(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, April 4, 2020)
“A time is coming, and, in fact, has come when you’ll be scattered, each to your own home.” — Jesus of Nazareth
When I was a boy we rarely attended church because my father thought church people were a bunch of phoneys. Still, he had enough sense to give us kids a decent idea of the Creator God, human sin, and eternal forgiveness, through Sunday morning TV-lounging when, often half-asleep, we’d watch services.
I grew to realize that church on TV has phoneys too, as do other religions, never mind the religion of secular-humanism, where you can be God. No, you don’t need to be religious to be a phoney. Phoneys, that is fake people, like fake news, can come from anywhere.
Thanks to COVID-19 and proper distancing, Sunday mornings I’m again, maybe like you, lounging at home in front of services, with my own family, local ministers now livestreamed sometimes to thousands worldwide. We’re all in this, all this fear, together.
Certainly fear has been around since the dawn of time. Jesus and the horror writers both say as much. Speaking into this, now heading into Easter Week, is the above quote from the Gospel of John, attributed to Jesus. He had said this to his closest friends. When he needed them most, they’d fearfully bolt and scatter home. Their world was shaking to its core.
That time, not unlike today’s news, was a time of powerful fear and horrible suffering. Then the story of that bloody cross, the brutal Roman cross that Jesus died on one dark Friday some 2,000 years ago. And the story of what later came of it. Remarkably, it’s all easy to miss.
Recently, before common travel collapsed, I was at Mount Royal, the hill overlooking Montreal. “Go to the cross,” my very aged, house-restricted father told my family when learning we’d be in Montreal. For him, Mount Royal’s cross is a life marker. A marker of love. (My father met my mother nearby at Royal Victoria Hospital.) And a marker of suffering. (Their marriage eventually ended with tragic death, shared often enough in this space.)
“If there’s one thing we can tell Opa before he leaves us, it’s that we went to the cross,” I told my children and their mother, hiking there. Remember, Mount Royal’s cross is no small cross. It’s 31 metres tall. Signs point to it. We’re neither blind nor stupid people. Even so, we missed it. Got distracted. Walked right past. Only found it after asking, then backtracking.
Which is to say, if you’re now, broadly-speaking, looking for Christ’s cross, stay alert. Maybe it’s hiding in plain view. It’s not about some club or membership, as important as bricks and mortar institutions are to society. It’s about what’s historically been called The Way. Asking for it. Journeying into it.
It’s easy to run in the opposite direction. We have human fears and dark sides. Regardless, this God, mysteriously, pursues us. Then, if you’re lucky, a reckoning with your phoney false ego, a working out, even slowly in fear and trembling, into your truer dependant self. You let go. You unlearn.
Eric Hoffer, a street philosopher, has this related thought: “In times of great change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.”
There’s more. Just after telling his friends they’d scatter home, Jesus said this. He told them not to fear. Like telling a drunk to stop drinking. A hypochondriac to stop imagining. “In this world you’ll have trouble,” is what he said. “But take heart. I’ve overcome the world.”
Then, reportedly, that first Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead. Then all the unexplainable appearances, repeatedly, to friends and strangers alike. He then said that none of this is the full story. No, death is not the end. On the contraire. Death is the beginning. Don’t be afraid. God is for you. Not against you.
“Don’t be afraid.” This three-word phrase, used hundreds of times, is the most commonly-repeated phrase in biblical Scripture. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t be afraid.
We’ll still be scared $!+-less. Who wouldn’t be? But this message of hope and compassion is not only timely heading into Easter Week. It’s what we need in the midst of COVID-19’s terror.
16 thoughts on “Hope and compassion during time of COVID-19 terror”
Nicely done! I enjoyed reading this.
Yes! Thank you!
Thanks for the reminder “Do not be afraid”. Happy Easter Thom!
And Happy Easter to you, Margo. He is risen!
You are welcome, Bonnie. Happy (and not just in some glib way) Easter!
Glad you enjoyed, Patty. Joyous Easter to you!
Hi Thomas, Your “Hope and Compassion”, what a terrific read, I felt as if I was with you and your family hiking up Mount Royal. In particular I enjoyed the two quotes, from the Gospel of John and by Eric Hoffer.
Happy Easter to your and yours.
You have a marvellous gift of storytelling, subtly inserting the Gospel! I have followed you sporadically over the years when I first recognized you as the young rooky reporter from St. Thomas visiting Rehoboth Home in Springfield, Ontario – probably in the early 1990s. You quizzed me why we provided a Christian home for women who loved their babies too much to abort them.
Peter, thank you for the kind words. Yes, I enjoyed that hike — it only took a few decades to make it happen. That was my first time visiting Mount Royal. So memorable to do so with my family. Best memories to you, for this, your Easter Weekend 2020.
Yes, Ricky, it wasn’t so very long ago, really, and I remember it all. I see since then, for some time now, the former Rehoboth service in solely in St. Thomas and under the name Fresh Start, which, really, I think is a wonderfully apt name. Thanks for the hello, and best for your Easter 2020.
Loved the article. Very real. Thank you Thom!
Thomas, thank you for weaving the Hope of Easter into your article, and highlighting the importance of the “letting go” to the One who is the Good Shepherd. I also appreciated the quote from Eric Hoffer.
In fear will always change one’s judgement, but let’s not lose one’s bearings because it may be fatal ! Example in my job as a Steelworker – Welder… losing your bearings could be FATAL ! Your focus on the structure is stable at all times . Especially when 150 feet in the air, falling could be fatal ! My job is not for the faint at heart . So let’s not lose our faith in the end will reap the rewards of eternal life.
Nelson, you are a man of courage, working under the conditions you have for your entire career. Thanks for the reminder. For sure, let’s keep our bearings during times of disorientation.
Thanks for the note, James. Yes “letting go” …. easier to write than to practice in life, but we, all of us, must still do all we can, even imperfectly. Of course, when things are taken from our hands, it seems both harder and easier at the same time.
Thanks for the encouragement, Peter. Be well!