April 13, 2020

Let the hard days be hard. You’re mourning life as you knew it—and the version of yourself who lived that life. Even as you grieve, try to remember: there is a beginning tucked inside every ending. The beginning of what? The only way to find out is to keep going. Keep moving.  Maggie Smith (poet)

Today I’m sharing with you a meditation written by a seminary classmate, the Rev. Wendy L. Ward.  Wendy’s retired these days and living in Lewiston, Maine, but she’s keeping her hand in writing occasional essays.

                                                         Ready…or Not

  “Ready or not, here I come.” The boyish voice carries through the park, marking the only activity there on a sunny April afternoon. 

   Three of them, dark-haired and sturdy – a teen-aged girl, a boy of about eight, and a boy of five or six – have been climbing on the jungle gym, teasing one another in the way of siblings.  Now the older boy kneels on a bench, head on arms on the bench back, eyes averted. The girl and smaller boy dash for the only hiding places available – in a row of shrubbery edging the playground. 

   “48…49…50…Ready or not, here I come!”  For a moment my mind flips back to soft summer evenings and our neighborhood games of hide-and-seek.  Over 60 years ago we shouted that same warning – “Ready or not, here I come!”  I’m startled to realize that today’s youngsters, even with all their devices and sophistication, still use this age-old phrase.

   Did the boy who was “it” find his siblings quickly? Or did he seek slowly, making a show of looking for them? I don’t know. My back is to them as I amble past the empty skate park and basketball courts, closed because of social distancing and the Corona virus. 

    “Ready or not, here I come.”  We were not ready for the deadly virus that spread around the world, leaping from person to person, from one country and continent to others. The disease came, seeking indiscriminately. Warnings were ignored. Governments were unprepared,  medical facilities and personnel were unprepared, we who thought the danger far removed were mostly unprepared. But then, are we ever really ready for what is coming?

   In these last days of Lent and amid the pandemic, death has been coming. It came for Jesus, it has come for ordinary people and celebrities alike, comes to us all eventually.  But so does resurrection and the new life that seeks us, ready or not. When I was pastor I would tell my parishioners who were fretting, especially at times like Christmas or Easter, “It will come, whether we’re ready or not, because we don’t make incarnation/resurrection happen.  God does.” The tree may not be trimmed or the eggs dyed, the family dinner may not be organized, the gifts from Santa or The Bunny may not be bought, but God is still in charge.  Along those lines, I find these last days of Holy Week provide form for my thinking on readiness.  

   Maundy Thursday is about farewells.  In the Gospel accounts Jesus gathers with his disciples to warn them of betrayal and his impending death, to give instructions, offer a remembrance and love, and say good-bye. In CPE our supervisor used the Gospel of John as instructive material on how to say good-bye – not only at the time of dying but in any situation of upcoming loss or change. Maundy Thursday reminds us to ready expressions of remembrance, love, gratitude, and good-bye when changes loom – or even before we know they are needed.

    Good Friday is about suffering and death, prepared for and accepted. This year I find myself drawn to Joseph of Arimathea, whose burial of Jesus appears in all four gospels. In Matthew, he was prepared for the eventuality of his death but gave over the readiness of his tomb to Jesus (27:60).  He brings the linen shroud, and in the Gospel of John, he is accompanied by Nicodemus, who provides “a mixture myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds” (19:39) From our own security and readiness — of health or finances, spiritual strength or seclusion creativity — Good Friday begs us to risk and to share with those whose security of income or interaction or meaning has imploded. 

    Holy Saturday is the long wait to move on. Jesus may be harrowing hell, but Mary and the other women are observing Sabbath rest, their spices prepared to anoint his body (23:56). During normal times this day before Easter is filled with activities for church and home. We are in different times now. Our sheltering can be, as various writings have expressed, a sabbath time. The air and earth are refreshing themselves. Wearied and fearful as we are, and as the women followers of Jesus were, waiting time is a readying time for difficult duties ahead. Life will not go back to normal. We wait in uncertainty for the changed future.

   Easter Sunday comes whether we are ready or not. It throws wide, or maybe opens only a crack, the door into new life. Resurrection is filled with the unexpected – for the disciples, the women, even the guard at the tomb.  We most likely will not be ready for all that post Covid-19 brings. There will be hardship; there will be resourcefulness; hopefully there will be enhanced compassion, diligence, and commitment in readiness for the common good. No, we will not be ready for all that this new life and new reality bring. But we ground ourselves in the grace of the  Holy One, whose “ready or not, here I come” of incarnation and resurrection seeks us in even our most hopeless unreadiness and finding us, loves us absurdly. 

As you know, our Thrift Shop is closed, and we are losing that income.  If you could send in additional money this month, we’d really appreciate it.  All our staff is still on the payroll, we still have utility bills.  Your gifts make it possible for us to continue.  Checks may be mailed to the church at 5 Gibbs Avenue, Wareham MA  02571.

NEED SHOPPING HELP?  Nancy MacNeill reports that her two granddaughters are offering to do shopping for anyone who can’t get out.  Just contact Nancy at 508-280-3716 or <nlmacneill@comcast.net

PRAYER LIST

Want to add a concern or joy to the list?  Email me at pastorchild02914@gmail.com

  • prayers for Chris Markola’s son and family in Holly Springs NC, where they’ve had tornadoes today.
  • prayers for utility folks out repairing lines and restoring electricity today and tonight.
  • from Oonagh Brault:  Please add my friend Lindsay to the prayer list.  She has just been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • from Elaine Johnson:  Please add my sister Janice to the prayer list. She fell and has a small brain bleed and concussion and severed her ear which needed to be stitched back into place. She is home recovering. (4/9)
  • Prayers for all who work in the medical field as they deal with this crisis. (4/7)
  • from Nancy MacNeill, prayers for her cousin Pam Bergeron
  • from Lydia Sherman:  Please add Carrie Andrews to the prayer list. She’s the cousin to my nephew Christopher’s wife… She currently is on life-support and is only in her 30’s.

Author: tobelieveistocare

I am an interim pastor in the United Church of Christ, having served as a settled pastor for over thirty years. I play classical mandolin and share my home with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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