"Hope in the Mess"
Written by the Reverend Canon Caleb J. Lee
President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina
It is spring. There is no doubt. I know this because I have been to Lowes Home Improvement at least twice in the past week (with proper social distancing of course). I see the good Lord quite a bit when I work in the garden. I guess that is fitting, as we will soon remember that on the day of resurrection Jesus is mistaken for the gardener.
But we are not there yet. We are still in the mess of Lent. The world is often a messy place, but especially now as fear and isolation try to win out over faith and community. Lent has taken on a whole new meaning this year. Regardless of how we perceive our world, Jesus has overcome it. He has come into the messiness of this world, and lived in it with us, died in it with is, and has been raised in it. He has overcome the mess.
I am reminded of my garden and how I never properly clean it up after the season. I often just let nature take its course. Leaves blow in it and cover the fertile soil. My garden becomes a mess quite quickly without a gardener. But spring comes every year and despite my efforts or lack thereof, green shoots pop up through the mess of leaves and dead matter I have left there. That is grace.
Yesterday’s readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent provided great examples of God’s power and favor and regard for us, despite our complete inability to get ourselves out of impossible situations (AKA messes).
In Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones we are reminded that the people of God are in exile. They are cut off from their homeland. They are in a mess. They have little control over their lives and yet God promises through Ezekiel’s prophecy that they will live once again. Those old dead bones will live!
God does not wait for us to get it together but comes to our rescue in the midst of the mess.
Now we turn to the mess of grief found in Mary and Martha at the death of their dear brother Lazarus. Jesus does not wait for Mary and Martha to get themselves together before helping them. No. Jesus comes to them in their lowest of lows.
But there is one who is even lower. Poor Lazarus is dead. Jesus comes to him and calls him out of the mess of death. The mess of a few days of decomposition. Past the point of death, Jesus calls Lazarus out of that tomb when he is past the point of no return.
Life is messy. We are messy. The world is messy. We are in a mess with this pandemic. But being with us in the mess is Jesus’ cup of tea! Jesus is our hope in the mess. That “cup of tea” bit is a tribute to Robert Farrar Capon. Here is one of my favorite quotes from him:
“Trust him. And when you have done that, you are living the life of grace. No matter what happens to you in the course of that trusting – no matter how many waverings you may have, no matter how many suspicions that you have bought a poke with no pig in it, no matter how much heaviness and sadness your lapses, vices, indispositions, and bratty whining may cause you – you believe simply that Somebody Else, by his death and resurrection, has made it all right, and you just say thank you and shut up. The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.”
Peace in the mess,
During the uncertain times created by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, leadership of the diocese will send out regular meditations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays for the next while as we all adjust to a new chapter of living and being the Church.