[Video is below]
Greetings in this fourth week of our Easter season! I note that it is also the eighth week since the beginning of our social and physical distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hope and I trust that we're all continuing to do our part to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus, especially out of concern for the more vulnerable amongst us. I also hope that we are continuing to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and to be reminded that the risen Christ is indeed present to us even in the midst of these difficult times.
Last week, in my video, I spoke about a parable that I'd heard years ago of a man who is struck on the head by a coconut and, and despite the painful experience, he nonetheless picks it up and drinks the milk and eats the meat and so, therefore, derives benefit from what could have otherwise been just simply a painful experience.
This week, I've been thinking about another parable. There was an old wise man who lived on a mountain. And at the foot of the mountain, there was a village. The villagers would always go every day to draw their water and drink from a particular well. Unfortunately, the well was contaminated, and the water drove the people mad.
The wise man understood the problem. He would go down the mountain, week by week to speak to the people and to try to get them to stop drinking from the well.
But the people wouldn't listen. And so, week by week, month by month, and year by year, the old wise man went to speak to them until eventually he gave up and he drank the water and joined them in their madness.
Now, it's a very strange parable. I've never liked the way it ended. And so, I decided this week that I would invent a sequel to that parable that goes like this. One day, in the midst of that madness, a sickness arose, and people were no longer able to go and drink from the well. They had to rely on rainwater falling and filling rain barrels in order to drink. But because they were no longer drinking from the well, the madness faded and they returned to their senses.
I noted that we are in the fourth week of our Easter season. On the fourth Sunday, we always read from the Gospel of John chapter 10. This is one of those beautiful scripture passages in which Jesus speaks about himself as being the “Good Shepherd. It's a significant and important image in the life of the church and has been so since the very beginning. Some of the earliest art we have from the early church depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd, on graves and sarcophagus and catacombs, indicating that the person who has been buried there is one of the flock of Christ.
Also associated with that, of course, is the connection between Jesus the Good Shepherd and Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.”
I’m appreciating today what that Psalm continues to say, “He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul”.
For me, in the midst of this pandemic, this begs the question, “What wells are we going to draw from in this season?”
What sources of well-being will we be drawing from? What will nourish our selves, our families, our communities, and our imaginations? What will nurture and help us to grow as people and as Christians?
Interestingly, during this time of sheltering in place, I've heard people talk about the great blessings of streaming video and movie services and about the ability to catch up and watch movies that they have been wanting to see for a long time. I’ve also heard about people deciding that they're going to learn something new, such as a language or learn how to draw or paint or play the guitar. All these things can be entertaining and relaxing and actually can be good in themselves, or, they can just be a means of escaping through distraction.
I would like to ask the question, what would it mean to actually let Jesus lead us beside the still waters? Let the “Good Shepherd” lead us to a place where our soul can be restored. Let us be led to the place in which we grow into the depths of what God is calling us to be as human beings and what God created us for in the first place.
What about spending more time drawing from the well of Scripture and reflecting on the whole of the Gospel of John, not just chapter 10, but reading it from beginning to end to hear the good news and what it has to say for our lives.
Let us be reminded of what it is that we're being called into as God's new and good creation, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What if we allow those things to change us profoundly, allowing us to live a life of Godly sanity despite the madness of our world. Let us bear witness to others and draw them into the knowledge and love of God that we have seen in Jesus Christ.
I pray that as we begin to slowly emerge from this time of social and physical distancing, that we will not simply allow ourselves to return back to normal, but instead will be fed and led by the living water that Jesus gives by the Holy Spirit to become ever more truly the people that God intends us to be.