Family, there is a lot going on these days in everyone’s lives. I know a lot of you are going through different struggles in your personal lives. And if there isn’t something going on with you personally then there is someone you love who is going through a lot. Today on Reign of Christ Sunday, also known as Christ the King Sunday, let’s talk about resilience in the midst of all the struggles and difficulty. Christ the King is a bit triumphal a name for a day on which we remember Jesus’ death on the cross and promise of resurrection. Reign of Christ is a more horizontal name for a God who came down to earth in human form willing to be with us. All the more reason God can identify with humans in our suffering because the Second Person of the Trinity became human in Jesus. If there is one thing I would like you to take away from Reign of Christ Sunday it’s the Holy Spirit leading us into resilience. One verse that exemplifies this is from today’s Psalm which comes from Luke 1:78, “By the tender mercy of God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.” The prophetic poem from which we read as our psalm today is known as the Song of Zechariah. It embodies resilience and this verse in particular brings out this divine, graceful resilience that God showers upon us through Christ.
In the midst of struggle we need to take time to remember moments of resilience along the way. We need to take time to remember what sparks joy and even laughter in the midst of sadness, grief, and pain. Take time to check in with one another. To pray for one another’s comfort and wellbeing. Some stories of resilience.
One story of joy and resilience. Earlier this week as co-pastors we received invitations from a couple of children for a classroom visit. It was Pastors’ Day at Pacific Christian Elementary & Middle School. I was the fortunate co-pastor who got to visit four kids in their classrooms. In fact my own kids were out of school due to a Pro D day. They still had to go to school, but it was a new adventure. We had a lot of fun saying to the four kids, meeting their teachers, meeting school friends, getting a sense of where they spend so much of their time. We got to witness where they move around, the space they inhabit.
Afterwards there was a reception in the mezzanine above a basketball court. This was the reward for my own kids, a giant peg board full of donuts. At this gathering one of the administrators was thanking us for coming, was interrupted by an intercom announcement thanking us for coming, and then he said, “I know typically Friday is for writing sermons. We genuinely appreciate you making time for this visit. I just saw two twins who were in tears because their pastor couldn’t make it.” At that moment we were all happy we weren’t that pastor. Nevertheless to be charitable maybe they had a pastoral emergency. Nevertheless the overall message hits home, often something that seems small to us can be a big deal to someone else, especially for kids. Too often we don’t take kids seriously enough.
One thing Chris McDonald has been teaching us as a congregation is that sometimes we need to become more kid-like, remember what it’s like to be a kid again, in order better to relate not only to kids but also to ourselves. Just as kids are fully in their bodies, they wiggle around, they move, we need to recover what it means fully to be in our bodies. Even if we don’t have the same range of motion a lot of kids do. Those of us who use walkers and wheelchairs, still know what it like to feel a spark of energy. So whether it is song with movements or storytelling, Chris and others want to help re-imagine what it is like to be fully incarnate as we share joy in hearing and proclaiming the word of God.
Kids also embody divine resilience. They rise to new challenges often because they haven’t embodied a sense of failure or disappointment in the same way we have as adults. Together with kids we need to reimagine what it’s like to hear divine resilience as a gift of grace. “In the tender mercy of God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.”
Another story of divine resilience. This past Thursday was Trans Day of Awareness. Some of us gathered downtown at Bastion Square to mark this remembrance, hearing the names of 280+ trans people who have been killed over the last twelve months. Those laid to eternal rest ranged in age between 15 and 80. While that in itself is harrowing, it was a powerful experience to share space with trans folks and fellow clergy.
The gathering began with an opportunity for smudging led by leaders with the Native Friendship Centre. Rainbow Health rents space at the Native Friendship Centre. They both are organizations that would be good for us to build relationships.
In fact there is an upcoming event bringing together both organizations for the Eastside Women’s Memorial this Saturday, November 30, 5:30 PM at Bastion Square (off Langley St beside the Bastion Square Parkade).
After the Thursday event I had a chance to talk with the director of Rainbow Health, I asked about ways in which we as a church can support the trans community. One answer at first surprised me. Something we do every week – gathering around ritual. We are good at crafting and supporting liturgies and rituals that renew and heal. It’s the reason so many of us gather each week. We are hurting, we are seeking comfort through music, prayer, the Word, Jesus in the bread and wine. Water that transforms. Some of you have asked about rituals of healing that are offered at Church of the Cross periodically. What would it look like for us to craft liturgies of healing for people often uncomfortable in church spaces? What would it look like for us to meet them in spaces in which they are already comfortable? I don’t know what this would look like but it’s worth considering.
We could all use some tender mercy of God these days. The Spirit is inviting us into resilience, into ways of being that rise above the daily fray of our fragmented selves. It doesn’t mean the end of suffering today, but it does mean we are not walking alone. And that counts for so much. I remember a friend dealing with the failing health of parents and finding it hard not to have siblings or a partner to share that with. It gets back to that sense of being alone. The feeling we can’t get out of bed or rise to yet another challenge on our own. We find strength in community. We find resilience as the body of Christ.
A closing story about resilience and the body of Christ. There is a new movie out about the life of Mr. Rogers staring Tom Hanks called a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. So far it is receiving rave reviews. I’ve heard multiple church leaders tell me that Mr. Rogers is one of the people they look to as an example for doing ministry. He was a real person who lived in our time. He cared first and foremost about children. And he cared about everyone he met. People felt special in his presence.
One interesting thing about Mr. Rogers is he didn’t think hosting a children’s television show needed to be impersonal but just the opposite. When he looked in the camera he was talking to individual children. He cared and loved the kids watching his show and they knew it. When we watch an episode of Mr. Rogers we can’t help but be captivated by his voice, his cadence, the intention with which he looks into the camera. He is fully present.
New technology doesn’t have to divide us from others. We can make use of new technologies in low budget ways. Mr. Rogers sure didn’t let a low budget slow him down. He helped make very simple puppets and he was the voice of many of them in Make Believe Land. Perhaps live music was among the few luxuries in the show. Sort of like church. What does it look like for us to enter brave new worlds of media, communicating the love and resilience of Jesus to the children, youth, students, young adults, adults, and seniors around Greater Victoria? I don’t know, but it’s worth giving it a shot. Even small steps can grow into big leaps.
Resilience flips world on its head
As we wrap up I want to leave you with the thought that the grace and love of resilience flips the world on its head. Sort of like Upsy Downsy world from the children’s lesson. The better we support one another, the more equal we all become. Jesus is casting away hierarchy in favour of mutual flourishing. With resilience as body of Christ we are upsetting the order of the world in order that love may flourish. Let us follow the Spirit’s invitation into this grace-filled Upsy Downsy way of living.
Let us name our loneliness, the ways in which people are suffering. Let us also proclaim the Spirit’s promise to be with us, leading us into resilience. “By the tender mercy of God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.” Amen.