Eyes Wide Open (and Shut)
The Rev. Steven Paulikas
April 26, 2020
Facebook Live Recording
We needed to hear the story of Jesus and the disciples on the Road to Emmaus this morning. It’s one of the classic stories for Eastertide, and it contains so much that shapes our Christian faith and hope. Among many other things, it is the story of God being with us when our eyes are shut and when our eyes are wide open; it is a story told for a time such as the one in which we find ourselves today.
Jesus appears to two of his disciples after his crucifixion as they are walking along the road. It’s not like one of those big, flashy entrances the angels make. It’s low-key and informal, more of like a “hey, guys.” It’s at this point that the Gospel says something subtle, but important: “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” There’s something poetic in that, right? “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him,” not “they didn’t recognize him” or “they didn’t see him.” In this case, the organ of recognition is the eyes, and those eyes aren’t working well enough to recognize Jesus. Which is weird. At this point in the story, Jesus is present everywhere in his absence. His death and resurrection are all that anyone is talking about—it’s certainly all that these particular two guys are talking about. They are living and breathing the events that occurred concerning Jesus. And yet—when he actually appears to them, their eyes don’t even recognize him!
This is the eyes wide shut point of the story. It’s here where the preacher is supposed to point out how foolish these disciples are. Jesus is right in front of their eyes, but those same eyes can’t see him. How embarrassing! Lucky for them, Jesus stays with them. He goes to their house for dinner. They sit down to eat; he takes bread, breaks it, and gives it to them—and it’s in that moment that their eyes are opened and they recognize him. The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Now this is the part of the story where the preacher is supposed to point out that it was in this feast that their eyes truly were opened, finally. Jesus is present with us at our Eucharistic feast, present in his body as well as his spirit. And at this point, the preacher would gesture to the altar and invite the faithful to have their eyes opened to Christ as we gather at the holy table with him.
This is the way the preacher might have preached on this Sunday in a different time and a different place. But Eastertide 2020 in New York City is teaching us something very different from the conventional wisdom. I think I understand something new about this story now. You see, I don’t think it’s embarrassing at all that the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus with their eyes. Jesus is there with us whether we see him or not; he has perfect vision, and if God had wanted us to have the same, God would have given us his eyes. It’s okay not to see God in the time of trial. Sometimes your eyes are wide shut. But if you want to see him, you can. Again, it’s the eyes that are the organs of recognition. You can still see Jesus in the breaking of the bread—even if you can’t taste that bread with your own mouth. Sometimes the eyes can see, and sometimes they cannot. It’s fine either way. God is with us.
Let me go back to the disciples on the road again, the eyes wide shut moment of the story. We know exactly what it’s like to be like them. We are surrounded by news and chatter about the most important thing that’s happening at all times. I can’t turn on the radio or read the news without hearing something about the virus. You can’t start a conversation with someone without asking how they are doing. The news is everywhere; we are living inside of it. And yet, there’s a way in which all this information, all this attention, this obsession—it can sometimes crowd out the strange holiness of this moment. Of course, there’s no denying the suffering we are enduring. Members of this parish have lost family members or are sick themselves. This church exists under the shadow of the hundreds of patients at New York Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital across the street. So many have lost their jobs or are dealing with the stress of isolation.
And yet…and yet Jesus is with us. He is our companion in the loneliness. He is our comfort in sorrow. He is our hope in despair and confusion. Jesus did not come into the world to be a playmate in the good times. He is the light that came to lighten the darkness. He is the improbably savior, the one foretold that no one could predict.
We are living inside the reality of this virus. It is for a time like this that Jesus came into the world. We may not recognize him with our eyes at this very moment, but that doesn’t mean he’s not here. We may not see him all the time, but that’s okay. It’s just a part of his grace to be present even when we aren’t aware of his presence. If nothing else, not seeing him now will make us appreciate him all the more once our eyes are finally opened.
So what do we do if we truly do want to have our eyes opened? Scripture says the eyes of the disciples were opened in the breaking of the bread. Again, in a different time, the preacher would simply gesture to the holy altar and remind the congregation that their eyes are being opened in the celebration of the Eucharist, the feast in which we all partake. I am so sorry that we cannot all share this feast together. It is heartbreaking. There is a wide and vigorous discussion in the church as to what form of liturgy is best suited to this time when we are separated by everything except the Internet. Many churches have switched to online liturgies that don’t involve the Eucharist. After all, what’s the point of celebrating if no one but the two or so people can partake?
