REV. DR. ELIZABETH CUNNINGHAM
Stouffville United Church
Psalm 16 and Acts 2
When I think of the years that I’ve done grocery shopping, it’s very odd to find I’m having to relearn how to shop all over again. In this new Covid-19 world, I’m not used to the new arrows on the floors, directing the flow of traffic up or down an aisle. The arrows are defining my travel pattern. I found them at Walmart. They’re now at other stores.
This week I watched a news clip of a man walking the sidewalks in Toronto, with a circular contraption of rubber tubing surrounding his body that placed a six-foot circle around him, helping him and the pedestrians around him to visualize what six feet really looks like.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is considering turning some Toronto sidewalks into one-way sidewalks, I’m guessing the west side will be southbound, the east side northbound.
The Covid-19 experience is redrawing the lines that we walk and travel along. Boundary lines are being remade of where we can or cannot be. And the new boundary lines rub against the ways ‘we’ve always done things’, how we gather, where we gather for school, work, play, or even simply walking along the sidewalk.
But we’ve always had boundaries in our lives. Some of them are there for protection and safety. Some are placed upon us by systems and a culture that dictates expectations about work, about relationships, of how you raise your kids, of what you do in your retirement. These boundaries can put up parameters that contain, define, and sometimes control. Boundaries can blind us from vision.
We use the word ‘blind’ a lot in our language – blind spot, blind sided, blind alley, blind date, blind folded. These words express the way in which we cannot see what is actually there. Boundaries can stop us from seeing what is all around us – if we had but eyes to see.
What began as an onerous and fearful challenge for effectively the entire world to just “go home” has begun to show its silver lining in that with the ushered in new found quiet of the world, and found also in my life, I am beginning to see more. As the boundary lines shift, I begin to see more. What do you see more now than you did before our altered Covid-19 reality?
In more focus is the fragility of relationship, and the preciousness of it. I see a less frantic world. I see a letting go of a cultural expectation that ‘money makes the world go around’, to a ‘loving of your neighbour more than yourselves’ that makes the world go around. Suddenly, we are becoming self-less and not selfish. So we will stay home so that fewer will end up in hospital, putting the lives of the medical workers at greater risk. It is thinking of others that is motivating deep change. This I did not see before. And it isn’t something I’m seeing with my physical eye sight. It’s a sea change that I’m feeling with my heart.
Psalm 16 reads, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” And it was Psalm 16 that Peter turns to in the Acts reading, on that extraordinary day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spilled out into the streets, speaking in tongues and everyone could hear their words in their own language. The crowd said to Peter, these men are drunk, filled with new wine. But Peter turned to them and placed this Psalm into their hearts.
The boundaries that God draws are boundaries that will give you your portion and your cup – in other words, God will provide you with everything you need on the path of life. This is the portion and the cup that expands your vision to see past earthly boundaries that constrict. This is the portion and the cup that brings joy, that promotes vision where there is emptiness. This is the portion and this is the cup that brings life. Living in this center of knowing, with God’s cup and portion, I have everything I need; all else fades away.
On Easter Sunday, Andrea Bocelli streamed a live solo concert from the front steps of the empty Duomo cathedral in Milan, Italy. As he walks up to the microphone, it is so quiet that you can hear his foot scuffing the concrete. It is an achingly desolate scene as he is framed by ancient architecture, the plaza empty of all signs of life. He begins to sing Amazing Grace. His voice fills the public square. As the cathedral organ joins him, the camera switches to a scene of the city of Paris, with a forlorn Arc de Triumph with one lone car circling it, then the Eiffel tower, shrouded in silence. Then London. Then an empty New York City, a deserted Times Square.
Bocelli stands so still while he sings. And his voice lifts up the heart of all of us in its certainty, in its confidence. And his voice fills the places where the people have lived and moved quickly, and embraced and laughed and cried together; where movement has been fueled by need, speed, and sometimes greed. But last Sunday, in that Italian square, there was only emptiness that he sang into. And his voice easily filled the emptiness, filling it not so much with words but with an awareness that every note he sang was sung from who he is, as he is, from his center.
I think Psalm 16 is asking us to live in the center of, not busyness, not anxiety, not the worldly sense of human activity as we’ve come to know it, but to live in the center of knowing – that God’s cup and portion is all that is needed, redrawing the lines in this time of pandemic uncertainty.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.
In this time of uncertainty, God points you to the place of knowing, redrawing the lines if needed, where your song too, the song in your heart, can be raised to rejoice in the cup and the portion that God has given to you.
For it is enough. It is enough. Thanks be to God. Amen.