What’s going to happen? How will we get through this? When will it be over? What will life, the world, the church be like? Is everything going to be ok? My heart, like yours, is troubled by the 20 million job losses and more than 80,000 deaths in the United States alone. My heart is troubled by the pain and hurt of the world. My heart is troubled because the virus continues. My heart is troubled because things aren’t the way they used to be. My heart is troubled because we are probably not going back to the way things used to be. Whether it’s the coronavirus or a thousand other heart troubling events, I suspect every one of us is living with a troubled heart.What troubles your heart today? What does it feel like? We all experience it in our own ways. Do you recognize yourself in any of these emotions: isolated, paralyzed, overwhelmed, anxious, powerless, off balance, out of control, disconnected, afraid, thoughts spinning in your head, no stability, despair, grief, tears, frustration, anger? Spoken or unspoken, I think there’s a question every troubled heart is asking. Will the center hold, or is everything collapsing around us? That’s my question and I think it’s one many are asking.
The reading from today’s Gospel of John comes from the Last Supper. Jesus has been telling his disciples that the time has come for him to leave them but they shouldn’t feel despondent. God will still be with them – just in a different form: through the Holy Spirit. “I will not leave you orphaned…” says the Lord. It is interesting that Jesus uses the word “orphaned” in this week’s text, as it is such a potent metaphor. “Orphaned” means feeling isolated in the world, feeling like no one cares whether or not one lives or dies. Jesus surely knew the disciples would be left vulnerable. He surely knew they would panic. But Jesus also knew about the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would never leave them, “the Spirit of truth.” Whether the disciples heard him or not, Jesus speaks words of hope. In these few words from the Gospel of John, we have Jesus claiming for us a full life in the face of the fear, terror, panic, isolation, loss, and grief. God is comforter, helper, and friend. Most of all, He is Father and Motherto us all. Having been adopted into the family of God, we are not orphans.
Jesus is calling us all back to our center, telling us to re-center and re-balance. What if today’s gospel is a story about finding and recovering our true center? And what if we sometimes have to lose our center so we can find a new one, a truer one? Isn’t that the Easter story we tell and celebrate every year? Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose to new life. Every resurrection, every re-ordering, and every re-centering opens us to new life and keeps the present moment from closing in on us. That’s the promise of Easter today and every day. That’s the promise of Easter in the midst of whatever troubles your heart. Re-centering begins by looking within and seeing the ways in which we are living a de-centered life, a life on the periphery.
Re-centering won’t eliminate the coronavirus and it won’t necessarily take away all our worries or fix all our problems, whatever they might be. But re-centering will give us a place of stability on which to stand. It tethers our heart to faith, hope and love. Re-centering means loving our neighbor as ourselves; valuing the needs, hopes, and concerns of others as much as our own; being gentle with ourselves and others; forgiving ourselves and one another. Re-centering helps know what to hold on to and what to let go of. It reminds us that we are not the center, but that the center lies within each one of us. The world seems to be spinning crazily and out of control, but there is a still point at the center – a still point that is not spinning crazily, a still point of peace, a still point of stability. In what ways are you living off center and what in you today needs re-centering? What does re-centering look like for you today? What is just one thing you can change or do today that will help bring you back to your center?
Dear God, at the start of each day, help us to recognize you above all else. Enlighten the eyes of our heart that we might see you, and notice how you’re at work through our lives. Give us wisdom to make the best choices, fill us with a desire to seek after you more than anything else in this world. Let your Spirit and power breathe in us, through us, again, fresh and new. Thank you that you are greater than anything we may face in our day. Thank you that your presence goes with us, and that your joy is never dependent on our circumstances, but it is our true and lasting strength, no matter what we’re up against. We ask that your peace lead us, that it would guard our hearts and minds in you. We ask for your grace to cover our lives this day. We love you Lord…we need you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.