With blazing speed things have been changing all around us. In times like these we can so quickly lose our bearings and give in to impulses and behaviours that are not necessarily healthy. We all cope differently. Our eating habits, sources of entertainment, and ways that we destress may need to be under some extra scrutiny. We may be fearful in ways we are not normally. Irritations and points of frustration that typically would not shape our reactions, may now impact us negatively, and we could end up really not liking the person we become under stress. Especially in isolation we can become unmoored from the things that normally anchor us. That hold us.
We can lose our peace. Our sense of contentment.
Yet we want to say, and pray for all of us, that this can be a moment of great growth and advancement.
An invitation to discover the inwrought work of grace in us by the presence of Jesus and the ever liberating and transforming work of His Spirit. Not just for the sake of our local church communities, but that we may serve the culture and world around us. We can do this. We can do all things through Christ.
Philippians 4:13 is clear, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, ”yet Paul inextricably anchors the expression of this resolute faith to a non-anxious posture rooted in contentment. One that is not based on outcome, but on inner peace and rest. Paul actually pens these words while in prison and in ill health. This is not some defiant “super christian” bluster, but the confession of one who is free of a spirit of fear, at peace, and deeply rooted in Jesus.
As James Emery White reflects, Paul’s linking of contentment with this “I can do all things” attitude, is, “independent of circumstance, particularly when those circumstances include suffering. It’s not about the ability to succeed, gain accomplishment, break through a barrier, finish a race or win a game. It’s about finding strength in Christ to be content in the midst of hellish circumstances; it’s about getting through times of persecution.”
It is intriguing that in the midst of our current world-wide crisis, set off by the corona virus, the Church Calendar is in the season of Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. How anchoring and settling this liturgy has been for us over the centuries, especially in times when the Church has faced its greatest challenges. With COVID-19 in the air and our communal spaces closed off to us, we have a unique opportunity to model and proclaim the hope we have in Jesus this Easter. This virus has us actually observing Lent in ways we would’ve never done “on our own". All around us people are reflecting on the issues of life and death remarkably different than just a couple of weeks ago. The “Stations of the Cross”, Good Friday and Easter resonate with fresh meaning in these times. We would do well to engage this season with creative expressions of these truths in spite of the limitations imposed by social distancing. There is so much here, sustained and rooted in centuries of prayer, reflection, teaching and experience of the Church. This is a good time to lean in. To celebrate our contentment and strength in Christ for a “time such as this".
Embedded in the stories that unveil Holy Week, is a quip of Jesus that is eerily parallel to what our world is currently experiencing.
“Behold the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33.
There is a poignant invitation in this text to discover peace and contentment, even while in isolation. Jesus has been abandoned by his disciples, distanced, isolated, and he leans into the presence of the Father knowing he is not actually alone. The disciples have “self-isolated” and scattered into their own homes in fear and uncertainty, and yet Jesus says to them to not be afraid. We can discover the peace that he gives, for although tribulation will be our experience, we take heart. He has overcome the world!
Simple. Powerful. Let’s lean in this Easter no matter what the circumstances are around us. We can do all things. There is peace that passes understanding. There is a contentment that is not reliant on anything outward but that is drawn from a deep place, an underground river that flows right in our bellies. And from here, out to those around us by the work and power of the Spirit. Living water that brings life.
Hope. Healing. Grace. Contentment.
He has overcome.
David and Anita