The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge
Christ Chapel, Seminary of the Southwest
March 23, 2020
When we were Gathered at Christ Chapel on Feb 26 Ash Wednesday, Jane Patterson reminded us that we were there because of the cycles of the moon.
She said “The date of Easter is determined by forces over which we have no control: the movement of the heavens.
Even without us, the moon would go on keeping its appointed seasons.
The heavens are the wide frame in which we are invited into the practices of Lenten observance, the frame within which we undertake the little human dramas of getting on our knees in prayer, of opening up our wallets to the poor, of choosing to skip lunch. The frame for our Lenten practice is vast, not subject to our choice or control.
Lent comes to us as a mysterious gift, not a strategy.”
She wondered how the forty nights and forty sunrises in the Judean desert, in which Jesus would lose himself and find himself, and to be held by a hunger not his own, shaped him.
Jane was speaking of our Lenten disciplines, those things we choose to give up, to lose for a season, to gain perspective and wisdom.
Here we are now, exiled from Christ Chapel, each sheltering in our own dwelling, video linked through cameras and computers, now hungering for human touch, now witnessing helplessly as we lose one thing after another:
sharing a beer at the Posse,
meeting with our colleagues in 210A (or B?),
working at the office, going to school,
going to church on Sundays, getting married, attending a funeral,
getting ready for the senior prom and graduation.
There is a crater in the calendar where March and April are supposed to be and who knows, maybe May and June, as well.
It is the vast frame of the heavens that has brought me solace in this last week, the alternation of day and night, the waning crescent moon, peeking between the clouds at dawn,the leaves filling in on the redbuds and oaks and later this week perhaps, the pecans. And I’ve seen my neighbors in Hyde Park seeking that connection with nature/the creation as they stroll the streets in the evening, with their dogs and their children, a bit like Halloween, but without costumes (mostly).
I chose to read the OT lesson from the Eucharistic lectionary today – The Utopian vision of the prophet Isaiah, God’s dream 65:17-25.
We know that behind the text of fulfillment lies the reality of devastation and loss, defeat, destruction of the people, and exile.
As the pandemic threatens us, we hear these words:
“Thou shalt not labor in vain or bear children for calamity.”
An old fashioned word, usually an overstatement, but perhaps now not one, but an apt word for the time we are in and the time we see ahead: “a calamity.”
Loss of life, loss of livelihood, economy, life as we know it.
It’s not even begun to be bad as it will be. It is too early for any preacher… and too easy to make it all right, to sew it all up, to find simplistic lessons, to moralize it all.
Rather it is time to wail and grieve and scream and rant and lament for what we have lost and for what we are losing and what we don’t know yet that we will lose.
As the people of God, find ways to join together in communal lament – in solidarity with those in even more dire circumstances – where they can’t walk their dog or buy groceries.
Remember that the Christian faith we share has at its very center a devastating loss, a calamity. the violent death of Jesus on the cross.
And yet even in that the God of the people is a creating, recreating, restoring, saving God making a new heavens and a new earth promising peace, yes, after the days of calamity are past and even in the midst of calamity.
I’ve talked with some of you about attending through your computers this past week, virtual AA meetings with people around the globe, and I remember the AA principle, “one day at a time.” I think of that wisdom, shared by all the great spiritual traditions.
Not denial, not distraction, but presence in the present, just as Jesus, one day followed by one night, in the austere landscape.
Jane spoke in her sermon about what was an inevitable moment in the future.
“We are here today, because six weeks from now, under a waning moon, and accompanied by the spring fireflies in the motte, we will all be here again keeping the Great Vigil of Easter together.”
Jane did not know nor did any of us that the Great Vigil of Easter would not be as we imagined.
But Easter we will celebrate the resurrection, the renewal of God, the recreation of heavens and the earth,
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the LORD.
Let us name this calamity, let us lament all we have lost, and let us know God’s recreating love, even in the midst of calamity. One day at a time.