A Bundle of Contradictions

CHURCH O THE PINES: CHURCH BULLETIN AND A SERMON… Today the Church O’ The Pines is a bundle of contradictions. Spring is here! But although it felt like it earlier in the week, it does not today. The river is open! And the geese and goldeneyes and hooded mergansers are floating upon it. Trumpeter swans, too, and we hear the migrating sandhill cranes overhead while noting the first cheerful cheer-ups from robins in the woods. Yesterday we heard killdeers calling their name in a nearby field. But the weather outside is raw and cold and windy, with a layer of snow deposited overnight. Of course, such contradictions are always a part of early spring, and our little congregation maintains hope and faith that the arc of change is moving as it always does, toward days of bright warmth and the blooming of our wildflower sisters and brothers. Church soloist Sparky the Cardinal seems undeterred by the weather and flings his scarlet morning hymns toward the heavens. The chickadees remain their bright and optimistic selves, and all our membership looks forward to welcoming the friends and family who fled south for the winter. Soon our little chapel will be filled to bursting.

Now, as Caretaker and occasional Parson, it is sometimes my role to impart a thought or two which might be charitably described as a sermon. So here we go… In these difficult and frightening times, it is impossible, for the moment, for many to go to church as usual. You are ALWAYS welcome here, among the Deacon Pines, and within the warmth and sociability of our congregation mingling in Fellowship Hall. Even Brother Fox dropped by this week, considered by some an inveterate sinner but who maintains his membership in fairly good standing. In terms of all of your friends, our extended human congregation, we think about you daily and extend the very best of good wishes and prayers. In my personal experience during these days of worry and isolation, I have found these things to be true: My normal intake of and fascination with ‘news’ must be limited. I like many could see clear signs of the worst of what was coming weeks ago and was hungry for every scrap of information. As things developed I began to have a great deal of trouble managing the anxiety, anger at the unconscionable denials, untruths, and mistakes of our ‘leadership,’ and a deep feeling of responsibility that I must somehow do something to ‘fix’ the situation. It didn’t work, and none of us can fix it. But we can do our best to maintain our own small worlds—vitally important pieces of the big world. This can be a time to deeply reconnect with our own personal lives, and with our families. We can remember—every day with deep gratitude—all those special people who ARE on the front lines, helping to respond to sickness and need and keeping the world spinning. Thank you.

For the rest of us, we can remember that though this is a time of great disruption, economically and socially, and perhaps the greatest since WWII and the Great Depression, still we are not being called on to charge a machine gun nest on Omaha Beach. We are being asked to simply stay home. Among our loved ones and all our belongings and comforts. We can do that. As we do, we can get up every morning and get dressed. Fix our morning coffee or tea. Go out and walk or exercise regularly, not just for our four-legged friends but for ourselves. We can make plans—lots of them—for all the things that need doing around the home that has been put off for weeks or months. Or years. We can create a schedule or structure and stick with it—and make a part of it reaching out regularly to many friends and loved ones via phone, email, etc. Many of them, especially older folks, who really need that contact. In my Caretakers Cabin, I have thousands of books, many of them never completely read. I am reading them now—it will take a long time. We can remember that it is a very big, rich, and complex world, of which the coronavirus is only a part. A temporary part. We can know that our individual lives and worlds are vital to the functioning of the big world, and take care to maintain perspective and optimism and good cheer and abiding faith. And we can look to the turning of the earth and the seasons, the return of singing birds and the building of nests, the blooming of flowers and the growing of trees, the rising of the sun and the moon, the beauty of all creation—as inspiration and sustenance in this time.

At least, that is what we are doing at the Church O’ The Pines. We wish each one of you a Good and Blessed Sabbath, and send those wishes on the wings of Spring.

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