Many Americans witnessed the siege of the Capitol building on January 6th, just as Congress was certifying the electors in our most recent Presidential election. Irrespective of where you place yourself on the American political spectrum, it was shocking, and a horrible scene of violence. And yet, it must be said, that the insurrection of January 6th 2021 by domestic terrorists was the logical culmination of four years of dehumanizing rhetoric and actions. As the majority religion of the United States, we Christians are culpable and complicit, because far too many of us did not exercise our political values in concert with our baptismal faith to speak out against the President’s reckless words and behavior. Far too many of us preferred to remain silent through these tumultuous four years, and that silence has come home to roost.
I have always been taken with Mark’s account of the miracle of the loaves (Mark 6:30-44.) Multiplying bread and fish in order to satisfy people’s hunger spoke to me from an early age. I could never understand why anyone went hungry. As I looked at the world around me, I saw that there were those with so much as well as those with nothing. Why couldn’t those who had plenty simply share with those who were in need?
To set the stage, I am a believer in miracles. I believe in the virgin birth, healing prayer, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and, as an Anglo-Catholic, the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We need the miraculous in a world of the mundane, and, as of late, the insane.
Every month ECFVP offers resources on a theme. This month we've asked our own Dr. Sandra Montes to choose resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.
In the gospel of Mark 2 1:12, the story is recounted of a paralyzed man who is healed and forgiven by Jesus. The account begins with Jesus preaching to an extremely large overflowing crowd in Capernaum. Four friends of a paralyzed man, determined that their friend would see Jesus, dug a hole in the roof and lowered the man on his mat. Jesus impressed by the faith and tenacity of the paralyzed man and his friends said “Son, your sins are forgiven”. The teachers of the law took issue with the words of forgiveness Jesus used believing that they were blasphemous. Jesus expressed to them that as the Son of Man he had the authority on earth to forgive as well as heal. He then told the paralyzed man “…take your mat and go home” and the paralyzed man walked out in full view of all and everyone was amazed and praised God.
I didn’t think we’d still be here. Back in March, I thought we’d have Covid wiped out in a few weeks, maybe before Easter. March rolled into April, then May. Surely by the summer, right?
I couldn’t imagine we’d be planning Advent and Christmas under a pandemic; actually, looking at rising numbers and a winter surge. I didn’t think the talk of virtual Annual Meetings was going to be a thing, but it definitely looks that way.
My entire relationship with Covid-19 and this global pandemic, you see, is built on my experiences. Even my rough-hewn optimism is founded on what I’ve experienced, what I’ve known. Back in January 2020, I remember talking about this strange virus – it was breaking into news cycles around that time – but the conversation was heady, intellectual; talking about something other people deal with, not us. “Do you remember SARS?” my conversation partner asked, “It’ll pass by soon enough. It won’t impact us.” The problem was that I believed that statement. I believed it because in my lifetime, to date, I’d never been impacted by something like that. It couldn’t happen to me because, well, it’s never happened to me.
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” – Mark 1:1
This is not a headline nor a subtitle. It is a proclamation that the stories about to be related are about THE savior, God’s own son.
Biblical scholars tell us Mark was writing for Christian believers living in Rome, the epicenter of an empire that recognized the emperor as a god. It was good news indeed to be assured that this Jesus for whom they were risking their lives was truly God, not another human invention.
“I am going to start with the main point,” Mark seems to be thinking as he picks up his writing instrument, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Does it seem to you that, “Happy New Year” is being said more fervently now? As if we are demanding: “Be happy, New Year!”
Congregational leaders are likely praying for the same as the stress of change and survival continue. Five years ago, consultant, coach and spiritual director Susan Beaumont began writing a book about such struggle. It was published in September 2019. By 2020, its title seemed designed for the pandemic: How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season.
“Liminality refers to a quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs during transition, when a person or group of people is in between something that has ended and something else that is not yet ready to begin,” Beaumont explains in Chapter 1.