High River United Church of High River, Alberta

Do Not Despair - Message August 6, 2020

Grace & Peace to everyone connected with High River United,


                 Do not lose heart; we were made for these times. Clarissa Pinkola Estés


Pinkola-Estés born in 1945, is an American writer, Jungian psychoanalyst, and author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About that Which Can Never Die, The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough, and other books. She goes on to say, “I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is – we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised, since childhood, for this time precisely.”


What is the point of having faith if it is not to comfort us in our sorrow and challenge us to move through discouragement and despair with a sense of hope that God is working in ways beyond what we can ask for or imagine?


Yes, we are living in difficult times. That may be new to many of us born since 1945, but to previous generations difficult times were just what life was. In the first half of the 20th century alone, there were two world wars, the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, and repeated epidemics of measles, diphtheria and more. Did you know that the measles vaccine was not approved for use in Canada until 1963? Diphtheria was a deadly disease for children until a vaccine became available in the 1920s. In other areas of the world, difficult times have never stopped being part of daily life. Most of us have lived a privileged and protected life.


This is not meant to discount what we are feeling or experiencing now. This is a stressful, challenging and unsettling time – there is no doubt of that. The exhaustion of being careful about every outing to the store or appointments. The ongoing uncertainty with no sense of when physical distancing, mask wearing, etc. might end has created an unexpected and upsetting situation to individuals and families as well as to society and the economy as a whole. Who would have thought that a miniscule virus could so turn our world upside down and inside out!!!


There will be a time beyond this virus, but we know that so much will have changed. Right now, we don’t know how that change will settle out. What we hope is that good will come out of this, change for the better for humanity, even as we know there will be many losses.


Our faith is meant to help us in times like these – to comfort us and to inspire us, to calm us and to challenge us. Perhaps we have seen such a decrease in engagement in faith and church in North America because life was relatively predictable, we felt in control and the practice of faith seemed like an extra, not a necessity, (among other factors).


Believing in God hasn’t ever kept individuals or societies from facing hardship, suffering and sorrow. This is the time to lean into our faith and to express to God all that we are feeling (frustration, sorrow, hope, despair, wonder, etc.) This is the time for which we have practised our faith. This is why we take time to engage with the church community. This is why we spend Sundays in worship, and gather as a faith community on other days, all with the intent of loving our neighbours and seeking justice in the world. Our faith is for such a time as this.


It is hard, at moments, not to feel despair about the future. It is hard not to feel discouraged when one sees the number of cases rising and people not wearing masks in stores. Yet, God says to us, “Do not fear for I am with you; I will hold you up with the strength of my love.” (Isaiah 41:10)   Jesus re-iterated this as he spoke to the disciples, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will wear…will not God clothe you just as God clothes the lilies and feeds the birds? Can you by worrying at a single hour to the span of your life?” (Matthew 6:25-33)


It is hard not to feel despair and worry about the future, but let’s return to the wisdom of Pinkola-Estés who concludes, “There will always be times…when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”


So let’s not keep a chair for despair. Let’s pull closer the chair of our faith – a place where we can rest when life feels overwhelming, a chair from which we rise to be God’s people reaching out in love, compassion, justice and hope.


As United Church minister, Rev. Christopher White, says in “The Question Box” in Broadview (July/August 2020), “When the lockdown began…the church showed how it could adapt literally overnight as needed…Crisis reveals character, and what it revealed about the church should give us hope.”


With love and blessings,

Rev. Susan & Rev. David

High River United Church – a community of help, home & hope

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.” A. Heschel



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