But there is a way for you to partake, and it’s spelled out right here in today’s Gospel story. The site of recognition is the eyes, not the mouth. Of course watching the Eucharist is not the same as consuming the bread and the wine. But we continue to celebrate this sacrament in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is constantly finding ways to open our eyes to God’s presence in our midst, wherever that may be. In our long discussions about how best to serve our parish at this time, Fr. Spencer and I acknowledge that there is no perfect solution to this problem. But we also decided to continue to break the bread in order to keep a holy vigil, as an acknowledgement that the day will come soon and very soon when we will all be reunited.
In the meantime, feast on Christ with your eyes. Put yourself in the place of the disciples, who first recognized him when they saw him breaking the bread. We cannot control God’s grace, and just because you may once have experienced that grace in eating the bread doesn’t mean God isn’t speaking to you right now, right where you are. Perhaps God is opening your eyes, feeding you not by taste, but by sight. Stranger things have happened. The disciples recognized Jesus simply by seeing the breaking of the bread—and you can too.
We are odd creatures who often miss the thing that is in plain view. Let God open your eyes, even in this time—especially in this time. God is at work around us. God is at work through us. God is walking with you just as Jesus walked with the disciples. God is at table with you in your breaking of the bread. God is everywhere. Let your eyes be opened to God’s presence.
One of my favorite poets, Theodore Roetheke, wrote a poem that begins like this:
In a dark time, the eye begins to see.
This is a dark time. When your eye cannot see, know that Christ is still by your side. The eye will begin to see, eventually—in the breaking of the bread, in the grace that surrounds us, in all that is holy and good and of God, who is our sight. Amen.
Eyes Wide Open (and Shut)
April 19, 2020
The Rev. Spencer D. Cantrell
You know I have to say, I liked a lot of things about Fr.
Steve’s sermon for Easter Sunday. But what has stayed with
me the most is how he did not spare us from the strangeness,
the uncanniness, the ‘wild’-ness of the reality of the
resurrection of Jesus.
We get a little more of that weirdness this week, when we
are told in the Gospel that the disciples were huddled in a
house together with the doors locked, and suddenly Jesus is
standing among them — having, of course, to say “Peace be
with you,” not so much the way that we use it in liturgy, but
more so to say, “Whoa whoa whoa, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s
just me. Sorry, that probably was terrifying, wasn’t it? Sorry
I snuck up on you guys like that.”
Yikes, right? Your dead friend isn’t dead anymore. The
impossible has been rendered, evidently, possible. We’re so
used to this as a concept as Christians that it’s tough to tap
into that weirdness, that wildness; an event which, if you
were to witness it firsthand, really would turn your world
upside down. The difference is that we have the benefit of a
two-thousand year buffer between us and those who first
bore witness to that strange event, whose lives were turned
upside down by it.
We find Thomas, though, skeptical of what he sees. For good
reason, right? Again, he was dead. I saw him die. I wept for
him as I wondered what I am supposed to do now. I’ve given
up my entire life to follow this man, wherever he has gone I
have gone, and I just suddenly lost him. I’m sill reeling from
that, and then here he is, in the room with us? I just don’t
even know what to think.
The writer of the Gospel records Jesus telling Thomas that it
would have been better to have not seen and believed, than
to have tested things. For us, what Jesus means and what the
Gospel writer knows, is that we have come into a time in
which we can’t do what Thomas did. We can’t have our
doubt assuaged by placing our hands in the wounds.
For us, the spiritual physics of faith are that when we doubt,
and then find faith, that faith has been strengthened by
doubt. Not just because we’ve simply overcome it and we
can move on as if it never happened. No. When we find
ourselves in doubt, wrestling with what our faith teaches, it’s
probably because we are having an authentic experience of,
encounter with, just how strange and wild it actually is.
We are people who believe in a world turned upside down.
We pray for our enemies. We believe hearts of stone can
melt, that people actually can change in response to grace.
That by the grace of God, our brokenness and self-
destructiveness can be and has been redeemed. That the poor
and the peacemakers, and the meek in heart are blessed.
If we doubt the Good News, it’s probably because it sounds
too good to be true.
Yet, here he stands in our midst. Telling us, “Peace be with
In Easter season, we aren’t really ‘preparing’ for something
in the same way that we are during Advent or Lent. In Easter
season, we are more so taking time to process an event — a
bomb that has gone off, really — we’re in the aftermath, the
wake of it. And we take this season indeed to celebrate that
mystery, as much as we take the time to figure out what
we’re supposed to do now; who we are to be in light of it.
