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2021: Hope and Healing – A Reflection

January 1, 2021
This Christmas Cactus began life as a cutting (from an even older plant) that Denise’s Mom was given in 1960 or 1961.

The time has come, the calendar has been turned, a new year is upon us. I don’t know about you, but I found myself entering into this new year somewhat apprehensively. I have been reviewing some of my posts from 2020 and many of them spoke to me of hope in the middle of a year which made a rather abrupt change in mid-March. I remember in the early days of COVID-19 being hopeful that we would be back in the sanctuary by Pentecost. Pentecost came and went while the only in-person worship services I led at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado and Carrollton Presbyterian Church in Carrollton, Georgia (we left Colorado in August and began the new call on September 1st) were outdoor worship gatherings. The church continues to wrestle with this new way of being a community of faith during a pandemic. Re-imagining what worship, fellowship, prayer and study meetings look like during the pandemic continues to be a challenge for so many, including this Padre.

As this journey continues what are we looking for in this new year? Perhaps the widespread immunization against COVID-19 across our community, state, nation, and world? Perhaps we are looking for Congress and the White House to work together for the common good of our nation and world? Perhaps we are hopeful that relationships which have been battered and bruised by toxic conversations can be restored? The optimist within says that it is possible. The pessimist within is filled with doubt. In the midst of this brokenness, my prayer is for wholeness and healing.

The lesson being taught to me by our Christmas Cactus is a message filled with hope and healing. When we lived in Florida, a friend of ours re-potted the cactus which hadn’t bloomed in four years or so. She re-potted it just before we left Florida to move to Colorado in late August, 2015. We both were worried about how the cactus would fare moving across the country and being at a much higher elevation. That Christmas, from its perch on the corner of the desk in our condo, it bloomed! The re-potting and amount of sunlight that it had were a part of the healing process for it. Moving across the country and down to a much lower elevation in August didn’t appear to make a difference. It is blooming like crazy as it sits on a table in my office at church until we decide where it will live in our house here in Georgia. The inspiration that this offers me is both hopeful and healing. The cactus lives in the present moment and invites us to do the same.

In his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton said the following: You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope. (p. 188) Embracing the challenges and possibilities of the new year? That could considered a rather big order to fill. Merton wrote these words in the mid-1960’s and the book was first published in 1966. The war in Vietnam was raging, civil unrest and protests against the war and in support of Civil Rights and equal opportunity were on-going. In the midst of the unrest, Merton penned these words and offered that hope.

Dear reader, as we enter into 2021, may we do so with courage, faith, and hope.

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