My calendar is about to explode. This coming Sunday is a convergence of commemorations. It’s the last Sunday after the Epiphany, the Transfiguration; it’s Valentine’s Day; it’s President’s day weekend; and in the Episcopal church, lest anyone think we’re not keeping busy, it’s World Mission Sunday!
That last commemoration may come as a surprise to you. World Mission Sunday was established at the General Convention of 1997, but Presiding Bishop Michael Curry sees it as a crucial emphasis for the Episcopal Church these days. He issued a video, noting happily that it coincides with Valentine’s Day:
“Global Mission Sunday is about our being sent into the world as witnesses to the way of love that Jesus taught us, witnesses to the way of love by works of compassion, works of mercy, works of justice… witnesses to love by working together with fellow Christians and all peoples of good will of any stripe and type to help this world resemble something close to what God has dreamed and intended from the very beginning when God said, ‘Let there be’…What was true for [Jesus’ followers] in the first century is true for us now in the twenty-first century…We are members of that movement, that Jesus movement, bearing witness to that love.”
This is my second week to serve as your supply priest. One of first things I’ve come to realize about you is that St. John’s is ALL about love! I’ve met several of you and have been delighting in your stories about this place. (To be honest, it’s been a bit like drinking from a fire hydrant—overwhelming, yet refreshing). I’m seeing that while the congregation has its share of challenges, loving one another and loving the neighborhood are not among them.
Love makes tough demands. We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of online worship gatherings due to COVID restrictions, hardly an occasion for celebration. You may have read that the Supreme Court last week overturned California’s ban on indoor worship. Let me be clear about this: there is nothing about that decision that should lead us to think that indoor regathering is safe. It isn’t. I’m glad our Diocese of California COVID-19 Response Team continues to “strongly encourage the continuation of virtual gatherings.” We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to stay strong until we can all be together safely.
Love can also make us creative. This week I participated in several conversations about how to observe Ash Wednesday, given that our service will be online. I’m so delighted by the result—we are going to make, bless and make available “ashes to go!” They will be available to pick up in the church garden or we can deliver them. Join us Sunday and we’ll share more information on how to sign up.
I’ve been hearing a song in my head all week long (I ask for your forgiveness in advance if this becomes and unwelcome earworm), “Love will find a way” from Disney’s The Lion King II. I’m more of an opera guy, but we’ve raised four sons and I’ve watched the Lion King movies with my kids so many times that the tunes are hardwired into my brain. Two lions, Kovu and Kiara, from opposing tribes sing about love that overcome any obstacle. “Love will find a way,” they croon, “I know love will find a way.”
That’s my hope as we begin our journey to Easter together. How will we continue to cope with all these uncertainties? How will weather the challenges? What kind of innovative experiments should we try to be more connected as the pandemic rages? I don’t know, but I believe I’m in a community that knows and believes that love will find a way.