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The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

Messages from Bishop Mark

Lengthened Lent

Posted by The Rt. Rev. Mark D. W. Edington on

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Our Lengthened Lent has now come into clearer focus. The extraordinary has somehow settled into new routines; the gifts of adaptability and resilience with which we have been blessed are coming to the fore, and we are making our way into a very different reality.
Part of that new reality is an inescapable confrontation with something we prefer not to think about—and are very good at either hiding or ignoring; our own vulnerability. This is no longer an abstract notion; it is a real and profoundly discomforting daily reality. I am sad to report to you that there are now known cases of coronavirus among members of our congregations. There will doubtless be more. 
We devote a great deal of our energy and our resources to protecting ourselves from the fact of our vulnerability. At the most basic level that means what we are willing to give of what we have for the basic necessities of shelter, clothing, and health. What we usually describe as “necessities” are necessary exactly because they provide us with a basic level of protection against the things that make us vulnerable. For most of humanity, what must be spent to attain these necessities is a majority of all the resources one has.
But at a deeper level, our vulnerability is also about our frailty. It is about our physical mortality. As we watch the impact of this epidemic unfold across our screens, the underlying message of all we see and hear is: this virus can affect anyone. None of us has immunity. And that is true, also, of our mortality. None of us have immunity.
The theologian William Placher saw in this fact of Christ’s sharing in our vulnerability the ultimate act of God’s love on our behalf. The story was supposed to have been about an all-powerful God who vanquishes the enemies of God’s people through force. Instead, our story is about an all-vulnerable God—the man hanging on the cross—who vanquishes the enemies of sin and death for all humanity, and who does so exactly by being vulnerable. In his book Narratives of a Vulnerable God, Placher wrote: "God has the power to be compassionate without fear; human beings now as in the time of Jesus tend to think of power as refusal to risk compassion. But God’s power looks not like imperious Caesar, but like Jesus on the cross.”
What this means is both simple and profound: There is no vulnerability of ours, not even our frail bodies’ vulnerability to a virus that seems to deal its lethal power at random, that Jesus does not enter into with us fully, completely—and, ultimately, victoriously.
In the weeks ahead there will be a growing number of online offerings by congregations in the Convocation. I encourage you to see this season of unwelcome isolation as an invitation to virtual travel, sampling the worship offerings, bible studies, and conversations offered by communities other than your own. One of the greatest privileges of being your bishop is the ability to visit all of our communities and come to learn about them; in this moment, everyone can join in that experience with me, and explore the whole Convocation through the window of your screen.
The Right Reverend Mark D. W. Edington
Bishop in Charge
Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

Tags: health, lent, wellness, coronavirus