Sermon April 19th 2020

Break-down or Break-through?

There is no doubt that Covid-19 is the uninvited guest of our lifetime.  The disruptions, pains, anxieties, and almost all the somber adjectives of our language quite probably are not enough to describe how we have been impacted, how we feel, and describe what we are going through.

Canceled graduations, proms and weddings.  Furloughs and layoffs.  Kids, pets, house-chores, and full-time jobs all confined into homes never designed for “full-time-full-occupancy!”  Fears, both real and imaginary. Ailing parents or sick relatives… or both!  And, yes, “Where in the world has gone all the toilet paper?”

Our Church closed!  When was the last time an Easter Service was cancelled?  No baptisms or, even worse, no decent funerals in church… or anywhere for that matter.  The music, prayers and the giggling of small children in churches where fellowship and getting together is the bread and butter of Christian life has been stilled.  And the list goes on and on.  For how long?  Is this a total break-down of life as we knew it?

In today’s gospel reading we learn about the early life of the disciples right after our Lord’s death.  They mourned their Master and, pulling themselves up from their bootstraps, they began to adjust life as best as they thought possible.

Of course, they missed their Teacher.  Some disciples started their way back home and reminisced about “the good old days.” The mortar of what they thought their new future was going to be, began to set in.

Then, Jesus showed himself among them.  Thomas appears to be the only one who challenged the story of the resurrection.  However, Peter and John conveniently forgot that they themselves didn’t believe the witness of Mary Magdalene!  Some disciples had a long talk with Jesus and realized that their Savior had been with them only after He left them!

For ourselves, the social order and the church life that has served us well all through our lives – including all the wonderful and special divine interventions that we have experienced in our lifetimes – may have come to represent the limits of all that God can do.  We have survived, thanks be to God!  And we are doing well, no doubt about it. But is it all that there is for St. David’s?

What the Resurrection teaches us is that God knows no boundaries and never is limited by our experience.  God can do much more than to feed us, to lead us, and to defend us.

God can and will go further than all our blessed experiences and expectations – God will “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think,” even “beyond our wildest dreams,” (Ephesians 3:20), writes St. Paul.

“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord,” recalls St. John in his Gospel. To be empowered and filled with joy, the disciples had to open their eyes to a “truly new normal.”  Until that moment they were afraid.  By shutting the doors to their room, they set limits to what they believed God could accomplish.  For them to change, Jesus had to break through the doors into their room, overcoming the limits to their understanding, even their faith.

I believe that Covid-19, for all the dislocations, challenges, and pains that is causing it is also an opportunity to grow in our understanding of what God can do and accomplish.  Covid-19 cannot limit what God can do.  Only us can, unless we open the eyes to see the possibilities beyond a yet unseen future. In the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is to reach the point where we can see the things that are not yet there.

In our own local context, it may mean beginning to pray how are we going to receive and welcome those who are going to join us after we re-open the Church.  As some of the risks of Covid-19 will continue for a while, it is beginning to think beyond printed materials and open ourselves to the possibilities of new technologies.  It is refusing to accept our experience as the limit to what God can do or accomplish – even beyond our wildest dreams!

“Peace to you,” says our Risen Lord.  In other words, don’t be afraid of the giants of an unknown future.  One cannot fight with tied hands.  Let God’s Spirit untie all that secures the “old normal” so we can build up the new reality that God is setting for us.

In his everlasting goodness, God is offering us the chance of a lifetime.  Yes, it is the break-down of the “old normal,” so the “new normal” may break-through our self-imposed limits.

Faithful Savior:  You returned to visit your friends to impart them with a new vision and a new power.  Come and visit us to open our eyes to see beyond the self-imposed limits of our faith, help us to call possible a yet unseen future, and to make it real in the power of your loving Spirit. Amen

Fr. Gustavo,
The Rev. T. G. Mansella, Vicar
St. David’s Church
PO Box 125
11291 West River Road
Aylett, VA 23009-0125
+1 804 496 1002