MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: A time for every season
Last week I ordered some candles in glass jars for a project at church. When they arrived, a few of them were broken. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to quickly order replacements at no charge. I even get to keep the broken ones! What a deal!
This year we have been confronted by all forms of brokenness, and our response has been mixed. A pandemic has killed nearly a quarter million of our neighbors so far. We were encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing as a way to limit the spread of the virus. For the most part we’ve accepted these behaviors and made the adjustments. Some of us have stubbornly refused. The economy is a stress for many of us. We have profound issues of grief, and we haven’t found a meaningful way to express it. Many of us have missed family and other personal connections for this entire year. And the holidays are just around the corner. Brokenness is everywhere. What will we do with it?
Recently a friend on Facebook expressed her frustration with the coronavirus: “Can’t we just move on from it?” I get it. But that’s not how things go, is it? My grandparents’ generation didn’t just move on from the Great Depression and World War II. My parents’ generation didn’t just move on from the Vietnam War and the struggle for Civil Rights. Work has to be done, collectively and individually, before we can move on.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.” - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
We want to move on from weeping, mourning, and losing. We’re ready for laughing, dancing, and embracing. A few mouse clicks was all it took to replace my broken candles in glass jars, but it’s not that easy to move on from tragedy on this scale. Speaking of broken jars, did you know that we are broken jars ourselves? Instead of glass, we are made of clay:
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” - 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Yup, we’ve been through all that and more in 2020.
The clay jars are our bodies, and inside there is a candle. Every time we face a challenge, either in our own life or our life as a society, a new crack is formed. The cracks don’t vanish on their own, and they cannot be wished away. Instead, they reveal the image of God in each of us-- that’s the flame inside the broken jar. Knowing and recognizing that each person has God’s image in them makes our necessary sacrifices for the common good meaningful. So we do not just move on from coronavirus or grief or anxiety or depression. Everything, good and bad, has its season. The extraordinary power of God helps us endure the difficult seasons, holding each other up in love, never losing sight of the light shining brightly from the cracks into our present darkness.