22 March 2020 The 4th Sunday in Lent
People who know me know I enjoy reading fantasy novels written for young adults and ‘young readers.’ Many years ago I was introduced to the Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. Welsh mythology provides the cauldron from which the stories unfold about Taran, a boy who dreams of becoming a warrior, as he grows up. Throughout his wanderings Taran meets a wide variety of wonderful people. In one of his journeys he comes into a valley where there is a small but well-kept home to which is attached a sturdy but empty corral. Taran meets the man of the house who brings invites him in for supper and a place to sleep. They arrive and the man happily introduces Taran to his wife and children, announcing they have another person for dinner that night. The wife looks at the one egg she had for her family’s meal, then sets the children to finding this and that, takes out the stale loaf of bread and in no time has created a large frittata to feed everyone.
Taran asks about the empty corral and his host says it is for the flock. What flock? Inquires Taran, and is told there is no flock yet, but when they have one there is a strong corral to keep them in. Wandering through the valley with the householder at his side, they come across a herd of sheep without anyone taking care of him, and they separate, Taran to continue his journey and the householder to take home the new flock. What struck Taran about the householder and his family was their vastly different way of looking at things. Where Taran saw limitations they saw opportunities. What Taran thought were unrealistic expectations made them able to “seize the day” when what they were hoping for came by. In the future this way of looking at things will be an important part of how Taran faces a terrible challenge.
I think of this story when I read about Jesus healing the blind man. As long as the man was living within the confines of what everyone ‘knew’ about the pool – that the healing properties were only in the water when it was stirred, and the time to get in limited, so neither being able to see the water moving and then having to stumble blindly to the pool when others are reacting meant the blind man had not been able to be healed. Gd’s power to save is not restricted by the limitations of the pool. Jesus is known for his works of healing, and yet those in the story do not see, they are as blind as the blind man.
The sighted people gathered around the pool do not see a blind man they might bring into the pool beside them. They, too, are blind.
The Pharisees, who yearn for the security and comfort of Gd’s approval and practice an ‘extra-strict’ obedience to the Law, do not recognize Jesus as the one who fulfills all that the Law would teach them – they are also blind.
Blindness afflicts us in more ways than one. Do we choose our blindness? The blind man and his parents did not choose his blindness, neither by sinning, the recognized seed of all illness at that time, nor are they the innocent victims of the sins of their ancestors, also a reason given for illness and disaster.
The Pharisees were yearning for the guiding light of Gd’s Torah – as the Law is so often described in the Scriptures. They were seekers but were unable to see what was in front of them because their eyes were shut – glued to specific understandings and ways of expecting Gd to act.
Even the disciples, who are the first to ask whose sin had been the reason for the man’s blindness, who have been at Jesus’ side as he has healed others – they too cannot see except what they have been taught or socialized to see: A man is blind because someone sinned – himself, his parents, their parents, an uncle, cousins. . . sin from any member of the ‘clan’ could result in dire consequences on others.
Jesus doesn’t see it that way. “This man is an opportunity for us to see the glory of Gd!”
This story is full of insight; the blind man is the one who truly sees and shows is clearly in his response to Jesus at the end of the story. He was blind and now has sight, he was also spiritually blind and now sees clearly the presence of the Holy One in Jesus.
If it were ‘Lent as usual’ for us, I would explore these ideas about light and sight and insight and why it is good for us to make time to be thoughtful of them on this journey to Easter.
But this is not “Lent as usual.” This is the Lent in which a pandemic closed the houses of worship to their communities and neighbourhoods. This is the Lent where seeking fellowship is discouraged and even opportunities to put our faith into action in sandwich lines and community meals are being closed down in some places.
But in some places they have become the ‘staging ground’ for continuing care for the hungry but by municipal staff instead of volunteers. In some places they have found a way to continue to hand out meals without violating the social distancing norm.
Another element of this “not Lent as usual” are the emotions running high – anxiety and fear on the one hand, denial and selfishness on the other. We’re not talking about guilt or spiritual growth, we’re talking survival and a ‘new normal’ as a result of this pandemic.
