This is the sermon the Rev. Kevin Johnson of St. Alban’s, Theatre Arlington, preached at the online Eucharist livestreamed via the diocesan Facebook Page on Sunday, March 15, 2020, as the diocese does church differently in response to the coronavirus crisis.
I don’t know about you, but I like control. More specifically I like it when I feel like I have some type of control over my life – what’s going on around me, what’s happening to me, how I respond to what’s happening around me….
I like it when it feels like I can get my hands and arms wrapped around life and can say “Ok, Johnson. You got this. It’ll be ok.” I like control.
And then there was this week. I know it wasn’t like this in other parts of the world and our country, but at least here, in our neck of the woods, it felt to me that the encroaching coronavirus seemed to be kind of out there. And here, at least to me, here it felt like I had some reasonable control. And then…well, then things started to feel out of control.
Like the Hebrew peoples in the first reading the world felt like overnight we were cast out into an amorphous desert landscape where it’s hard to tell how far away things are, and there’s a great temperature variation between day and night, and I’ve lost my map so I don’t know if the next well of water is just over the next sand dune or hundreds of miles away.
I am certain that at some point in the week I cried out, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” And I’m sure my guardian angel turned to God and in an exasperated voice asked, “What am I going to do with this guy?”
“What am I going to do with this guy?”
And here’s what God replied. God, the creator of everything, the One who flung the stars across the furthest heights of the sky and the fish upon the deepest crevices of the ocean canyons, God said, “You are going to love him. You are going to care about him. You are going to sit down with him in the wilderness, with him at the edge of the well, with him at the grocery store in the toilet paper aisle when he’s panicking and feeling like he too must absolutely must procure a giant package of tp ‘cause isn’t that what you do when things feel like they’re out of control – bread, milk, toilet paper . . . – even though I normally don’t buy sandwich bread, and stopped drinking milk and already have plenty of tp at home, but still I gotta get some control back in the midst of this swirling chaos….. – “even when he is like that, especially when he is like that,” God says, “I am going to love him. Even in those moments when he doesn’t see me, or feel me, or have faith in me, I am going to care for him.” That’s what the Creator of the Universe says… and does.
In those moments when it seems as if we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves, your Creator keeps you both outwardly in your body and inwardly in your soul. And I don’t know about you but to me that sounds like really Good News.
Good news for Hebrew peoples wandering in a desert….
Good news for a Samaritan woman standing at the edge of a well ….
Good news for the people of the Samaritan village….. outcasts, a people pushed to margins by the predominant culture…
And even they don’t realize it at this point in the gospel story, it is good news for the Pharisees and the Sadducees
and those people who will cry out “Crucify him” (can’t you hear the panicked attempt to gain some control in what must have felt like chaotic out of control situation? “Crucify him!”) …
“Even when he is like that, especially when they are like that, even when you are like that,” God says, “I am going to love you. I am going to care about you. I am going to care for you. In body and soul.”
That’s what today’s scriptures, uncannily, providentially, remind us this morning. And that is what God still does on this day. Sounds like good news to me.
So go to the Collect in your prayer leaflet: let’s us pray together. As we do so let us slow down, noticing, absorbing the Good News within the words.
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
By the way, I did not end up buying a giant bundle of toilet paper – not because I’ve got it all super-emotionally together. I had the toilet paper in my hand, went to put it in my cart, then realized my cart was literally overflowing with stuff I really didn’t need. And, not wanting to walk around the store with a big bundle of toilet paper under my arm, I put it back on the shelf and walked away.
Be kind to each other, be kind to yourself. Keep in prayer. Know with certainty that you are surrounded by people who love you, a great cloud of witnesses. Live in Peace. Amen.