In a world that has been turned upside down lately, we know
something about that as Christians, don’t we. We have a way
to read it — both the catastrophe of it, and the possibility of
it. And in all of it, the grace that it is possible to find. The
call to action that it necessitates on behalf of those suffering
unjustly. And the call to prayer to steady and steep ourselves
in what we know by faith, and who by faith we mean to be.
And even if we are like the disciples, huddled in our rooms
scattered, isolated, afraid, and in doubt; turns out, we know
that the light of the world does not need our permission to
burst in on us, and say to us “Peace be with you”, peace that
passes all understanding.
So may we continue into this Eastertide as a people in the
aftermath of something great. Something that is ground
breaking and life changing, for us even this very day.
Something that makes us, even in a world turned upside
down today, people who know who we are. People who
doubt but hope anyway. People of faith. People of love.
People of resurrection.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By
his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and
into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and
Locked Down but Set Free
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
April 12, 2020
Easter Year A
All Saints’ Church
Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Well, let’s start with the truth. This doesn’t feel like Easter. At least not in the way we’ve known it in any of our lifetimes. There’s no use trying to imprison ourselves by trying to pretend this is normal.
Which is what makes this Easter so special. Here’s a crazy thought: friends, trapped as we are in lockdown, this may be the Easter that sets you free. Amid all the suffering and the sickness of this time, you might actually discover a new depth and richness to your spiritual life. It is possible that this year you may feel the presence of the crucified and resurrected Jesus in ways you never imagined. Jesus came to set us free. We didn’t know what that meant until we were locked in the tomb with him, all together. He has burst forth from that same tomb, and where he goes, we will follow. This is the promise of this day. Let his truth be yours this Easter.
Usually on this day, this church is filled with a spirit of excitement and joy—not to mention people! This liturgy begins with a triumphal organ prelude and hymn. Then the building rings as hundreds of people offer up the great Easter proclamation: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! We bring our forty day fast of Lent to an end. He is risen; it is the Day of Resurrection, and the strife is o’er.
But this year, the strife ain’t o’er. No way, no how. Everything is mixed up. Not only are we in the midst of strife during the greatest feast of the Christian year, but I don’t even know where or when you are! Usually on this day, we offer a warm welcome to all of our visitors and guests—to those who are long-time churchgoers, those who are skeptical of church, and those of another faith or no faith. I extend this same welcome right now: no matter who you are or where you are or when you’re watching, welcome. Normally we welcome everyone to this, God’s house. But God’s house is empty this morning except for the few of us. That means that wherever you are right now is God’s house. And maybe that’s a good thing. It means we can no longer pretend that God’s great saving act for all humanity takes place just in this place. Instead, you have to look for it where you are right now.
This is what I mean when I say this Easter might be the realest and most important one you’ve ever experienced. You see, the Bible wasn’t written about things that took place a long time ago, in a different world. Christians believe the Word of God is alive and moving. It is renewed in each moment by the power of the Holy Spirit, who breathes new life into it. Jesus wasn’t just a wise teacher from another time, although he was wise and he was a teacher. He died and was resurrected so that he might show us what eternal life looks like and bid us to join him. God is alive and with us, at all times and in all places.
That’s part of what we celebrate at Easter. The resurrection is not just a historical event. It is taking place now. The story is repeated over and over, in every place and time and circumstance. Jesus comes into the world. He teaches us to love, then shows us what love is by offering himself fully for us. He suffers and dies for no good reason. But that’s not the end of the story, because he rises from the dead on the great day of resurrection. You cannot get to the empty tomb without the cross. But the story always ends with the joy of new life.
That great day of resurrection is today. It was 2,000 years ago, but it is also this morning, or whenever you are viewing this Easter celebration. The day of crucifixion is also today. As is the day of keeping Vigil for the joy that is to come. This scrambled up sequence doesn’t fit the calendar. The church has a rhythm of life, and things are done in order. First the repentance of Ash Wednesday and Lent. Then the mystery of Holy Week and the pain of Good Friday. There is the expectation of the Great Vigil that ends in the triumph of Easter. It is a beautiful, life-giving drama that is so dear to so many of us. For many, it shapes our very lives.
