Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we move through the wilderness landscape of this Lent, life is different for all of us. The prospect of change is more real for us than usual in this time of transition, although, as I said in a recent sermon, life is inherently transition. You look in the mirror each morning, and what you see each day is slightly different than what you saw the day before (not because we visibly age overnight – thank God!) simply because the experiences of the previous day added to the “journal of your life” in your faith journey. Each day’s happenings add to that bank of experiences, and help to reshape us, even if ever so slightly.
Of course, some events change us and our “journal” dramatically in a single day. Deaths, other losses, illness, etc., along with life’s joyous events – births, anniversaries, a new job, good news of any sort – alter the course of our path. Since December, we have lost seven beloved members of the Household to death. A number of others are struggling with life-threatening or debilitating illness – their own or a loved one’s. Still others face the challenges of addiction – again, their own or a loved one’s – or unemployment or underemployment, or any of a host of difficulties that change their lives more dramatically each day. There is, for many of us, a very real sense of what Lent means in our day-to-day living.
How reassuring it is, to me, that we are all surrounded by the kind of love and care that epitomizes Manakin’s life. From the work of the Pastoral Care Committee, with their assistance with meals, driving, visits, etc., to the Prayer Vine to the various ways in which the “informal” network of care operates, this is a community that makes real the love of God in times of need. (Of course, none of us read minds, so we need to be told about needs in order for anyone to respond!) Much love and support is provided in times of need by so many of us, that no one need to feel alone in their struggles.
There is another reassurance, though, from which all those expressions of love and care are derived – the source of all love and caring – the Great Healer. Christ is the source of all healing, wellness, wholeness. To heal means “to make whole” – and in Christ, that is always possible. Wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships is that for which we all pray. It is the invitation in our healing services on 1st and 3rd Wednesdays. It is the promise of the absolution after our confession, and the very essence of the way Holy Eucharist restores us to wholeness each time we receive the broken bread and the sacred cup. It is what we all offer when we engage in those pastoral exercises listed above, and so many more.
A dear friend of mine, Sister Martha Reeves, in her books penned under the name of Maggie Ross, often speaks of the Church’s long understanding that Christ enters into our lives in all kinds of ways, and in every moment in which we let him in. But she points out that the times we are most “vulnerable” to Christ’s entry are the times of pain. Christ enters into our lives most directly and intently, she writes, in our wounds, for he experienced physical wounds in his Incarnational life. In fact, as many others over the centuries have pointed out, the Incarnation was the means by which God could enter into our lives as had never been possible before.
Ann Rose, the author of the February readings for Forward Day By Day, wrote this for February 23rd:
“Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect.
Our two daughters had diabetes for more than ten years before home blood monitoring became available. Although Kathy, age thirteen, had given her own insulin injections since she was six, she was terrified of pricking her finger (with the early equipment, the prick was deep and painful).
I asked the other women in my small fellowship group to pray for Kathy’s courage. Alyne, in her eighties, returned the following week and reported that at first she couldn’t pray about Kathy’s fear because she had no idea what courage it took to draw blood from your own finger. So she had taken a razor blade, and on several days had gone behind a closed door (so as not to alarm her family) and cut her fingertip with the corner of the blade to see how much courage it took.
She had become like Kathy to understand her, and as a result, Kathy felt understood. She was awed when I told her about Alyne (and she actually started doing the blood tests). Jesus became like us. We say that, but it’s easy to forget the over- whelming difference that makes. Awe and gratitude might be a good response.”
Like Alyne, we know more about one another when we enter into each other’s pain and suffering, when we know what someone else’s challenges are. As Ann points out, that is exactly what Jesus did for us by being born into our human realm. In Lent, as we move toward the time of his intense suffering in Holy Week, I hope you will find assurance in the knowledge that whatever your loss or your challenge or your suffering is, Jesus is there with you – and that he knows and shares in it.
Have a blessed and meaningful Lent.
In Christ’s Love,