Almost every week I talk with my dear friend Rebecca in Scotland. Sometimes when I ask how she’s doing she says “I had a major wobble this week.” A major wobble. A major wobble is when things seem to get out of control and temporarily beyond our emotional capacity to handle.
In some ways, I think we at St Ben’s have been having a major wobble. Two of our beloved members have died in the last few months – Elizabeth Pickering and Mary-Elizabeth Pratt-Horsley – and Carol Baker has been at death’s door. Not only that, but other people who are part of our regular rhythm and who seem to be literally pillars of the church are retiring – Don and Bobbie have retired from the Abundance Shop, and Donna has probably led her last Hollister Institute class. And Sharon and Shelley left this week, not to return until the fall.
We want church to be reliable and comfortable. We want to know that we can trust each other and know that we’ll be here for one another. But when things start to get a bit wobbly, we sometimes let each other down. This week I have heard reports of failures in Christian community – times when we have failed to love one another and build one another up in the body of Christ. I have heard about incidents of rudeness, of bullying and of people talking behind other’s backs.
This is very human. When things start to wobble and we feel insecure, we go back to the old responses of fight or flight. We have less tolerance for each other’s shortcomings and either we complain, grumble and attack or we stay away.
But as people of the resurrection, we are called to behave differently. In the reading from 1 Peter we heard “When [Jesus] was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
We are not bound together primarily by our love for each other but by Christ’s love for us. We may think we come to church because we want to be uplifted or we want to be with our friends and community, but underneath that is a greater reality – we are bound together in the Body of Christ, or to use this morning’s metaphor – we are all part of Christ’s flock. And we are privileged to know that even though the flock changes it is never disbanded. In the mystical communion of saints we are one with one another and with all those who have gone before.
Even when we have a wobble, even when it seems as though the foundations are shaking; even when change threatens all we hold most dear, we are still part of Christ – we have been baptized and made Christ’s own for ever so we are still his sheep. Still part of his flock.
It is this underpinning of assurance that we are Christ’s and he is ours, that gives us the courage to keep going and keep taking risks. It enables us, when we are abused not to return abuse; when we suffer not to threaten, but to entrust ourselves to the One who judges justly. We don’t have to be defensive or to defend ourselves angrily because we can trust that God is sorting all things out. This is the underpinning of nonviolent resistance; we resist injustice and evil in a way which does not perpetuate the evil.
As the people of the resurrection, we look for ways to be together that create hope and new life and which build one another up. Ways that embody God’s unconditional love. And sometimes that means hanging in and trusting even when we’re not feeling the love.
Our country is going through a major wobble. We have had a significant change of leadership and with that comes uncertainty. We have a President whose style and actions are unpredictable and whose perspective is based in economic privilege. Internationally, our relationships with many other countries are strained not least with North Korea and Russia. Many of us find this deeply disturbing if not frightening. We read stories of people being deported, we see racism on the increase; we fear the loss of health insurance for ourselves and those we love; we see environmental safeguards being dismantled by those who claim that climate change is not the result of human behavior.
Against this backdrop, many people are feeling less secure in their lives. Many of us are having wobbles of our own.
But the good news is that this is not ultimate reality. Ultimate reality is that we can relax knowing that all things are working together for good as the Good Shepherd gently leads his sheep.
I don’t think that there is a detailed plan for our lives. I don’t think that when something happens, good or bad, we can say it must have been in God’s plan. But I do think that God has a plan for the redemption of the whole of Creation and that we are part of that plan. As beings made in the image of God, we have free will. We have the ability to actively participate in God’s mission of reconciliation, or not. God’s plan is for the highest good for all.
That doesn’t mean that everything will get set in a comfortable pattern and always go on that way. Change happens. Pain happens. Disaster happens.
But in the midst of it, there is the voice of the Good Shepherd, calling us by name. Calling us to a path of forgiveness and non-violence where we refuse to repay evil with evil. Where we refuse to join in backbiting and criticism. Where, instead, we choose to end the cycle of violence by not perpetrating violence on each other even in our thoughts. Where, when we start to wobble we go back to our trust in the One who loves us unconditionally.
Because wobbles are just on the surface. Underneath nothing has changed. Underneath God’s love is still powerful and when we get quiet and let go of our fears and anxieties, we can hear the gentle voice of the one to whom we belong saying, ”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)