Year A; Lent 4; 3.15.2020 (St. Paul’s is closed and this service includes only two EM’s, musician and me)
Today, here in the St. Paul’s beautiful Nave, Brunswick, Maine. We are a small group leading “virtual worship.” We have set our chairs six feet apart from each other. We are practicing “social distancing” to save our communities from an acute onslaught of a worldwide viral infection. We are pulling back physically from friend, family, neighbor, parishioner and stranger because in the unfortunate circumstance of possibly being an asymptomatic carrier, we could spread infection to the most vulnerable and not know it.
My sister is a nurse in San Diego and takes primary care phone calls to triage people who call in. She says that there are so many phone calls, that to catch up, their entire staff must work over the weekends.
We are in a crisis and yet we need each other in crisis. Because we can’t gather physically for worship, and our small ministry groups are not able to meet, phone calling and even conference calling are ways to connect. I am proud to say that learned how to conference call on my cell phone because my sister in San Diego, who is REALLY good with phones, taught me! When I call her, she sometimes says, “Shall I link Amy in? Shall I link Rob in?” And voila! My other sister Amy and my brother Rob are with us.
Our technology can help us be creative and innovative in connecting these next few weeks of social isolation. Connecting in creative ways can help us cope with this unprecedented worldwide threat.
This framed Serenity Prayer hangs on the wall in my bedroom. I’ve had it since John and I were first married. We both came from families of alcoholics and became familiar with the Serenity Prayer as we began to navigate adulthood and marriage with more serenity and sanity. I return to it very often, like right now, when so much is beyond my control.
The words of the prayer are remarkable and they have helped me cope in very difficult situations for years. I had not known that there is more to the prayer until I was introduced to it by the sister of a young man of this parish whose funeral I officiated right after I arrived at St. Paul’s. He died of an extra toxic form of heroine just days after he’d returned from a month-long recovery program. He had worked hard in recovery and his sister wanted everyone in the church to say the entire prayer together in his memory.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardships as a pathway to
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all
If I surrender to Your Will,
So that I may be reasonably happy
in this life,
And supremely happy with You
forever in the next.”
I have relied on the Serenity prayer from my 12-Step Al Anon work to strengthens me and give me courage. It helps me in times of helplessness to yield to God, my fabulous Higher Power! I am more and more convinced through very difficult and scary times in life that “God is with us, God loves us ABSOLUTELY and walks with us every step of the way.”
The story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well with Jesus is an intimate demonstration of God in Jesus walking with her every step of her new life. Jesus showed her that he was the Living Water she could depend on. He is the Living Water that even GUSHES! Jesus said, “The water that I give will become…a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” I love that! There’s nothing stagnant about Jesus’ presence! He gushes!
The Samaritan woman went to Jacob’s deep well in height of the hot day. She was alone. She was with no one. She was isolated. She was not with her mother, mother-in-law, sister, daughter or friends. She probably had a difficult home life – how many marriages did she have? She might have been living a notoriously sinful life demonstrated by her apparent social isolation.
I can imagine coming upon someone like Jesus and being surprised, maybe even alarmed at his willingness to engage with her. Isn’t it ironic that here we are practicing “social distancing,” having suspended group gatherings at St. Paul’s, our life-blood and joy, that the gospel story is such an intimate and close-up conversation between two strangers?
Jesus offered living water to her. And her dry life soaked up that Living Water, and she was changed for ever.
We are offered the Living Water of Jesus, too. In these challenging times we know he walks with us. God, grant us the serenity to accept our circumstances without panicking. God grant us the courage to learn new ways of connecting with people. Give us courage, too, God to not horde toilet paper and hand sanitizer!!!
And God, give us the wisdom to choose to spend each day trusting that YOU are making all things right.
Let’s stay in touch!