Thursday, August 6, 2020

Expectant, Joyful

In the Christian tradition, we know that patience is a spiritual gift and that times of waiting are often followed by deep blessings.

At Wesley UMC during this time of COVID-19 when we are not meeting in the building, our Sexton, Dennis Broussard, has been taking beautiful photos for our newsletter to share those spaces that we associate with deepening spirituality and precious events but cannot see regularly in person right now. When I made this my Facebook cover photo, there were those who commented on the emptiness of the church and felt sadness. 

Dennis took this photo last week, and rather than sadness, I found it profoundly moving. In addition to his loving care of our building as our sexton, Dennis is a former Catholic priest. In this photo I can see his deep care of each of these pews which I'm sure he has wiped down countless times, as well as this view from the pulpit that liturgists, musicians and preachers (including Dennis and me) see on Sundays full of people and on other days empty as we practice and prepare for worship. 

I experience a sensation that I describe in Advent as Pregnant with Possibility when I see this picture. I experience this scene as one of preparation like Lent when we pattern our lives after the temptation of Jesus, fasting and praying and waiting for God. I am reminded of the empty tomb. Jesus is not here. He is Risen! Jesus has left the building!

For me this picture is exciting and full of energy. It reminds me of a hymn from my youth that is set to the familiar tune of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, below, particularly the lyric that says, "Open hearts and willing hands, Eager ears, expectant, joyful..." As I type that ellipsis, I feel all that possibility of those three little dots just welling up in my heart and soul, all of the possibilities for God's people here at Wesley and for our beloved community contained in that tiny bit of punctuation. 

This is a time of preparation. It is a time of joy and expectancy. It is a time for discerning and planning for the future. It is a time when we can start from scratch because we know the time following COVID-19 is going to be unlike the time that came before, unlike anything we can imagine.

There is grief. It is sad to leave one stage of our lives for the next. There are things we'll miss and things we cherish. For parents, the end of infancy and beginning of the toddler years can be sad, but just imagine how it feels to that toddler be walking--to be mobile with the whole world a matter of steps away! Each successive stage of life leaves something behind but opens new doors and beholds new horizons. We are allowed our grief over the past that will be no more. We can share laughter and memories at bygone days. But we also have the opportunity, like Mary--like Jesus--like that toddler to revel in anticipation of what is to come. 

We are invited to be expectant, joyful.

God bless you, Beloved.
Reverend Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
Concord NH

Join us for worship at Wesley UMC - Concord NH
Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube at this link.

Father, we Thy loving children
Lift our hearts in joy today,
Knowing well that Thou wilt keep us
Ever in Thy blessed way.
Thou art Love and Thou art wisdom,
Thou art Life and Thou art All;
In Thy Spirit living, moving,
We shall neither faint nor fall.

Come we daily then, dear Father,
Open hearts and willing hands,
Eager ears, expectant, joyful,

Ready for Thy right commands.
We would hear no other voices,
We would heed no other call;
Thou alone art good and gracious,
Thou our Mind and Thou our All.

In Thy house securely dwelling,
Where Thy children live to bless,
Seeing only Thy creation,
We can share Thy happiness,
Share Thy joy and spend it freely.
Loyal hearts can feel no fear;
We Thy children know Thee, Father,
Love and Life forever near.

Words Copyright, 1932, by The Christian Board of Directors; Music Arranged from Ludwig van Beethoven, Ode to Joy (Tune is also found in the UM Hymnal p. 89 "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"