High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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A Message to Connect - April 21, 2020

April 21, 2020
Courage 
Grace & Peace to you!
 David's thoughts for today:
“…For the Joy of the LORD is your strength”. –Nehemiah 8:10b
It’s not too often that we dip into the ancient wisdom of Ezra and Nehemiah whose words describe the return of the faithful to Israel after the period of exile which began in 586 BCE.  Both Ezra and Nehemiah speak of the rebuilding of a nation and the deepening of a people’s faith as they return to and embrace the new normal of life anew in Israel.
 
A friend of mine said, “You know… we will get through this”, as he made a sweeping gesture towards everything that is our pandemic world.  “We will get through this, because we all know that we’ve been through stuff like this before.”  I had to agree.  We all go through stuff.  We all experience some form of “exile”  and “return” at various junctures in our life.  We experience the exile of winter and the return to spring.  We suffer the exile of illness and the return to good health.  We lived through the exile of the flood and returned home after the flood.  We have some real awareness of exile and return and it’s more salient truth that, after something so difficult and destructive, we can’t ever go back to the way things were.  But we do return to the new life. We know this.
 
As a people of faith, we inherit the profound wisdom of Ezra and Nehemiah.  The return after exile has embedded within it the invitation—the imperative—to create and rebuild our new life or as some say, “our new normal”.  It is hard work to do this.  We come face to face with our losses and grief.  That which once was is no more.  At the same time, we embrace the present with its newness and all the opportunities that are attached to it.  It is a real mix of grief and joy.  In essence, the winter is past and the spring has come.
 
However, we are not done with exile, at the moment.  We are away from the land, life and work we once knew.  On the one hand, we know that we can’t go back or return to “that normal”.  On the other hand, we are not quite yet in the land, life and work yet to be known.  In Ireland, they are referring to these pandemic times NOT as a period of “distancing” or “isolation” but, as one of cocooning. We are waiting.  We are all in a crazy state of suspension as we yearn for the time of emergence  and its invitation to return to the new life, the new world as yet unformed.
 
Deep within this time of being apart, of living in exile, of being suspended in our cocooning, Ezra and Nehemiah hint at something that vibrates in the very ground of our being.  It is deeper than our fear. It is  deeper than our grief.  It is joy.  I can’t explain this “Nehemiah joy” to you.  It can’t  be taught.  But, I can invite you to open your heart to it.  It begins with gratitude; it swells into the joy of the LORD which is our strength.  The tears of grief, the losses of exile do deliver us to the joy of our life in relationship with God—even while we await our emergence and return to the new life.  And in that… say the prophets, is our strength.
 
Consider these words by the poet, William Blake: 
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so,
We were made for joy and woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.


We are fully acquainted with joy and woe.  We know this territory of exile.  We know that it will pass.  We know that we will return as ones having been shaped and formed by this pandemic.  The exile of separateness always gives way to the return of togetherness with each other and with God.  Yes, we will be changed.  That is a cocoon’s natural outcome which is worthy of the right amount of time and cannot be rushed.  In the meantime, as we are shaped and formed by this time of cocooning and anticipate our emergence and return, consider the words of Nehemiah:
 
Go your way,
eat the fat and drink sweet wine
and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared,
for this day is holy to our LORD;
and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
 
May God’s joy be deeply rooted in the ground of your being during this time of cocooning. 
Warmly,
Rev. David and Rev. Susan


 

 


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