We who trust Jesus’ witness to Gd’s love for us have as many reasons for anxiety and fear as others, but we do not need to give in to them. We believe that Gd is present to all of us – and somewhere in the midst of all this Gd is acting to open our eyes, to turn limitations into possibilities, to bring something new out of what is over and gone.
“Let your light shine”: make these “We” statements a litany and creed this week.
“You are salt for the earth”: salt is shaken out to do its business, a metaphor for being disbursed, scattered. We may be operating out of the limited spaces of our homes, but we are connected in webs that unfold well beyond us: stay connected with friends, family, church family, work, school and others, make it a commitment to be more attentive during this time.
It is likely we will not be celebrating Easter together and that seems strangest of all. We can only wonder and wait with expectation for what new ways life will spring forth from cold tombs and desolate places. We can live the words of this ancient funeral hymn, “yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The Kontakion (starts and ends with “Give rest to your servant with your saints, O Gd. . .”)
7260 St. Alban’s Road Richmond B.C. V6Y 2K3
22 March 2020
Greetings to all Parishioners and Friends:
We are all aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and responses around the world, nationally and locally. For many people it seems like some kind of alternate version of life, even ‘unreal’ to the extent that some are ignoring the warnings we are receiving from health and governmental authorities daily.
On March 18th Archbishop Melissa directed us to cease gathering for worship for the present time. Instead, some parishes are making information available on their web-sites and Facebook pages. Some have the resources at hand to enable live-stream broadcasts.
At St. Alban’s we are learning together how to gather as the ‘virtual church.’ This is a new way for all of us and counterintuitive to an organization based on gathering people together across borders and boundaries. We have to learn that using the technology of websites, livestreaming, Zoom, Skype and other web-based resources are doing this for us – crossing the borders of separation, isolation and disease.
Not all members of St. Alban’s use the internet. We are creating telephone trees for communication updates and prayer. Rev’d Paula, Jennifer (Office), Larry, Dale and Stephanie (our Wardens) will be available by telephone. Through us you can also reach out to Thelma (envelope secretary). Please be patient while we gather information and create our teams and guidelines.
We are all concerned about how we manage finances at this time. Like all households, we will continue to get our regular bills. We are not laying off staff unless the situation
becomes precarious. Your envelopes and other donations are important to us. At this time, please consider the following:
- Dropping your envelope (or donation) through the mail slot at St. Alban’s. It is located at the bottom of the front door to the Hall, left-hand side;
- Putting several offering envelopes together with post-dated cheques for the weeks ahead and either mail or drop them by;
- Changing to PAD – pre-authorized debit. (Just ask us for the form.)
The Office is closed for the present time and Jennifer will be working from home. She can receive emails and phone calls there. A number of parish leaders will be dropping by throughout the week to pick up mail and keep an eye on everything.
Priests have been told to do pastoral care via the telephone, email and ways like Skype or Zoom, no face-to-face meetings. If we feel a face-to-face visit is necessary, we must discuss this in advance with the Archbishop.
I will be opening up a blog to share my thoughts and prayers. There will be more about that in the next Parish Newsletter which will become a regular part of our parish communication resources.
In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and support the well-being of those around you. Please continue to reach out to one another. If you are not in isolation, perhaps you can pick up groceries for a member of the parish. Let Jennifer and Paula know if you can. Here is where what we profess about Christian love has an opportunity to shine. “Won’t you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.”
The peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds free from anxiety and fear, and the blessing of Gd, the Creator who loves us and comes to us in Christ and the Holy Spirit, be with you now and always,
The Rev’d Paula Porter Leggett, Vicar email@example.com
St. Alban’s offers people a choice in worship styles within the Anglican liturgical tradition and both the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and Book of Alternative Services (BAS) are used.
Our Sunday services are as follows:
8:30 am Holy Communion: A simple celebration using the Book of Common Prayer.
10:00 am Choral Eucharist: Celebrated with congregational hymns and varied music
Services are held once a month in two separate Seniors’ homes.
Baptisms are scheduled frequently as required.