By Bishop Todd Townshend
Despite the promise of a new year, many of us are already feeling exhausted.
It’s nothing new to feel a little tired and to need refreshment but I’m getting the sense that the things that brought us restoration in the past, may not be working any more.
It may be that it’s not just exhaustion that is afflicting us after three years of pandemic struggle. It’s probably also discouragement, and world weariness, and a general state of anxiety. It may be that we are being worn down by both the righteous and fabricated rage that is constantly “in the air”.
There also may be an affliction involved that has definitions going back to ancient times and has been used to describe an enemy of human and Christian well-being: acedia.
Sometimes acedia is defined as sloth, passivity, despair. It can be a debilitating condition. Author Kathleen Norris believes that it is more like a state of restlessness, of not living in the present and seeing the future as overwhelming.
I know from the many conversations I have around the church that many of you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the future—the future of the Earth, the future of our loved ones, the future of the Church.
There is no doubt that we are living through a re-making of our society and, therefore, a remaking of the church that serves the world – the world that God loves so much. I feel the strain of trying to help guide us through this re-making. But I do not feel despair about it. I see that some of this collapse is making room for God to create anew.
We have the opportunity to be participants in this newness. We have the opportunity to be bearers of hope, real hope, in what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has shown us—that God is not done with us, God is not done with Creation, and that death and decay will not have the last word.
Our hope is not dependent on our personal skills or the newest models of Church organization. It is not dependent on lovely, well-maintained buildings or people. It is dependent on what God wants, what God gives, and how we receive it and respond to it. The story thus far has shown us that God will take ordinary, despairing, old, worn-out people and make them into a light to the nations, the body of Christ, a company of witnesses.
We don’t need to be stuck in our fear and disorientation. We can turn to God and intentionally deepen our participation in the central Christian practices that foster hope and reveal new life.
What are these practices? I encourage you to ask one another this question. Worship, prayer, bible reading, stewardship, confession, forgiveness, acts of love and mercy—what else? Perhaps this is the time to immerse ourselves in the richness or our traditions and plunge into these activities anew. We may surface to see a whole new world.