You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection HERE.
As we pause in God’s presence, take a deep breath, and release it.
Now, hold these three words on your heart: Rooms, refuge, and resilience.
Rooms. Refuge. Resilience.
Come into that space—a holy abode of rooms. Places which provide refuge, refuge which builds resilience in our minds, bodies, and souls (and I’ll share more about the rooms in just a moment). This is a sacred opportunity to be rooted in the interconnectedness of God’s love with the world around us.
Looking at all of the small squares on my computer screen this morning, I can’t help but think of the many rooms in which you are each sitting. It affirms for me that we are being sheltered in a Spirit-filled space of sanctuary. Right here, right now. And in this sanctuary of many rooms, words from the Gospel of John take on new meaning. These verses from John 14 are from today’s assigned lectionary readings, which I would like to share with you: (John 14:1-5 Common English Version):
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together…”
We will be, and are, together. Take a look at your computer screen. We are living proof that this is true. There are many rooms in God’s house. Think about it. At this moment, there are hundreds and thousands of rooms in which congregations are gathering today, alongside which there are virtual space in which other faith communities have been gathering as well. All from their own homes due to the coronavirus. We are, in a unique-to-this-time-period of humanity, together. The earth, the entire world has become… has always been… a holy abode of rooms.
This is a sacred place in which someone could find themselves pondering what finding refuge in God’s shelter looks like as life falls apart. I began to wonder what led the author of this psalm to write words of great despair, intersperse with hope. What had taken place in her own time? What was the life-falling-apart moment that moved her to write a declaration of confidence in God’s protection? She knows God is close enough to unbind the snares that tug at her soul as she cries, “Get me out! Get me out of this net that’s been set for me” (Psalm 31:4, CEB).
We too have a net, a trap, in the virus, which lies hidden in our communities. We can’t escape the reality of the disease. If you have time this week, it is worth taking a moment to read all of Psalm 31. The entire poem is a plea to God for help. THAT that is easy to understand today. The desire to seek relief during this plague is real. Listen to verses 9 and 10, which sound like they could have been written by anyone of us:
Be gracious to me God for I am in distress;
My eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
There’s even a part of the psalm in which she says:
… those who see me in the street flee from me (Psalm 31:11b)
Wow. That statement holds true today. In our social distancing, “those who see me in the street flee from me,” conjures up images of people trying to stay 6 feet away from each other. Have you experienced awkward moments trying to maneuver through aisles at a store, or walking past others on narrow sidewalks?
Awkward is one thing. Deadly is another. The stories swirling about in the pandemic are disturbing, but other preexisting traps await. This week, another horrific image emerged. A cell phone video went… well… viral. It shows Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was out jogging being confronted—and killed—by two white men. On the road. In the middle of the day. A modern day lynching.
And here we are—living into our own psalm:
O God, we are in distress;
Tears and grief flow.
For those who have died from the coronavirus
For those who are now sick.
For the vulnerable in our midst whose lives are put in danger for the sake of the economy
…and for those who are in financial need due to job losses.
For our siblings who are black…
and brown… and Native American… of Asian descent…
O God, our spirits are worn down by injustices.
We are so tired.
There is so much sorrow
Our strength fails.
This, beloved, is a psalm for today. Living words, seeking support. A prayer for deliverance, from a virus, small, unseen… and systemic injustices, racism, communal failings that are large, insidious. Through this lens we can understand ancient words anew:
In you, God, I have taken refuge…
Provide me means of escape.
Untangle me from hidden snares.
For you are my source of sustenance.
In your hand I place my spirit for safe keeping.
… you have seen my affliction…
It is in that both/and—the both being in the midst of despair and rooted in God’s Great Hope—that we gather in our sanctuary… our many rooms—and find God space. As we live, and breath, and pray the psalm for our own time, God provides us with refuge.
And refuge is a building block for what we need in the days ahead: resiliency. Looking out across our many squares of rooms, I see sanctuary. I heard sanctuary in the Night of Music we celebrated together last Monday night on Zoom. I experience God in our prayer group and Bible studies. These refuges give me resiliency.
What about you? Where are you finding sanctuary? I encourage you to make time to make the space and time in which to connect with God for strength, perseverance, and fortitude. Resiliency.
Beloved, make time for God. Pause in spaces, rooms, songs of shelter. Know we can let go, and let God, in these uncertain days.
For God will always guide and lead us.
God’s radical hospitality is constantly with us—
Holy love and tears poured out in response to the world’s suffering.
Be strong beloved,
and let you heart take courage.
on Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 and John 14:1-5 offered May 10, 2020
 Greenberg, Pamela. The Complete Psalms: the Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010.