Service sheet is here: 2020 June 21st service
Is living in the middle of the story one of the hardest things we are living with? Is the uncertainty of how it all turns out for us, our loved ones and our communities almost unbearable?
This week I was in a webinar about loss and one of the speakers talked about the four responses to trauma and we are living in a trauma right now. It isn’t a sudden trauma like a fire or terrorist incident but it is overwhelming many people’s ability to cope whether that is acknowledged or not. Here are the four responses. Do you recognise any of them?
Fight – perhaps you have a short temper. Have you got cross with people not keeping 2m apart or the government or the local foxes who consistently dig up your plants? The later is me but it is real.
Flight – do you have surge of energy and are doing lots of stuff, learning a new language, doing 5000 piece jigsaws in a couple of days? This could be your flight reflex in lockdown.
Freeze – are you feeling heavy? Weighted down? How does your body feel?
Faint – this is subtly different but it is the depression and slump and both this and freeze may lead you to sleeping more or having disturbed sleep as the brain tries to make sense of what is going on.
One of the key lessons I took away from the webinar is that naming the uncertainty helps. We might try and think our way out of a crisis but it pays to listen to how our bodies are coping as that is where our stress is held. If you need to sleep, sleep. We are living through unprecedented times and we need to take care of ourselves.
In the reading from the gospel for Sunday Jesus is in the middle of the story. The text is below and it is part of what is called the farewell discourse. Jesus is reassuring his disciples that all will be well. That events will happen, that it will feel as if they are left alone but help is on its way. This help is named as another Advocate who will be with them and us forever.
This passage from the gospel of John has always struck me as desperately sad. Jesus is expressing such compassion for his followers who he knows are uncertain and in the middle of the great story that he is part of. In his kindness he tries to reassure them but we know they are going to face the pain and trauma of his death and the end of all their hopes and dreams. Jesus sees the big picture, the cosmic perspective. His followers are here on the mortal plane putting one slow foot in front of the other. In the end all will be well but that is not yet.
In this time of uncertainty can we have the courage to take care of ourselves as well as others because we are in trauma? Can we dare to hope that in the end all will be well because the Advocate, the Holy Spirit is with us? We are not at the end of the story yet. We have a long way to go which is why looking after ourselves is so important especially if looking after others is part of what we do.
So this weekend maybe take some time to be kind to yourself. Smell the flowers. Listen to the birds. Do something creative. Rest in the knowledge that God is with us in the mess. Breathe.
John 14 15-21 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
We are living in troubling times.
A BBC report last week said that more people have died in London from Corona Virus than during the Blitz. The economy appears to be tanking and levels of anxiety are rising over the lifting of the lock down however much we want to get out and hug our friends and family.
Jesus says in the portion of scripture that is set out for this Sunday (John 14 1-14) says ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ and later in this same passage ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ This is saying that has brought huge comfort to Christians over the ages yet we are in a new times and I wonder how we interpret ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’ in the time of Corona?
One way of looking at the anxiety might be to look at what is mourned. What is troubling the heart? My sense is that a lot of the grief in lock down is the loss of the familiar. We no longer have the patterns and routines of our lives and although we can get used to the new, we still miss the old. The temptation when lock down is finally lifted will be to rush back to the old normal whether it was good for us (and the planet) or not.
What we might be missing is the chance to stay in the uncertainty and vulnerability of our different world. It is not an easy place to be. It takes courage to sit with that which is unfamiliar and challenges a need for order and certainty. It requires a mind-set that says ‘maybe’ or ‘what if’ or ‘I wonder? That takes time to cultivate and practice to stay there.
Perhaps those of us who were certain in the old normal can learn from those who live with uncertainty and vulnerability in their everyday lives. These might be those at the margins of our society without the well paid jobs and pensions, without security and without health? These are the people Jesus hung out with after all.
At a time when there is more space because the old life is on hold might this be when we might have the courage to stop, to say ‘don’t let our hearts be troubled’ and what might we be called to do and be in the new normal.
So in the spirit of vulnerability there are no answers here just a sense that now, when there is more space because the old life is on hold, we might have the courage to stop, to listen to Jesus saying ‘don’t let our hearts be troubled,’ remember that he is the way and to ask what might we be called to do and be in the new normal.