by Dr. Linda Hartley, Assoc. Minister (Designated Term)          –          April 2, 2020

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…a time to embrace, and time to refrain from embracing…. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 5 NRSV)

We would probably all agree that we are indeed in a very unfamiliar, and often frightening, season right now. We are being asked to do what is so unnatural to us as human beings – distance ourselves from each other. Typically, when disasters occur and have occurred we turn to each other for comfort, for reassurance that the basics of our lives are intact. If you are living in a family household right now, I hope you can and do turn to each other for that comfort. And if you live alone, I hope you are finding ways to reach out to friends and family through the phone or the internet to find comfort and connection.

In my conversations with so many of you by phone over the past couple of weeks, I know many of us are finding new and creative ways to maintain our social connections. Some of you have told me of sending emails to friends you haven’t kept in touch with for a while. And, some of you have told me of writing notes to friends, or of picking up the phone to hear their familiar voices. It is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit that we will find ways to remain connected to each other. This is good because we need each other to get through this season.

I love this passage from Ecclesiastes right now because it reminds me that each season has an ending, that each season will eventually turn into a new season. Just as winter eventually gives way to spring each year, this season of social distancing will give way to a new season. There will once again be a time to embrace; a time to embrace both those we love and to embrace the familiar things that we now miss. We don’t know yet when this new season will arrive, but we know that it will arrive – and we know that we will rejoice in it.

In the meantime, let’s not put unrealistic expectations upon ourselves that we will be perfect during this difficult season. Let’s not expect that we will be perfect parents, or perfect students, or perfect anything. As we look forward with hope to the end of this season, let’s accept that this is new territory for us. Let’s accept that we will not navigate it perfectly. Let’s accept that there will be times when we do feel like weeping. Let us have compassion for ourselves when we do feel overwhelmed, stressed out, scared. And, let us recognize that when we do feel this way, it’s time to reach out (virtually at least) to others. You will probably find that you’re not alone in how you feel – you may even find yourself sharing a little laughter. I hope so.

It is also good during this season to remind ourselves that we are not alone, that our God is walking with us, knows what we are going through, and is strengthening us for this journey. As we peek around the corner to Holy Week and are reminded of the events leading up to Easter morning, let us trust that the God who showed the world the power of Love is still with us. Let us take comfort in knowing that for every “no” the world hurled at Jesus, God offered a resounding “Yes!” Yes, God’s love is stronger than anything else. Yes, God’s love is steadfast and true. Yes, God is with us always, through everything.

How do we see this in the midst of our confusion, in the midst of our fear? Mr. Rogers always said that his mother told him to look for the helpers, for that was where he would see God. We see this in the medical professionals working so tirelessly to treat the sick and to find a vaccine. We see this in the many acts of kindness we do for each other every day that may only be known to those we are helping – getting groceries, or running errands, or making a call. To each person we touch in this way, we are the face of God’s love reaching through the fog of fear and concern. We also see this in the many stories we hear of individuals sharing their creative gifts to help us see that beauty still exists. In Providence, musicians affiliated with AS220 living in apartments on Empire Street are playing with their windows open at sunset to fill the empty streets with music. They are not alone – musicians and singers around the world are engaging their communities in similar ways. In all of this, we can see God’s love shining through.

During even the most trying of time, human creativity and connection continue for these are part of our very nature. Let us use our creativity to find new ways to maintain our connections to each other and to reach out to those in need as we travel through this season together. And let us look forward with hope to the change of seasons, to the time when we will once again be dancing with those beyond our immediate family, to the time when we will once again be laughing with our friends over a cup of tea or a pint, and to the time when we will embrace in person. Until then, let us trust in the promise of Easter that God’s love for us will see us through to that bright morning of the new season.