Priest-on-Staff Reflections September 2020

As I write this I sit with my tea and chocolate at an outdoor cafe.
It’s early morning. The air is pleasingly cool. The city sounds
around me are subdued.
Pigeons fly overhead. A curious sparrow comes to visit,
perching on my table well short of the appropriate social
distance. I wish it a polite “Good morning” anyway and
welcome it to stay.
A lone man sits at a nearby table with an open laptop. At another
table two women lean close to talk. I feel a smile spread over my
face as I watch the arrival of a young man wearing a bandanna,
gangster style, while pushing a baby stroller.
It’s mid August, 2020. Covid 19 still looms large. Worried talk
about the reopening of schools seems to be everywhere. On the
brief walk from my home, my guts twisted at the sight of a
grime covered and emaciated young person sleeping on a Yonge
Street sidewalk.
Last week I was present at a Prisoner Justice Day event as well
as the monthly memorial for those who have died homeless in
Toronto. Both events were held in Trinity Square with the very
active support of Holy Trinity. Both raised awareness of deep
flaws in the foundations of our society and revealed agonizing
glimpses of the suffering they cause.
So I know how deeply troubled the world is. The suffering I
witness troubles me deeply, yet, at this moment, I sit and sip and
smile. I smile at a baby, at a puppy and at a little bird. I smile in
wonder at the mystery of life.

There’s a prayer in the old Anglican prayer book that goes “in
the midst of life we are in death.” I did a personal rewrite of it a
long time ago. I now say, “in the midst of death we are in life.”
Life is resilient. Everywhere there are signs of life’s resilience,
and I like to keep all my senses on full alert for them. Perhaps,
that’s the reason I have spent so much of my life hanging out in
churches.
There is a sense in which the purpose of church is to witness to
both life’s fragility and its resilience. For do we not choose to go
to stand at the foot of the cross, to places where life is being
threatened and where life is being snuffed out? Do we not wrap
hands around flickering candles and blow softly on smothering
embers? Do we not seek to be givers and guardians of life?
Then, when the inevitable happens, do we not make our solemn
journeys to gravesides fully prepared to give death its due? Do
we not have our own experiences of light dawning to reveal an
empty tomb? Do we not go running back to our homes, our
communities, our workplaces, and our troubled world with the
news that, even in the place of death, we have encountered life?
So, yes, life is certainly fragile. And, YES, YES, YES, life is
resilient. And, so, little bird, I smile as you fly away. And, dear
reader, I pray that you will find yourself smiling many times this day.