Lent 5B’21
21 March 2021
Hebrews 5.5-10
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Although he [Jesus] was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen. – from Hebrews 5.5-10

Review of 2020: One year Of Covid

As of this week there have been 328,045 confirmed and probable cases, 5,515 deaths in Arkansas and over 500,000 deaths in the US.  Odd occurrences like runs on toilet paper. In fact one police department in Oregon had to ask residents to stop calling 911 because they had run out of toilet paper. 2020 has been a year of suffering. It’s taken its toll on folks physical, mental, and spiritual health. It’s interesting to note that the Latin word “sufferer” where the English word “suffer” comes from means  to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under.”[1] When we wake up in the mornings and before our feet ever hit the floor we are automatically under a weight and each of us have been carrying it for a year now.  There was plenty of stress on the political front with  Congressional and Presidential campaigns, and elections, protests, and riots and an insurrection and breaching of our nation’s capital.


Susan Kinsolving in here poem “My Heart Cannot Accept It All” captures those first few months of the pandemic:


Forgive yourself for thinking small

for cooking soups, ignoring blight.

The mind cannot contain it all


despite intent and wherewithal;

it’s little stuff that brings delight:

a book, a drink. Keep thinking small.


A bubble bath? An odd phone call?

(Resisting all those gigabytes!)

Your mind will not embrace it all.


Quarantine is one long haul

as days grow long, so do the nights.

Forgive yourself for thinking small:

popcorn, TV, more alcohol?                                                                                   

There’s no need to be contrite.

My mind cannot believe it all,

this vast and shocking viral sprawl,

infections with no end in sight.


Forgive me please. I’m thinking small.

My heart cannot accept it all.”[2]



Thankfully there has been humor along the way to cheer us. Here are just a few of the one-liners, zingers, jokes and pithy phrases that a year later we can hopefully chuckle and laugh at ourselves:

  • Being cooped up in the house we have fantasized about travelling: a woman’s husband put a world map on the wall of the kitchen, handed her a dart and said for her to throw it and wherever it landed he promised to take her after the pandemic, after she threw it she turned around and said, “Looks like we will be spending two weeks behind the fridge.”
  • Achievement has never been easier: One teenager said, “My mom always told me I wouldn’t accomplish anything by lying in bed all day. But look at me now, mom! I’m saving the world!”
  • Regardless of whether we have contracted the Covid -19 virus or not many of us have picked up Covid-15 those extra pounds from stress or boredom eating.
  • One person observed: “There’s nothing like relaxing on the couch after a long day of being tense on the couch.”
  • Then there is the man who spends hours each day watching TV: “Well I finished Netflix today.”
  • Our sense of space and our definition of “going out” has really changed, as one woman noted – “Yeah, we’ve got big plans tonight. We’ll probably hit the living room around 8 or 9pm.”
  • Some have gotten so close to their pets during this time that they can practically read their minds, as one pet owner look at the expression on their dog’s face they could almost hear them say: “See? This is why I chew the furniture!”

Adaptation/Gifts In the past year there have been discoveries of methods of adaptation, and gifts have been discovered. Technology: Zoom, “Unmute – we can’t hear you!” Live-streaming, Facebook, YouTube, masks, handwashing, hand sanitizer, social distancing, isolation, no hospital visitation by family or clergy.

+Annie Lea’s Pantry has fed the hungry

+Clothes closet has clothed the poor

+Music has cheered our downcast souls

+Teaching and sermons have sought to shine light on our darkened paths and to encourage us to persevere

+Lent in a Box has helped us bring the season of Lent to our homes

+Soup Patrol has taken food to sick and hungry parishioners

+From one of our choir members: “I just learned in a zoom board meeting that the last River Rhapsody Concert broadcast from St. Luke’s was viewed by over 1800 people, in 25 states, and 10 countries.”



We the people are the church – not the building. Acts of kindness and deeds of love have abounded:

 A Georgia bar owner who was distraught after having to fire her employees removed $3714 worth of bills that were stapled to the walls and split the money among her newly unemployed staff.



With the extra time that we would have normally spent traveling, eating out, and shopping has been given us the opportunity to reflect and focus on what is really important in life.


Henri Nouwen quote:

“To pray is to listen to that voice of love. That is what obedience is all about. The word obedience comes from the Latin word ob-audire, which means “to listen with great attentiveness.” Without listening, we become “deaf” to the voice of love. The Latin word for deaf is surdus. To be completely deaf is to be absurdus, yes, absurd. When we no longer pray, no longer listen to the voice of love that speaks to us in the moment, our lives become absurd lives in which we are thrown back and forth be- tween the past and the future.

If we could just be, for a few minutes each day, fully where we are, we would indeed discover that we are not alone and that the One who is with us wants only one thing: to give us love.”   [3]

C.S. Lewis in his book The Problem of Pain

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…. it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of the rebel soul.”   [4]


“Deferred Obedience” Back in March of last year I wrote the following:

“If we are honest with ourselves, more often than not, we know what we should be doing. Like deferred maintenance on a building, our deferred obedience to what we do know of God’s will holds back our spiritual progress. Perhaps in these strange and frightful days we can catch up on our list of deferred obedience items: “Surely to obey is better than sacrifice.”

Our suffering brings opportunities in disguise for us to draw near to God, and reflect and follow where the Spirit leads us – in short to be obedient. It is not what we don’t know that keeps us in the dark, but what we do know but haven’t acted on.

KITTY O’MEARA in her poem And the People Stayed Home, shines the light on the path to our future:

And they listened, and read books, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.   [5]

As we prepare to return to in-person worship next week on Palm Sunday, may we reflect on the lessons we have learned, may we seek to put into practice what we have heard from God, and to use our gifts to love and serve the Lord. St. Luke’s, the metro area in which we live and indeed the world could really use them about now. Amen.



[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/suffer

[2] Excerpt From: Susan Kinsolving. “Together in a Sudden Strangeness.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/together-in-a-sudden-strangeness/id1511471760


[3] https://henrinouwen.org/meditation/learn-to-trust-god/

[4] Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain

[5] Excerpt From: Kitty O’Meara. “Together in a Sudden Strangeness.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/together-in-a-sudden-strangeness/id1511471760