So last week I dissed an entire faith community in my Lenten thoughts, basing my dislike of ALL of them on two isolated incidents in my life.
We went to church that day (the Third Sunday in Lent) and were told that it would be our last gathering for the foreseeable future as the Diocese had to decided to close all its churches to community worship. This, of course, was due to the coronavirus pandemic now sweeping the world, and the church’s efforts to help “flatten the curve.”
Regular readers of this blog know of my current faith struggles. They also know that despite my current confusion, DH and I are very active in our church: We sing in the choir, we are lay communion assistants, DH is a lector and intercessor, I help host an (irregularly) regular music jam at the church, we have dinners and beach days and celebrate holidays together. In other words, church, and the COMMUNITY of church goers is important to us, and the sudden loss of that fellowship is gut-wrenching.
Father David’s sermon referenced the Samaritan woman at the well, and her conversation with Jesus. He pointed out that the Samaritans, who used the Torah as scripture and honored the Patriarchs, worshiped God on Mount Gerizim, while the Jews used Torah, the Law and Prophets as scripture, and worshiped God in the Jerusalem Temple. And Jews did not “take up” with Samaritans. Especially a Jewish man striking up a conversation with lone Samaritan woman. At the end of today’s Gospel lesson, the Samaritan woman gathered her townspeople to meet Jesus, and “he stayed with them (the Samaritans) for two days.” The point of Father David’s sermon was that the building (or mountain…or plot of ground….) doesn’t matter. What matters is that God’s people worship him-and that he is there-as a shepherd in his sheep’s pen-in the community of worshipers.
And I was reminded of an old story I wrote years ago:
I admit, I love watching Riverdance, the Irish dance troupe. Perhaps it’s the rhythmic tapping, perhaps it’s the precision that speaks to my..um..obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Whatever the reason, I do enjoy watching the energetic dancers perform. On a recent PBS airing, I was struck by the contrast of the red-haired Irish with the tapping of the African Americans. The Blacks were moving freely; arms swinging, heads swiveling and hips swaying. The Irish came onstage–precise, rapid foot movements were in stark contrast to the absolute immobility of their upper bodies. Their heads were erect, arms were straight at their sides and did not move. In this particular dance segment, however, the two groups learned from each other. The Blacks demonstrated their ability to perform the Irish dance, and the Irish did back flips and somersaults, having “learned” the moves from the Black street dancers. As I watched, I remembered the Gospel reading from this past Sunday. John 10: 14-17: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Too often I am sure that “my” denomination is the right one, but God is not limited by my beliefs, or by my preferences. Like the Riverdancers, we too, can learn from our “other faithed” brethren, who too, are of one flock—-His.
The next few weeks (months…) will be telling for all of us. Certainly, the way of life we’ve known will be at least temporarily if not permanently altered. DH and I will hunker down at home, and watch the live stream of our attenuated church services. So too, I am sure, will Jews, and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists…..and Mormons.
And when it’s all over, maybe I can meet with one of my Mormon neighbors and split a Diet Coke.
As the entire world faces…to put it mildly…change, note that the appointed Psalm for today, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is the one that millions turn to in times of trial and doubt:
1.The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
May we ALL be penned in.