I realize that I, and many others, keep saying that we are living in extraordinary times. I understand that such a statement is so obvious that repetition may be unnecessary. But I must say that, almost on a daily basis, I am struck by just how out of routine most of our lives have become.
There are certain events in history that possess such power. For Americans, the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights struggle of the 60’s, and 9/11 are other such events. There was life before, and now there is life after. The same, I presume, will be true for these COVID-19 days in which we are living. While there will be a return to some of who and what and how we were before, my guess is that, even when the pandemic is in our rearview mirror, our lives will be unalterably changed.
Throughout the Bible, we hear stories of people who find themselves in similar situations. The Hebrew people living in slavery in Egypt are freed by the power of God and the agency of Moses. They then spend a considerable amount of time in the wilderness, nomadically journeying and learning who they are and who God is. It is in the wilderness that they learn to trust.
The Babylonian Captivity is another scriptural example. The Jewish people living in Jerusalem, those whose lives had become utterly focused on temple worship, are exiled from their beloved city, sent into captivity to Babylon for a long time, and forced to face the truth that the center of their faith, the Temple in Jerusalem, has been destroyed. In Babylon, they must take a refresher course in who they are and who God is.
Jesus does the same after his baptism as he spends an extensive time in the desert, is faced with many temptations, and emerges changed and ready to engage his public ministry. The early Christian Church after Jesus’ death and resurrection faced centuries of persecution, again, a wilderness time. Despite its seemingly unbearable travails, the Church actually grew in numbers and in strength of faith. The story of God and God’s people is consistent… wilderness time, that time spent between who we were and who we are becoming, is difficult but critical and necessary time.
We are introducing a new logo for our parish today. Megan Jahnke, our Communications Director, deserves most of the credit for its creation. The logo shows three trees. Two of the trees are colorless, and the one in the center is red. The tree on the left represents who we have been; the tree on the right that of who we are becoming. Who and what we are right now, as we undergo our own wilderness time, is represented by the red tree in the middle.
Red is understood as a color depicting passion, and at the heart of passion is pain. There is no denying that at least part of our experience for the last several months is that of pain. Wilderness times invariably involve pain, and this present time in which we are living is no different. There has been and is loss, sacrifice, suffering. We cannot avoid it. There is no way to go around the cross; to get to resurrection we have to proceed right through the middle of it. Red is also, however, a color that is associated with the Holy Spirit. Despite the pain and many losses, we people of faith trust that God walks with us in these challenging days and is faithfully guiding who we are becoming.
Just as we do not know how long we will be in this wilderness time, we do not know how long our parish will bear this logo. We hope that you like the new logo and that, in seeing it, you are reminded that God is good, God is love, God is always with us, and God will see us through. May this time between who we were and who we are becoming be a time when we once again learn to trust the God who is ever faithful.