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The Gift of Everlasting Love – A Reflection

April 12, 2020
A relief on a wall at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane – Quote is from the Rule of Saint Benedict

Gifts are so very important in our daily lives. Now I am not talking about “things” but rather what God reveals to us and gives to us. One of the gifts in the Rule of St Benedict is hospitality and welcome. Thomas Merton Wrote the following about God’s everlasting love: “God is love” and the true self is a self “in love.” God loves us with an everlasting love and it is [God’s] that first creates us. It is [God’s] love that leads [God] to seek us out, to consummate the wedding in which we become who we are. – (Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, p. 64)

I actually put this quote together with the picture on March 2nd. Do you remember March 2nd? I have to admit that I have a hard time remembering it. Bulletin planning was going on for worship services during Lent. Worship services that would be happening in the sanctuary as they always were. Twelve days later on March 14th the Session of Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies would make the decision to close the facility to all meetings, worship, and fellowship gatherings. The next day we had our first virtual worship service. Lent would continue on in a new way.

I have talked to many of my ministry colleagues, friends, and parishioners in the time since this change. It has indeed been one of the most unusual Lents and now Easter that we have ever experienced. Yet in the midst of the weirdness, we have also experienced some amazing gifts as well. The support and encouragement Denise and I have experienced from so many is heartwarming. The church leadership reaching out to our membership through phone calls and check-ins has been heartwarming. In Estes Park we are seeing some heartwarming acts of kindness and generosity as our town seeks to weather this storm and care for the most vulnerable of its citizens.

The Hebrew Scripture reading for Easter Sunday is from the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is speaking God’s words of hope to a nation in exile. The days in exile were dark yet the prophet reminded them that God would guide them through the wilderness and into a new day.

At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the LORD: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 31:1-6)

Right now I am watching the snow gently falling outside. The snow always brings a feeling of freshness and peace (even when it is blowing sideways!) to me. On Easter as Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been placed after the crucifixion something miraculous happened. While the Easter story is quite familiar after nearly 2,000 years of retelling, it speaks to me of a new hope as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic as a community, state, nation, and world.

The church is empty this Easter. The choir and congregation isn’t singing and Larry isn’t playing the organ. Some would look at the empty sanctuary and feel sadness. I look at it in another way.

The Easter banners remind us that Christ has risen, he has risen indeed! The sanctuary is empty. The tomb was empty. He has risen! This season has taught us many things. Fellowship and caring go on in different ways. But they are still happening. Worship is going on in a new way but it is still the community of faith gathering together.

The biggest lesson for us is this: Church isn’t a building. Church is the community of faith reaching out into the life of the world. Mary didn’t find a body in the tomb. She instead found her risen Lord calling her to take the Good News first to the Disciples and then to the world. May we find the risen Lord today in the world around us. May we find the risen Lord in relationships of caring and sharing. Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah! Amen!

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