March 23, 2020
Good afternoon, St. Dunstan's -
As we begin this new week, I am thinking about and praying for you all. We have been at this strange new way of being long enough now that we've all probably developed a bit of a routine, and I am wondering how it is going for you: Where have you struggled? Where have you found moments of unexpected grace - or even joy? Where have you seen the fingerprints of God at work in your life? I would love know. I have "seen" several folks online over the past several days, either in our evening Compline service or Wednesday Bible Study, which has been wonderful - and while I am so thankful for the technology that makes those encounters possible, it still is no substitute for real human connection. I crave conversations with you, so if you have time and would like to chat, please send me an email with your best phone number and I will call or FaceTime you back. We can have a virtual cup of coffee or tea together!
I also have been reflecting quite a bit over these past few days about scarcity. At times of crisis the human tendency often is to panic, convincing ourselves that there is not and will not be enough - of whatever the "good" - for us and our families. Anyone who has been down the paper goods aisle of their local grocery store recently knows exactly what I mean. The media, of course, only exacerbates the problem, whipping many of us into a frenzy which may or may not be rational. (I bought a can of Spaghettios the other night, "just in case." Yes, it has come to this...)
Fear, particularly of what we don't know and cannot predict, is a powerful motivator, and sometimes we find ourselves assuming the worst. (If you haven't heard my reflection on assumptions from yesterday's service of Morning Prayer, you can find it here, beginning at the 12:25 mark.) When it comes to scarcity, Jesus is very clear: throughout the Gospels, He demonstrates time and again God's abundance in the face of humans' perception of lack. The iconic miracle story about scarcity and abundance is, of course, the multiplication of the "loaves and fishes", but this is not the only place where Jesus inverts our fear of not having enough. Think, too, about the Parable of the "Prodigal Son," in which it is really the father who proves to be "prodigal," lavishing his beloved son with love and welcome, even after a time of painful estrangement. This is how God works, too. Where we humans see a lack, God offers abundance: abundant forgiveness, abundant mercy, abundant grace, abundant love.
I encourage you to spend some time today identifying where, specifically, you experience a "scarcity mindset" in your life, and take that mindset to prayer. Offer it to God to see how it might be transformed. Make no mistake: I am not for a moment suggesting that we should not be concerned about scarcity, especially these days. We are right to worry, and it is human to do so. And yet, as Christians, we are also called to place our trust in the very source of abundance, the One who tells us not to worry about food or clothing (Matthew 6:25-34). Herein lies an inherent tension: How are we to be people of faith in a time of such uncertainty?
I don't have an easy answer to that question - and if I did, you would be well within your rights to reject it for being too flippant. What I do know, from experience, is that prayer changes things. Prayer changes me. I may not be showered suddenly by ample rolls of toilet paper (if only!), but through prayer I am strengthened and my perspective shifts, so that I am able to see glimpses of abundance where I once only saw lack.
Why not use some of this enforced "downtime" to connect with family and friends, and perhaps with fellow parishioners, in prayer? How would it be if you carved out a few minutes every day - alone, or with others (even if just virtually) - to share your concerns and offer them to God? You just might be surprised by what happens.
I'll close with these words from St. Francis de Sales, which I used to share with the graduating class each year when I was Chaplain at St. Andrew's. They seem particularly appropriate for our own day:
Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, and put aside
all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
Peace be with you all -
Please join us any evening at 9 p.m. for this lovely time of prayer at the end of the day. The Zoom link for Compline may be found here. Feel free to forward the link to friends near and far...the more, the merrier! (For step-by-step instructions for logging on to a Zoom meeting, please click here.)
Our Seminarian, Robin Reed, soon will begin offering a virtual service of daily Morning Prayer, which will be in addition to our nightly Compline. Like Compline, this short service will take place "in real time," via Zoom meeting. If you are interested in starting your day with Robin and some of your fellow St. Dunstan's parishioners in prayer, please be in touch with her directly at email@example.com so that you all can decide together on the best time to gather. Stay tuned for more information in an upcoming Daily Message!