Walk by Faith

04-12-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Who could have imagined in their wildest dreams — even writers of high tech futuristic space alien dramas could not have foreseen — that we would not be gathering in our holy sanctuary at Saint Mary's Franklin to proclaim and sing Alleluia! on this Easter Sunday 2020. Or that the most beautiful service of Holy Thursday when we remember the Institution of our most precious and sacred gift of the Holy Eucharist would come and go this year only by watching it on TV. I have always treasured the Stations of the Cross of Good Friday. To me, they speak much more than the Evening Service. I feel the loss of this beautiful devotional celebration this year very deeply. For those who attend the elaborate ritual of the Easter Vigil which is celebrated with Fire, Water and Word, it must still the heart to miss those deeply spiritual ceremonies in our church.

When I was very young, Easter Sunday and the Risen Lord was celebrated in my family by new and special clothes worn to the Easter Mass. Though it was all in Latin, which could not be heard or understood, and lasted fewer than 40 minutes, we all knew that this day was quite special. Our new and formal clothes told us so. We knew that this was the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. With the wonderful ceremonies which have been celebrated in the language we know and understand for over half a century, Holy Week and Easter have now taken on a stronger and deeper spiritual meaning. We acknowledge the loss of all this grace and spiritual experience this year. We all can look forward to these graced moments next year.

I always liked the hymn where we sing "we walk by faith and not by sight." In this present moment it certainly speaks to us and our lives. Whether we hold on by a fingernail or have strong faith, Christ's Resurrection from the dead can have deep and powerful meaning for us this year even though we cannot gather to celebrate it together in our church.

All of us know and can remember the opening words of the Old Testament Book of Genesis: "In the beginning…" We learn in the creation story that God brought out from chaos the heavens and the earth. We learn again on each Easter Sunday that there is a new beginning in Jesus rising from the dead. Does not the Gospel writer call it "the first day" of the Resurrection? Perhaps we need to ponder this a little more than usual. During this most difficult and uncertain time, we need to know, feel, and accept that Jesus the Risen Lord will bring us through this"chaos" to a new beginning and a new way to see, feel, and understand our life. The Resurrection of Jesus reminds us that there is always light and hope. When Mary went to the tomb and discovered that it was open, her already confused and broken heart must have really fallen apart. She saw the tomb as empty; she missed the significance of the tomb being open. When she came to believe that it was open because Christ had been raised from the dead, her world changed. In all that is currently going on, there is clearly some very bad, but there is also some very good. What you focus on each day and how you strive to take the present moment(s) and live them each day may pivot on how you hold and cherish our belief in the Resurrection of Christ.

We all know that at some point we will be able to gather in our church again and celebrate our faith in Christ. Most of us feel the loss of these sacred gatherings. I suspect for others — now that their lives have been changed by such dramatic circumstances — that they may join with us to seek meaning or better purpose. We need to keep walking by faith and know that others may seek to join us.

Christ is risen for not only for you and me, but for all of us. Alleluia!