What is Essential? (Message for March 24)

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The first definition I found in an online was:

“absolutely necessary; indispensable”

The Province of Ontario has issued a comprehensive list of services and enterprises that are exempt from the order to close, because they are deemed essential- absolutely necessary.  Here is a link to that list:

Essential Services

My first response, as a human, is gratitude, for those who continue to make possible my very comfortable life.  I am spending much more time at home than usual, but it’s a good and safe place to be.

Our house is as warm as we would like it. (We keep the thermostat low, and wear sweaters) There is power to keep our appliances whirring, and our various screens glimmering. We have food enough to eat, and clean water.

How fortunate and I am, and how grateful I feel to all who are hard at work, while facing the heightened mental and emotional and physical stresses that come with doing their jobs under current conditions.

My second response, as a pastor, is to think about what else is “essential”. The second definition I found may speak to that question.

“pertaining to or constituting the essence of a thing”

This strange time in which we now live may offer an unexpected gift, something like Jesus’ time in the wilderness- an extended period unlike our regular lives, in some ways simpler, in some ways more complicated. This time invites us to consider:

What is our “essence”? In other words, who/what are we, or who/what are we meant to be?

This is not idle recreation, like the binge-watching and building of jig-saw puzzles happening at my house.

We will each need to be in touch with our “essence”, if we are to be our best selves. Those who are out there, laboring hard and long to keep us safe and comfortable, are already having to draw on their inner resources. I expect they are also turning to their own sources of hope, strength, courage, and peace.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandments in the Jewish religion, he said,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:37-40 The Message)

There are also these words from the Old Testament prophet Micah:

 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8 NIV)

link to video suggested by Lari Sabbe

I like the way it is put in The Message:

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.”

In my learning time for last weekend, I mentioned Julian of Norwich, the medieval anchorite and mystic, who lived prayerfully and with courage during a period in which the Black Plague ravaged Europe five times. Julian wrote about her desire for what she called three “wounds” that she felt were essential: “contrition, compassion, and longing for God”.

Julian’s words cut through any illusions I have about life, and remind me that in order to be my best self, I need to be honest, humble, aware of the needs of others, and looking to God for the strength and love to be of help to them.

Here are some things I want to do what I can to help folks on this strange and unexpected retreat, to tune in to who/what they are meant to be:

I will send out something every day, via Facebook, and HUC News, for folks to read.

I am working out how to move our planned Youth Confirmation class online. I will be in touch this week with the families involved.

I would also like to offer an online discussion group. I have some ideas about how to do that, and what material we could work, with, but would like to hear who would be interested, and what they might want to read and talk about.

Please let me know if you’d like to be part of a group that meets online, using a simple, text-based message board, that would allow us to at least type words at each other.

That’s all for now. God Bless



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