Every Sunday, she was distracted by that picture. Tried not to look for too long, because it made her uncomfortable, but she couldn’t get it out of her head. And there, just on a forgotten wall down the church hall. She thought maybe they should have covered up that picture years ago, like all the other ones. But for some reason, they forgot this one.

Quiet and relaxed. Temperature was just right. Breathing slowly, purposely, focused on the black emptiness behind my eyelids. Listening to the hum of a fan that spun just a little too loudly above my head. No, don’t think about the fan. Blank it out. Open my heart, as I inhale. Breath rushes in through my nose, tickles my throat, and swells my lungs. Is my heart open?   Imagining each throb spreading wider and wider the little muscle that pulses in my chest. But no, that’s not right. Not my literal bloody heart behind my ribs. Open my spiritual heart, did I do it? Am I open? Ugh. Stop filling my thoughts with these stupid questions. Clear my mind so I can hear his voice.

The 17th chapter of John’s Gospel has been given the unofficial title of the High Priestly Prayer. The whole chapter contains the words of an intimate prayer between the Son of God and our Heavenly Father. A prayer that happens on the night in which he was betrayed, the very night he knows that his disciples will all abandon him, they will be scattered and afraid as he begins the horrible trials of suffering and betrayal that culminate in his crucifixion on that fateful Friday afternoon.

We all look with a wary yet hopeful eye toward the future. We hear about the phased plan for reopening our state, for starting the great engine of our nation’s economy again. Every scheduled press conference gives us the promise of some sort of resolution, a way forward. Now these conferences do not seem to usually play out that way. They are often filled with extremely vague and elusive statements and the way forward, the way out of this crisis, the way back to some sort of normalcy is not very clear. We all want it. We all would be doing a lot better if there was a real plan with real dates with predictable results, but we just cannot seem to get there.

On that first Easter day the women went to the tomb and were greeted not by death but by life. They were directed not to weeping but called to not be afraid. After this, in Luke’s Gospel we find a radically different account of something that transpires and only he records it for us. It is something which happens not with the 11 disciples in the upper room but to two previously unknown, at least to us, disciples.

Locked in, shut down, confined to our homes, consuming too much TV while eating comfort food and longing for fresh air and time away from the children. It is enough to make us crazy and finally understand what “cabin fever” is really like. But then again, this is not exactly how its playing out. People go out. They may not go down to the bar or out to eat at a restaurant, but people still go out. They go out for what are deemed essential services, places that stay open amid a pandemic.

Most of you have heard the story of how I cane to be a pastor. It was not my childhood dream or a sense of duty or something like that. It happened slowly and with great resistance on my part. It came through a growing love for theology and a deep desire to know more. The central question I sought answers for was the fundamental inquiry which has long been at the heart of Christian theology. It is, quite simply, “What must I do to be saved?”

Can you believe that we are just a few short days away from the celebration of Christmas? For children this is a time of incredible anticipation and excitement. I can still remember those final days, when your mind raced with the possibilities of what might be wrapped up under the tree, or what Santa would bring in the stocking hung by the chimney with care. Would it be what you had hoped for, what you left notes and hints about? Only time would tell, and the excitement was part of the joy, part of the magic and wonder accompanying this special time of the year. There is so much about Christmas to celebrate and rejoice in.