But don’t forget that the sequence of our observances was created by the Church to make order out of the chaos of this life. That’s its power—it helps us to stay focused on God’s eternal faithfulness to us through the challenges of this life. It splits the swirling kaleidoscope of this life out into its constituent colors and shapes and puts them in order, one by one, for us to experience and contemplate. The liturgical calendar does this for our benefit, but it doesn’t pretend that that’s the way life actually goes. In reality, we may experience the crucifixion and the resurrection many times, forward and backward and sideways, and sometimes at the same time.
That’s what this year is. Today is the Day of Resurrection around the world and here at All Saints’ Church. But if you stand on the steps of this church today, you would face the triage tent at the hospital across the street. Scores of people at this very moment are struggling for their lives just a stone’s throw from where I am standing. I live next to the church, and I can tell you—all we hear are ambulance sirens, day and night. It hardly seems to end. Struggle and triumph, pain and joy, death and resurrection—they are all happening at the same time, even in the same place, even in the same person.
The mixed experiences of life are all jumbled up right now. But on this day, there is no confusion. Because we know how even the strangest of times will end. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! The apostle Paul writes that all things work together for good. That means that even these horrible things we are experiencing bear within them some measure of redemption. For the sick, the dying, and the dead, these may sound like empty words, and the mystery of their suffering may remain just that to human eyes. For those who have lost their jobs or those who must work and expose themselves to danger, we offer prayers and comfort. God bless you. And for those who are relatively healthy and have enough for the time being, this is a difficult but momentary affliction. But you see, though the joy of this time may be hidden and though it may seem very far away, it is still present, right here and right now, even at a time like this. This is a season of trial. But even now, the seeds of God’s victory are beginning to sprout. It is not ours to know what this triumph will look like. We only have to have faith and keep this Easter hope that mixed in with the sorrow of this time is the joy of the time to come, which will live and reign forever.
It is this truth that sets us free. I will say that I am discovering this truth anew this year. Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection are not metaphors or a nice tale. His triumph over death is not an academic topic to discuss from a distance. It is not a pleasant cultural tradition that can be domesticated by bunnies and chocolate. Jesus’ resurrection is wild and unrelenting. His living disturbs the order of life the way we are used to it. The people who first saw the empty tomb were terrified; we, too, are terrified to discover what the resurrection really looks like. And yet, it is only by witnessing the awe of God’s miracles that we can, with confidence, be set free to leave the tomb and discover the resurrected Jesus, alive and eager to greet us as he did Mary and Mary.
So what can we do this Easter to witness, with them, the resurrection of Jesus? We can adjust our focus and train ourselves to see the world with Easter eyes. Look for life in the midst of death. Look for hope in the midst of sorrow. Offer love and compassion where there is none. Keep vigil as long as necessary, even longer than you ever expected. And never, never lose faith in the promise of new life offered to us by the God of life. That God has never failed us; we will not be abandoned in our time of need.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! Let this cry ring out in God’s house, which is your house. Let this truth set you free, even as you are locked down. Let the tomb burst open, against all odds. Let this be your first Easter, your last Easter, your only Easter. Then wake up again tomorrow morning, and let Jesus be resurrected within you all over again. For he is alive! And by him, we all live and are free to be his. Amen
Good Friday Sermon
The Rev. Spencer Cantrell
Friday, April 10, 2020
So wherever you are right now, as you are listening to this livestream, I invite you to become still. Close your eyes. And become aware of your breathing.
As you inhale deeply, and then exhale deeply, recall that the breath that is within you, that animates you now, comes to you from the same spirit that animates the entire cosmos. That the spirit of God, the breath of God, which hovered over the primordial waters before the creation and evolution of our world, is as present and nearby to you as your very next breath.
And as you inhale and exhale deeply for a final few moments, I invite you to hold these words close in your mind:
“Then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.”
— These words from the Passion Gospel according to John conjure up an uncomfortably close set of images, at least for this preacher today.
Whether we have seen it in person with sick family members or friends, or as essential workers providing care to those infected, or simply as people who read the news every day, we know that the experience of the mass death engulfing our world and global consciousness right now is one which
involves people ‘giving up their spirit’, that is, their breath. People are dying from this virus primarily because it renders them no longer able to breathe.
We all know that at the end of our lives, we will take a breath that will ultimately be our last. Some will breathe their last breath softly, gently, with the presence and prayers of loved ones surrounding them, in a familiar place, and in a state of peace and comfort. Others, and many today, will experience that final breath as a gasp for air — exposed, afraid, in an unfamiliar and scary place, and alone.
We remember on this day, in all of its darkness and in all its heartbreaking detail, that the savior of the world knows this very suffering. He has walked this very same way of pain and injustice, of political betrayal and personal abandonment.
