Friends, yesterday Trinity gathered on Zoom to worship together at 10:30 a.m. More than 50 people tuned in on zoom. It was so good to see so many familiar faces. Zoom worship did present some challenges, one of the challenges is that we could not record our worship for Trinity’s website or Youtube. This meant that people could not participate in worship at a later time. For those who missed yesterday’s worship I have included my reflection. May these words bring hope and reassurance to you this day. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Acts 1:1-11 Sunday May 24, 2020
On Tuesday night at the management team Rosa began with the question
“how is your soul”?
How is your Soul?
And each person on the team thoughtfully replied.
And the responses from the team ranged from
My soul is grateful
My soul is anxious
My soul is concerned for others…
My soul is grieving the loss of connection
Grieving the loss of being together with friends, family and church.
And as each person shared how they were feeling – we all shook our heads in agreement for the emotions that people were sharing were ones that we all held in common.
They are conditions that our souls can experience and move through each day or even each hour. This is not an easy time, in fact it is a difficult time for us as individuals and for us as, a church, a community of faith that enjoys being together for worship, study and fellowship
And we are not the only ones struggling, we only need to turn on the news and we hear that we are all doing our best in this time of change and uncertainty.
Ian Thomson and I participate in a group of leaders from churches and business to explore the topic of leadership. At our last meeting they introduced the Stockdale Paradox. Some of you may be familiar with it, it was new to me.
The Stockdale Paradox was first introduced in a popular business book “Good to Great” The term was named after U.S. Navy Admiral James Stockdale who survived more than 8 years in a POW camp in Northern Vietnam. When Stockdale was interviewed by the book’s author Jim Collins; He was asked, “Who of your fellow prisoners struggled to make it out alive?” Stockdale’s response surprised me.
“The optimists. He said “They would say we’re going to be out by Christmas – and Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. And then they’d say we’ll be out by Easter and Easter would come and Easter would go – then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas would come and go again. And eventually they died of a broken heart.”
However, Stockdale looked at a situation differently. Instead of looking at the future with simple optimism. He had the ability to hold two opposing but equally true things at once. He looked at the reality of the situation and he had a deep faith that he would survive.
The Stockdale Paradox holds in tension the two truths; First, you must have faith that you will prevail in the end. AND At the same time, you must confront the brutal facts of your current reality.
I have found that this paradox has been very helpful when looking at our situation at Trinity. First, I do have faith that the church will prevail – that faith is grounded in my belief that God has plans for the Church- for Trinity and for the World -wide church – and those plans are bigger than we are.
AND. AND… we must look at the brutal reality of where we are today. Here in Newmarket- at Trinity. That’s the difficult part. That’s the part I know that I, and many of you – have been struggling with.
The brutal reality is that we don’t know when we will be back worshipping in the sanctuary together again. And when we are able to gather – it WILL look different. Social distancing and deep cleaning will be in place. We have already been told that because of the risk that it entails, congregational singing will be a long time in coming. The ways that we take up offering will be different.
AND We will need to re-think how we celebrate baptism and the sacrament of communion. All of which – with creativity- can be done
In our scripture reading this morning from the book of Acts we learn of Jesus’ ascension – that time, 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus had appeared to the disciples during the last 40 days, teaching them about the kingdom of God
– teaching them about the Holy Spirit that will come to them. Telling them about how they are being called to be his witnesses throughout the world.
You can imagine their questions – “When Jesus?
How should we do this?
What, exactly are we called to do?”
And as their minds were still wrestling with everything that Jesus was asking of them, suddenly Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Now you can REALLY imagine their questions, “We thought you were going to be with us? We don’t know how to do this without you.
And the men in the white robes asking them “Men of Galilee– why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” Why are you still looking for him, where he is no longer? In essence, they were challenging the disciples to stop looking for what was – and to start to see the new reality of what is and what could be.
“People of faith – why do you keep looking for Jesus within the walls of a building? Why do you keep thinking he will only be found in the places you have discovered him before?”
We too are being challenged to start to see what is and a new reality of might be.
We are being called to imagine and envision the church in a whole new way – to see Christ’s church and to see our Trinity faith community as God is calling us to be.
So, we begin by holding onto the promise we are not alone. The Spirit that Jesus promised will equip us and empower us and enliven us to any task God calls us to.
The tasks of bearing witness to Jesus’ story in whole new ways as we continue to worship, learn and serve together as we share God’s Word. The task of reaching out to our neighbours in new ways, listening and learning what is needed and responding with love and compassion
As a community of faith, we will be moving from gathering to connecting –
and THAT connecting will continue to allow for deepening relationships with God and with one another. Connecting will strengthen our community where love and acceptance and welcome will still be the foundation.
Because no matter how we do church – no matter what it might look like
– the core truth is that God is with us Jesus will still be at the centre –
the Holy Spirit will still be moving in us and among us to call and equips us.
For our faith community The Stockdale paradox teaches us to hold in tension the reality of today and a faith in our tomorrows.
The reality is that the Church will not be as it was two months ago– or even like anything we can imagine today. Things WILL be different- the way we do things will be different- the way we connect will be different
- AND the Church will still be a community that exists to reflect God’s love with the world with our words and our actions- in sharing who we are and what we have Because of Jesus – BECAUSE of Jesus - we have faith and hope and trust that we will prevail – that we as people and we as the Church- WILL prevail, since Jesus Christ is our foundation.
Friends, we don’t know what is to come.
What we do know is that we CAN look to the future knowing that we are still God’s beloved, we are still followers of Jesus and the Holy Spirit still is at work in the world bring healing, hope and reconciliation,
We are not alone thanks be to God