To say that this is a St. Patrick’s Day unlike we’ve ever seen would not be overselling the point.
- We have officially been asked to avoid gathering in groups of larger than 10.
- All church activities and those we host have been suspended.
- We are inundated with news, sometimes contradictory in nature.
- I suspect we have new respect for things we have long taken for granted.
- Pubs have been closed in Ireland and no St. Paddy’s Day parades anywhere on the Emerald Isle.
I am sure we could all make lengthy additions to the list above.
I must say that the past five days have taught me some things about who we are as a people, what creates and sustains Christian community, where to find peace hidden in plain sight.
St. Patrick famously is the patron of Ireland and the accompanying prayer is invoked in many ordinations. It was in mine. Noticing the presence of Christ around us in the midst of all the uncertainty around us seems to me to be the primary work of persons and communities can commit to as things stand at any given moment.
The cartoon to the left seems like one way that we might carry the spirit of Patrick into the ‘new normal’ that seems to change with every look at our TVs, computers or phones.
One of the unexpected graces in the past five days is that I have found great solace in the comings and goings of the birds and the squirrels in our backyard. I have taken time to do computer work, reading, writing and praying outside and I feel like my soul is the better for it. Take some time outdoors or at least at your window and look for the grace in Creation and reflect that grace in your life of prayer and practice.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the latest headlines and screen scrolls. What may be the most effective thing we can do today is connect with a neighbor that we have never met or seldom talk to. The opportunities for seeing the grace around us are limited only by our unwillingness to see it.
Retraining our vision may be one of the greatest opportunities that faces the church in our day and age. I wonder if COVID-19 holds in its reality the grace of opportunity for the church to rediscover its place and purpose in being community-based rather than building-based.
This will continue to be a Lent unlike any other we have known in recent times. Whether or not we are aware is about where we cast our gaze in looking for the vision of God. We could do much worse than embracing the prayer embedded in another of my favorite hymns, number 488 in your Hymnal 1982
Be Thou My Vision:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art
High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all
As we move into each ‘new normal’ may we maintain our desire for Christ and His enduring presence, with the Creator and the Holy Spirit to guide who we are and how we reach out to God’s world around us.
—-The Rev. Warren Earl Hicks