A friend shared a quote with me from a book on grief and loss that they are reading. The quote is by Albert Camus, from Camus’ book, Summer. The often-quoted line is: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” Isn’t that a word for our time, a 2021 message for us, for the world?
And here’s another 2021 message for us, from the Psalm writer: “For God alone I wait in silence, truly my hope is in God. God alone is my rock… salvation, stronghold, deliverance, honour, strong rock, refuge. Put your trust in God always, O people, pour out your hearts before the one who is our refuge.” Should we recite this each morning as we rise and say this as our bedtime prayer, that this be our faith, our hope?
Jesus begins his work/ministry after John is arrested. Jesus’ message continues the message of John, “The time is fulfilled, and the dominion of God has come near; repent and believe the good news.” It’s God’s time, God is near, turn around, change your mind, believe this good news. This will continue to be Jesus’ message, in words and especially actions, recognizing, revealing God’s time breaking in, God’s nearness as near as Jesus, calling disciples, ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, to turn around, change our minds, and follow Jesus. And when we do, everything changes, is upended, disrupted, for God’s dominion, God’s time, God, who’s near, and the wellbeing, the life of all people, all creation, as God intends.
Luther Court celebrated this week, along with many long-term care communities in the region, receiving the Covid-19 vaccine for care and assisted living residents. Luther Court’s turn came on Friday. The first resident to receive the vaccine is 106 years old, soon to be 107! They were pleased to receive it and appreciated the excitement of the moment. And there were tears by others, staff and management who have worked so hard with residents and families to keep the community safe; tears of relief and joy, and hope for independent residents who still wait to receive it, that everyone would be safe and as well as possible.
I heard one story of a resident, who was having a difficult morning and decided not to participate. And a young staff member who instead of trying to convince them, invited them to dance. And dance they did, right over to one of the vaccination stations where they happily sat down and received it. Maybe they just needed the right spirit for such a historic moment. To dance!
The inauguration of the incoming President of the United States was another historic moment full of the “unprecedented” in this time when the word is routine. Flags replaced people, National Guard became the crowd behind fences and razor wire, the few guests sitting far apart, including Bernie Sanders bored to sleep but skyrocketed to historic meme status, international guests watching from countries and continents away, as the oldest new president, well known and well trusted for decency, fairness, and working together, whose life has been tested by loss yielding deep compassion by all accounts, and a new vice president, the first woman, the first black woman, the first Asian woman in this office, were sworn in, with songs by stars, and a young black poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, reciting and gesturing her stirring prophetic words that stole the whole ceremony; as, in stark contrast, the outgoing president had already left with the parting words, “Have a nice life…” skipping the ceremony altogether. There were tears and sighs and shouts of relief and joy across the United States and the world in the hope for a new beginning, for a sea change, and a lesser celebration for some who wonder if too much will stay or return to the same that is not lifegiving for them. But a weight has been lifted, clouds dissipating like the sun shinning here in Victoria this week, a chill in the air, but the warmth of the sun a welcome and hopeful sign.
Miroslav Wolf, who I mentioned two Sundays ago, as part of the Values for a New World series of the JAH/CSRS lectures, at his presentation on January 7, spoke about “home,” as a metaphor of our human need and longing, a place of “resonance, attachment, mutuality, that endures,” with images from Revelation and elsewhere in the Bible of both earthly and heavenly homes, with creation being our “home of homes.” The lack and longing for home, literal homelessness for far too many, metaphorically for all humanity, and truly for those in minorities, poor, refugees, has been further exposed in this pandemic time. And despite the image of home being fraught for some as a place and experience of the opposite of what Wolf describes among “contending particular universalisms,” home holds the essence, Wolf believes, of the “Kingdom” of God.
Jesus proclaims, “The time is fulfilled, the home of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Jesus exposes and expresses our human longing for a home of resonance, attachment, mutuality, that endures for all, the dwelling place of God near; inviting all to hear, to turn around, change our minds (repent) and believe the good news Jesus is proclaiming, showing, living and inviting everyone to follow on a journey toward home with God, one another and all creation.
And there’s the puzzling, fascinating stories of Jesus calling people to follow. Simon and Andrew, fishing, and Jesus invites them to leave it all and fish for people. In an image that is equally fraught with misunderstanding in claims of hooking people and reeling them in for God, this image from Jeremiah 16:16 is instead about overturning power and privilege, Andrew and Peter’s purpose and lives being completely upended by Jesus’ calling; invited and inviting others to be at home with God, all others, and all creation, forever changing what is, for the mercy, justice, love and equity God intends to be. And so also for James and John, and maybe for Zebedee and the hired workers, and all others called by Jesus in the same way, wherever and whenever, God’s home always near, turn around, change your mind, believe this good news, and follow Jesus in the everchanging adventure and vocation of discipleship.
Jonah, still stinking from dwelling in a fish for three days to help change his mind, a smell he just can’t get off himself, finally listens to God and half-heartedly shouts a message of condemnation to the great and corrupt city of Nineveh. To Jonah’s shock, the people of Nineveh believe God, proclaim a fast and everyone great and small joins in repentance. In the great comedy that is this story, who could believe this kind of sea change of mind and heart were possible among people who Jonah wanted to believe were beyond redemption, doomed. But not with God, provoking Jonah to anger and pouting.
Paul’s confusing words identify “the appointed time has grown short… the present form of this world is passing away.” Isn’t this the terrifyingly good news of which Jesus speaks? The home of God is near, right here and now, and in Jesus’ gracious calling to repentance, calling to follow, we and everything and this world and all creation are upended; and by that same grace we, with others, immediately follow, follow Jesus, follow God’s good purpose of upending this God’s world and home.
It is surely winter this year with most everything upended. Almost a year long and not finished yet. “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” Making no claim of what this meant for Camus, is this invincible summer the good news of home, of God near to you, to us, to all, and the call of Jesus that upends everything, that we long to follow? For God alone I wait in silence, truly my hope is in God. God alone is my rock… salvation, stronghold, deliverance, honour…. Put your trust in God always, O people, pour out your hearts before the one who is our refuge, our home and follow Jesus. Let it be so, in all our relations. Amen.