March 8, 2020

Walking on the Waters of Chaos
Signs of Life: Why Church Matters – Water
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A
Becky Robbins-Penniman

The collect uses the image of the waters of chaos – isn’t that apt for us right now? COVID-19, tornadoes at midnight, a political arena that resembles a bar fight, skittish stock markets, and wars, bombings, yikes. What’s a body to do to deal with all this?

As we deal with chaos, we need to make a choice: One choice is to protect ourselves literally all costs, encasing ourselves in physical, spiritual and psychological hazmat suits, hoarding supplies, not caring if others have access to what they need, and becoming like a snarling dog protecting a bone. The other choice is to be smart, but continue to live according to the Golden Rule, to take care of each other and protect the most vulnerable, and, for us in an Episcopal Church, to consider DAILY the way of life set out in our baptismal covenant. How fascinating that long before COVID-19 was unavoidable news. Cindy and I chose these particular lessons for our Lenten series, because the lessons from an old, venerable book are all about today’s choices: between ME or WE, Pessimism or Hope, Panic or Peace, Doubt or Confidence.

Yesterday, I read a fascinating interview about how pandemics change history. Professor Snowden noted that viruses exploit weakness not just in one human, but in entire cultures. It’s a matter of logic, of how survival of the fittest begins by decimating the weakest. When human cultures create large populations of people who do not have access adequate food, shelter, and care, viruses will take hold in them and spread freely. The viruses often strengthen in that process, so when, inevitably, healthier folks are exposed, THEY are now more vulnerable than if the virus never really got started because the first people exposed never got really sick because they were healthy. Healthy people are much more likely to survive, and the time to prevent a problem for many is by making that there are as few susceptible, weakened human beings as possible. All this must be in place long before the first sneeze. So a pandemic exposes the fault lines in cultures that permit large classes of people to be poor and vulnerable.

Professor Snowden noted something else about cultural attitudes to disease. During the Black Death in the 14th C, long before we knew about germs, the Church insisted that its members face the reality that they could die quite suddenly, and to ask themselves the big questions about how they chose to live, and whether they were prepared to die. Personal observation by this parish priest is that people who have faced their own mortality and made peace with their God, their family, and themselves, approach their last breath with thanksgiving for what they’ve had, and, most importantly, face the next step without fear.

That’s what our lessons are about today: in the midst of chaos, making choices on how to live, facing our fears about both living and dying, and finding that precious place of community, peace, hope and confidence…

Read the full sermon text HERE.

Watch the 10 AM service live: