“Comfort, O comfort My people! says our God.” When I close my eyes, the words of Isaiah become music. In my very being, with all that I am, I hear the DIVINE MYSTERY, which is LOVE, sing notes this same LOVE created through LOVE’s servant Handel, “Comfort Ye! Comfort Ye! My people says your God” and again, “Comfort Ye! Comfort Ye! My people says your God”, over and over again like a mantra echoing down through the centuries. These words of LOVE, they well up in me, and I am comforted. The pain does not go away. The tears are still there beneath the surface, waiting to well up. My heart is remains broken. I am bereft. But I am comforted by the very I AM who draws breath in me. The pain is still there for the countless children of the CREATOR, who continue to suffer. The tears remain for the almost two-million people who have died from the coronavirus. My heart is broken for endless stolen moments which will never come again.
“Comfort Ye! Comfort Ye! My people says your God” Like the bereft of generations before me I long for a saviour, one more powerful than I am, one whom I am not fit to stoop and untie his sandal. Maranatha. Come now o Saviour! Come now and comfort the people! Comfort us! Comfort us NOW!
For ten long months we have been held captive by COVID! Exiled into the wilderness of isolation. Even our grieving of so many losses has been muted, forced into captivity as we mourn our dead in isolation. Rituals denied, forestalled, minimized, robbed of their power to adequately comfort us.
Each loss stifled, as we contort our faces, dress from the waist up, disguising our pain to fit into boxes on Zoom screens. Missing moments together, longing for embraces, shivering behind masks, huddled outside, socially distant in all our fear of what is to come. Comfort us! Comfort us NOW!
But there’s no saviour to tear open the heavens, just news of a vaccine together with forebodings about when, how much, who will and who won’t be first in line. Comfort us! Comfort us NOW! In our privileged lives, we have become so accustomed to our comforts; so accustomed to comforts that we have confused the verb “to comfort,” with our own need for comforts as we long to be comfortable.
“Comfort Ye! Comfort Ye! My people says your God” These words of LOVE, they well up in me, and I am comforted. The pain does not go away. The tears are still there, beneath the surface waiting to well up. My heart is remains broken. I am bereft. But I am comforted by the very I AM who draws breath in me. For “to comfort” is not to take away the pain, or stifle the tears, or to make it all better. To comfort, the word “comfort” means “to make strong.” As the words of LOVE, they well up in me, I discover the SOURCE of my strength, living and breathing in, with, through, and yes, beyond me.
This Saviour we long for, does not ride in on a white horse to save us. Ours in not a far-away-sky-god who needs to tear open the heavens and make it all better for us. The SOURCE and GROUND of our being is BEYOND, the BEYOND, and BEYOND that also, capable of containing universes and yet BEYOND universes. The SOURCE and GROUND of our being is BEYOND universes and yet capable of intimacy, of living, and breathing, in, with, through, and yes, BEYOND us.
As it was with our ancient ancestors, so it is with us. Held captive by COVID, in the wilderness of this pandemic, the DIVINE MYSTERY which is the LOVE we call “God” declares in every fiber of all our beings, “Comfort, O comfort My people!” Close your eyes and hear the WORD which is the HOLY ONE welling up in you so that you too can find the SOURCE of your strength and be made strong. Be comforted and know your STRENGTH. Comfort ye! Comfort ye! Comfort ye! Breathe deeply of the ONE who breathes in, with, through, beyond you, and the great I AM, the ONE who will always BE, will make you strong.
Our SAVIOUR makes us strong so that even in captivity, even in the wilderness we are ONE with the LOVE that is DIVINITY. Comfort Ye! Yes! Be made strong, again, and again, and again. The pain, the tears, the grief, will not go away, but the SOURCE of our strength living, and breathing in us, will release us from our captivity, and lead us out of our wilderness so that we can hear the HOLY ONE’s call to “Comfort. O comfort My people!” For just as surely as we need to remember the source of our strength, those around us also need to be comforted, to be made strong.
We cannot take their pain away, we cannot stop the tears, or mend their hearts. But we can comfort them. We can make them strong. Not with there, there, dears or everything is going to be ok, or cheer up, or don’t cry, but with listening hearts and helping hands, and stalwart presence so as to make them strong. Yes, I know there are challenges. But even in this wilderness of isolation, we can listen, we can find ways to help, and yes, we have the technology to be present to one another. In the wilderness of isolation our salvation will come the same way salvation always comes, from the strength of the power of LOVE living and breathing in, with, through, and beyond us.
In the words of Teresa of Avila: “CHRIST has no body now but your body. No hands, no feet on Earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which CHRIST looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which CHRIST walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which CHRIST blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, yours are CHRIST’S bodies. CHRIST has no body now on earth but yours.” Now, if you are listening to this and the word, CHRIST gets in the way, I urge you to remember that CHRIST is the word some of us use to express what we mean by God who is LOVE. LOVE has no body now but yours. Yours are the hands through which LOVE blesses all the world.
Remember the voice of the herald crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way. Make ready the way of our God. Clear a straight path.” Freedom from captivity is coming. LOVE is working in, with, through, and beyond so many people to free us from captivity. Scientists have been toiling away in laboratories. Doctors, nurses, chaplains, orderlies, and first responders have been tending the sick.
Manufactures, bureaucrats, politicians, and logistic experts are toiling away to make vaccines accessible. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you need to access the strength it will take to set all the COVID-captives free. We are going to need all the comfort, which is there for us, to make us all strong enough to do all the things which LOVE demands. It is up to us to be LOVE in the world, to lift every valley, make even the mountains low, and the rough ground smooth.
Lifting valleys in this wilderness, means lifting our masks over our faces. Making mountains low, well right about now not seeing our families at Christmas, looks pretty unsurmountable, and so does not gathering to worship in celebration. This sanctuary will be deserted on Christmas Eve. But we are strong enough to prepare the way for LOVE to be born in each of us, so that every sister and every brother will find the strength to make it to the Promised Land; to that grand and glorious day when we can freely share our pain, mourn our losses, and grieve together again, so that our mourning can be turned into dancing, and Joy to the World will ring out here in this place, and all shall know the peace which comes from justice.
“Comfort! Comfort the people of God! Hear the WORD echoing down through the centuries. Let the WORD which is the LOVE we call God, well up in you, sing to you and comfort you, make you strong. Be comforted by the very I AM who draws breath in you. When you are made strong, remember to Comfort the people of God. For you are in God, and God is in you. LOVE has no body now but yours!
The HOLY ONE will tend those who suffer, will heal the sick, will be present to the lonely, will bring joy to those who mourn. LOVE will prepare the way, in, with, through, and yes, beyond you. LOVE will make us strong. as we journey together out of this wilderness. “Comfort. O Comfort My people! says our God” Let it be so among us. Now and always. Amen.
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