A Fresh Start

As I write this post from California there is growing anticipation of June 15th.  This is the day that the State has designated for a near complete lifting of the COVID restrictions.  To hear people talk about this day it is beginning to sound like a combination of Christmas, New Year, Easter and your birthday all rolled into one.  Our longing for an end to these restrictions has been growing by the day as we have seen dramatic drops in case numbers and rise in vaccinations.  There is an anticipation of once again experiencing pre-pandemic life.  Even though we’ve never been through something like this before, my suspicion is that this yearning is normal.  Like many of you, I’m looking forward to the experiences that have been put off for more than a year.  If I have any trepidation at all about what life will be like after COVID restrictions are lifted, it is that we will not take the time to reflect and learn from the difficult lessons of the last 15 months.  If we don’t learn from what we’ve experienced, we put ourselves at greater risk if something like this were to ever happen again.

Acting Like We Know It All

How many times have you been brought up short by a new experience when you think you’d seen it all?  Probably it is more times than you can count.  While there are some naturally curious folks around us, who seem pre-wired to learn as a regular course of life, many more of us may not learn until we’re forced to by circumstances we encounter.  Learning that is thrust upon us rather than learning we may seek out tends to be more shocking to our sense of self.  This is especially true in the realm of faith development.  Dealing with challenges to our comfortable faith structures can easily shake us to our core.  This is what seems to be at play in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus is a smart man.  He is very learned.  He can recognize that Jesus represents a unique manifestation of God’s grace and power in the world.  And yet, Nicodemus is so locked into a set of baked in assumptions about what the Messiah would be, he is not able to fully comprehend what he is seeing and experiencing in Jesus.  In turn, this makes it a deep challenge for him to see his role in this new manifestation of God’s work.

Embrace It Even Though It’s Hard

Even though the season of COVID lockdown has been difficult and painful, we need to avoid the temptation to turn the page without looking back.  Our faith story reminds us that God always shows up in the most difficult moments.  Remember Psalm 23:  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…For you are with me.”  God shows up, as Jesus reminds us in John, because God’s love moves God to bring us healing, restoration, and wholeness.  This is the gift of life that comes even from death.  It is a gift of order that emerges even from chaos.  Even though we might now want to look for this grace or understand these gifts in our haste to move on from COVID, Jesus’ words to Nicodemus are a challenge for us.  It is the invitation to learn new things and embrace new possibilities of how God is present.  It opens new windows of understanding to help us see our place in the ongoing work of the Gospel.  There is one question that emerges for me from all this.  What did you learn about God’s presence and grace in your life, during these last 15 months, that will empower your faith and ministry going forward?  Join us on Sunday, in person or online, as we answer Jesus’ call to a deeper faith.