Meeting Maya, and an “Emmaus Road prayer” from a 20th century mystic . . .
Maya was born on January 29, 2020, a beautiful baby girl, Mike and M.J.’s first child. With Maya’s birth, the world welcomed this newborn child of God, and the goodness of life continued to unfold.
In the wider world on January 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was following an outbreak of a new virus in Wuhan, China the prior month. Thousands of people in Wuhan had been reported with this “novel coronavirus” and a first case of the new virus had been reported in Washington state on January 21.
Most of us in late January of this year could not have imagined the societal changes that were imminent. By mid-March, Trinity was joining with churches throughout Michigan in determining that we would be refraining from “in person” gathering as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, effective on Sunday, March 15.
I received an email from Maya’s parents on Monday the 16th expressing their disappointment; they had planned to bring Maya to her first worship service on Sunday morning. Mike and M.J. understood and appreciated the decision to protect the most vulnerable, but they had planned to introduce their daughter to the people of Trinity gathered in worship that day. The photo of Maya above was a gift her parents sent for me to meet her in lieu of that first visit. A month and a half later, I have the privilege of introducing her to you. We cannot yet be “in person” in our meeting, but the joy of welcoming this young child of God into our community of faith is undiminished.
We determined that we would need to reschedule Maya’s April 5 baptism date. Since that time, we have also determined that we would also need to reschedule her April 26 and May 17 baptism dates. We are hopeful that the new date for her baptismal celebration among the people of Trinity, now scheduled for mid-June, will be possible to keep on the parish calendar. With a light heart this weekend, M.J. noted yesterday that if we had to push out the date again, Maya would practically be a teenager by the time we celebrated her baptism. The second photo here is an update in our ongoing introduction of Maya to the people of Trinity.
I also met Ted and Sarah’s newborn son Harris with an emailed birth announcement and photo the same day that I heard from Maya’s parents back in March. Then Andrea and Ryan welcomed their third child, Abigail Ann on the evening of Palm Sunday, April 5 – Abigail has attended the last two Trinity Staff Meetings via Zoom with her mom, one of our Sunday School coordinators. Both Tuesday afternoons young Abigail ‘stole the show . . .’
Our “in person” fasting, a discipline extended as an act of love and concern by our physical distancing in this time of health crisis, has included the delayed introductions to the Trinity congregation of Maya, Harris and Abigail, the newborn children of active Trinity families. It is hard to not be together to welcome these newest members of our church family. This spring, we also find ourselves consulting with many of our 2020 wedding couples to set backup dates or completely reschedule spring and summer of 2020 marriage celebrations. For some, these changes are heart breaking. And to some degree, we all have stories of such upheavals, of plans made and delayed, of spring semesters upended and graduations that will be celebrated remotely, of birthday, anniversary and retirement parties deferred, of spring sports seasons cancelled and of daily living confined as our little worlds shelter in place. In this new reality, masks, disinfecting wipes and toilet paper have become hot commodities and most of us are walking wide circles around our neighbors.
Yet as I sat at my desk in the church office yesterday, I noted a group of a half dozen neighbors standing in a wide circle on our west lawn, duly distanced by six feet or more but enjoying a bit of conversation on a beautiful spring day. Earlier, during our live streaming of worship, many in our congregation shared the Peace via text, Facebook, email or phone call, not allowing our separation to have the last word. Others in our congregation are caring for one another by checking in online or with a phone call, and still others are finding new purpose with financial support of pastor’s discretionary funds and/or our local benevolent partners, seeking to care well for those with the greatest needs in our community. To some degree, we are more connected to our neighbor in this time of separation than we have been in our pre-pandemic lifestyles.
Yesterday in my homily I sought to reflect on the connection between the two disciples on their walk to Emmaus, distressed about the news of their crucified Lord, and our shared spring of 2020 existential dilemma in this time of anxiety and uncertainty. Failing to ‘recognize’ one another in the self-induced isolation of our day-to-day living, embracing the imagery of the Road to Emmaus account, is a failing to recognize Christ Jesus present in our lives and the lives of those with whom we share the journey. But when we gather in community and break bread together, even in the virtual ways of gathering that we are all learning in this time of separation and quarantine, our eyes are opened. When we see Christ present with us and in the faces of those with whom we sojourn, our lives are opened.
Several of yesterday’s virtual worshippers asked for copies of the little excerpt I shared from the writings of 20th century mystic Evelyn Underhill at the conclusion of the homily. That excerpt follows:
Lord! Open our eyes that we may behold thee. Open our ears that we may recognize thy voice. Not in some special religious experience, some great moment or wonderful service or perfect setting, but just as we go along the common road. Come to us with your living touch on events; your sacred hand opening the scriptures. You have the words of eternal life. Lord! Give us courage and love to open the door and constrain you to enter, offer all my resources, whatever the disguise you come in, even before I fully recognize my guest. Come in! Enter my small life! When out of the heart of my own homely circumstances you feed me, then my eyes are open to the presence I long for and can never understand. Come and abide with me! Meet me, walk with me! Enter my humble life with its poverty and its limitations as you entered the stable of Bethlehem, the workshop of Nazareth, the cottage of Emmaus. Bless and consecrate the material of that small and ordinary life. Feed and possess my soul!
[Evelyn Underhill, Mediations and Prayers (London: Longman, Green and Com., 1949), 14, 17, 20.]
Let us welcome our Lord into our lives, that we may discover the hearts to welcome others into our lives with intentionality and joy. Let us keep in prayer all whose plans and celebrations are delayed or deferred in our “stay at home” chapter on life’s journey. And may we all be sustained, blessed and opened as we join our Lord on the common road of life’s journey. Eastertime blessings friends,
Grace and peace,
Pastor Bob Linstrom