Christ, too, has died in a hospital bed, awaiting lifesaving treatment that through absolutely no fault of his own, will not come quickly enough.
This is the mystery of our faith. That our God has known in his very body even the suffering of this day, the injustice behind it, and the fear which it brings.
And on this or any Good Friday, perhaps we are not able see or imagine it — and that is okay. But we believe and we trust that because he has done this, because he has known our
suffering, that all of it has been overcome; all of it is being redeemed; all of it is being made new.
— I want to share with you some words from a colleague of mine, who continues to provide pastoral care in a very hard- hit hospital here in Brooklyn.
On her experience, she reflects:
“At about 4:30 am, I was called to a unit to do something that shook me to my core.
A daughter was called to the hospital to her actively dying father, and she requested prayer for him at his door. He was a devout Catholic.
I grabbed a rosary and some Holy Water, and armed myself with previous prayers that I have recited with other Catholic families, and came to his doorstep.
Our hospital limits who goes in the COVID patient rooms, so outside the door was my only option. I prayed and as I made the sign of the cross with my gloved fingers and the Holy Water, my spirit became heavy.
When I left the unit, I wailed silently on the elevator.
As I searched for meaning and understanding, the word ‘dignity’ kept coming up.
The thing that makes this so devastating to me is the lack of dignity.
We are browbeat with numbers, and a lack of supplies, and the global growth of the disease. While these are all helpful and important, there is a disconnect to the everyday folk that it is affecting the most.
Where is the dignity for those who are most vulnerable? What steps are being taken to tell the stories of the people in communities with no celebrity who have recovered, or who have experienced the death of a loved one?
What steps are being taken to ensure the dignity of those who die alone, secluded behind the doors of their roughly 320 square foot rooms? How are we honoring the lives that were too quickly ripped away?
What kind of dignity would you want for yourself in death? Or even in surviving?
I am going to call and offer my condolences to that daughter when I go back to work. I am also going to thank her for the opportunity to connect to her father. Even if it was through a door.”
— My colleague, here, has given me the gift of an image of Joseph of Arimethea, the one who comes to Pilate and requests to give Jesus’ body the dignity of a proper burial, a kind of dignity which he was denied in dying. Joseph takes it upon himself, at some risk to himself, to make that sign of the cross with gloves on over the crucified Lord’s hospital door. To lay him to rest in a new tomb in a garden which he could never have afforded. To bless even this ugly and inhumane end of a human life with all the beauty and love which it deserved.
— As we return again to our breath, as I hope we will intentionally many more times throughout this crisis — both in grief and in gratitude — I pray that God’s spirit will continue to animate us, as a people set free by the crucified and risen One; to learn to love in ways that don’t seem possible; to hope for a world that is healed; and to bless our Jesus, when we see his broken and suffering body all around us in the least of these, with beauty, with dignity, and with peace at the last.
The Rev. Steven Paulikas
April 5, 2020
We have now entered the mysteries of Holy Week. Palm Sunday begins a week-long journey with Christ. We start by joining in his triumphal entry to Jerusalem. It is a wonderful feeling to raise our voices together in a loud shout of praise. Hosanna in the highest! We have a great God, a compassionate God, one who knows and loves us and does wonders for us. He will save us from our greatest enemy. He will even save us from ourselves. Let us rejoice as we welcome this Jesus into our midst.
But the journey quickly takes a dark turn. Very quickly, we turn on this savior. Pontius Pilate asks us which prisoner we would rather have released, a notorious criminal or Jesus. “Let him be crucified!” we shout. Pilate is stunned and asks what he has done. But we don’t need to explain, nor can we. “Let him be crucified!” Pilate obeys our will and washes his hands of the matter.
Having sentenced him to death, we walk with Jesus on the way of the cross. He is humiliated, tortured, and crucified with two bandits. This is our lord, the one we just greeted with a parade. Now he hangs from the cross, offering his last grace to these criminals. When he gives up the ghost, we watch as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go with Joseph of Arimathea to lay Jesus’ body in the tomb. And then the tomb is sealed shut. Jesus is gone, and we are left alone—but with the knowledge that we are the ones who put him there.
We make this journey every year so that we may be united with our Lord. In his truth and his light. In his pain and his suffering. And ultimately, in his resurrection. This is a difficult journey, filled with pitfalls. It is a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Yet we go because it is the path to God. With God. In God. There is no other reality. This is real. Jesus is real. He was flesh and blood, just like you and me. He knew the joys of this life—and its challenges. He understood the rational and the irrational. And he showed us by his suffering that other side of the cross is the empty tomb. That’s the only way. There is no way to the resurrection except through the cross. This is reality.
