child. You’ve got to forego your social position, your achievements, your wealth, your reputation. You’ve got to let go of all the things that make you self-sufficient and that alienate you from the wonder of the gift of God. Start over in vulnerability, in innocence, and in dependence…

During these days when panic threatens, Brueggemann’s words take on special meaning. Perhaps every time we wash our hands—as prescribed!—we acknowledge that before God we are vulnerable and dependent. Truly, our help comes from the Lord and, in that truth, we dwell in peace and reach out to our fearful neighbors.

Eusebius, a bishop and historian of the early church wrote about Christians during the deadly plague: All day long some of them [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them.  Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.

May it be true of us.

*A Way Other Than Our Own