If you come to All Saints’, you are used to having companions on this journey. On this morning every year, we gather on the steps of our beautiful church. We bless palms right there on 7th Avenue, then we enter the church singing, All Glory Laud and Honor. You know what’s coming next, but it’s okay, because we’re all in this together. This week, daily worship leads to our service of foot washing and special meal on Maundy Thursday. We watch the altar be stripped then return for the solemnity of Good Friday. The next evening we celebrate the Great Vigil of Easter with our friends at Iglesia San Andres. And there are few feelings like the joy of Easter morning, when the church is packed and the spirit soaring. Christ is risen and we have completed our journey. Until next year.
But this year will be different. Fr. Spencer and I would make a pretty sad procession, and we can’t even give you these palms. This year, we just assume that everything and everybody is infected. We cannot assemble. We cannot touch. We cannot see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears, at least in person.
But let me tell you this: it’s okay. Don’t worry that you can’t be in the church for Holy Week. And if you are joining us online and this is your first Holy Week, welcome. This very well may be a spiritually transformative time for us all in ways none of us ever could have expected.
And why? Because this journey of Holy Week is a journey within yourself. It is a time when we turn in on ourselves and acknowledge those things that separate us from God. It is a time when we get brutally honest with ourselves and admit that a lot of the things we do and care about really don’t matter. It is a time when we stand before God’s awe and majesty and simply fall down in worship. These things are too hard for a person do to by themselves. That’s why we come together in this building. But you’re not by yourself this morning. You won’t be by yourself at all this week. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses—witnesses in the cloud. Feel them. Believe they are there. Because they are. Just one click away. We are here, together.
I believe that this Holy Week could be one of the most spiritually fulfilling for you and for us as a community. The circumstances have jolted us out of our familiar patterns, so we must think through what all these grand old traditions of ours really mean and why they matter. With people stuck in their homes and suffering all around us, we are looking for meaning. Well, the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides that meaning, and our traditions are the conduit through which we understand that Gospel truth. Now is not the time to be downtrodden about church. Now is the time to put your faith into action. Now is the time to invite a friend to online worship, to live out your values, to have important and deep conversations. Now is the time to invite the Holy Spirit into your homes, your lives, and to let everything around you become sacred.
Yes, Holy Week is different this year. But it could be transformative for you. Let me suggest some practical things you can do to make it that way.
First, pray. Prayer is not presenting your Christmas list to God. Prayer is allowing the Spirit to speak through you, so that God’s desire becomes your own. Prayer focuses your energy and attention on what is real and true and good. Pray. There are opportunity to pray with All Saints’ every day this week. Why not try it out this week? Pray on your own. And if you don’t know how, ask us. Don’t be shy. That’s what we are here for.
Meditate. Remember those times Jesus went off by himself and sat in silent prayer? If even he needed it, so do you. Especially now. Sit and be still. If you’ve never done it before, set a timer for 3 minutes. Close your eyes. Pick a verse of scripture and concentrate on it. How about Psalm 46, verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Journal. Write down your thoughts. Just for yourself. What are you seeing and understanding, maybe for the firs time? What are your frustrations? Keep a covid journal. It shouldn’t be fancy or for anyone else. Just the thoughts you’d only share with God.
Repent. As you go deeper into this journey, you become aware of the things you do or have done to hurt yourself and others. Contact someone you have hurt and tell them you’re sorry. That you don’t even need to hear back from them—just, you’re sorry. Oh, and those people you’re living on top of right now? They’re driving you crazy. But you’re probably driving them crazy too. Do something to acknowledge what they mean to you right now. Something humble and loving. Repent and return to God.
Be generous. On this journey, we discover that your resources are far less limited than you thought. There’s plenty to go around. Be generous with your kindness, your patience, your concern, your material wealth. Share with those who need it. Maybe that means reaching out to someone who is wavering. Or giving some extra space to the people in your life. Or sharing your money with those in need. God is far more generous than any of us will ever be. We can only try to emulate this generosity.
Those are just some suggestions to make this week truly holy for you. But just remember: this week, you are walking with Jesus. He’s there with you every week. Maybe this week you just need him a little more. That’s fine. He’s not going anywhere. Wherever you go, he’ll be walking by your side. Amen.