Our current Adult Education series is titled Outrageous Fortune, and follows Rev. Steve Locke's newly released book by the same title. Classes are held every Sunday, immediately following morning worship in the Sanctuary.
Below is the introduction to the book, which will introduce the themes the study will follow.
Introduction to Outrageous Fortune
What follows is a collection of meditations, written during five months of the Covid---19 pandemic. I have not ordered them by theme, rather I have simply let them stand in the sequence in which they were written to my congregation. The dates and scriptures are all present on the pages of my musings. I desire the reader to judge for themselves where my direction, and my interests, were taken me along this path of spiritual healing and hardship. But only in the hope that all of us are on a similar path throughout this tragedy. I began writing on March 17th and ended on July 17th of 2020.
At the beginning of this pandemic, I decided to take up my pin to acknowledge my own experience of this invisible enemy into my life. I wrote at least three meditations a week, hoping to expel the heartache and demons that processed me during this time. I also desired to write about the grace that empowered me to continue my love for congregation and God. By doing so my interest was to provide hope to those that read them. My hope is still the same. I wish for the reader to take their fears, pain, love and grace into these meditations, to judge whether they have importance for your spiritual journey. I wish for nothing else.
I do want to mention to the reader before entering the diversity of these fifty mediations, that I have allowed my readings of philosophers, sociologists, theologians and spiritual teachers during this pandemic, to intrude upon the conversation which I have had with my congregation. They are passed unto all readers as a way of providing context for my thoughts, but hopefully the thoughts of all that are still in the fateful misfortunes of this pandemic.
My main source of inspiration has been the Psalms and the New Testament. But I have taken great pleasure in using the works of Shakespeare, Eugene Peterson, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Kierkegaard, Zygmunt Baumann, Czeslaw Milosz, T.S. Elliot, Robert Frost, Sophocles and many others. One of the joys, during this pandemic, has been the time to read new and revisited works which provide a useful stimulus for my thoughts about this time.
These meditations have been a delight to write, providing a cleansing of my mind and a deepening of my understanding of the fragileness of life. This Outrageous Fortune we are living in is trying to define us, but I have noticed that we are trying to fight back against the tide of this erosion. Our spiritual character drives us to resist defeat. Instead, it seeks to keep alive the attributes of mercy, grace and love. We are fighting to “Be our brother’s keeper.”
Albert Camus, in 1947, completed his celebrated work, “The Plague.” It was written during the end of World War II, in which the fascists agenda fell upon Europe like a plague. Camus used the story as a metaphor for this horrendous catastrophe, but also as a metaphor for understanding the world we all live in. In the story, the plague acts as the symbol for what we all live through---everyday life. The plague reveals and intensifies the experience of hopelessness for the people in Oran, where he set to terrifying reality of the plague. But the truth is the plague is always with us, even though we fight against it every day. That is the trouble, the danger and fear we all experience in life, all the time, needs attention, it cannot be ignored.
Dr. Rieux, the main character of the novel, who fights against the plague, sees the fighting of the plague as necessary. According to Dr. Rieux, “Fighting a plague is---common decency.” His point is well taken. Life demands a responsibility to resist, fight and engage those things that try to defeat us and others. It is a matter of caring. Compassion is the only way to defeat the effects of the plague. It is not enough to shake your fist in anger at this horrible force, you must also reach your hand to all those shaken by the plague. It is equally a means of shaking your fist at that which is inevitable.
I offer this little introduction to say that even when this virus seems to be under control, it does not mean that the offerings in this book have no value. In fact, you might say they have more. The themes expressed in this book must be cultivated, so when trouble comes into our life, we are prepared. But prepared for what? According to our spiritual masters, I believe they would say, “We must be prepared to live through the trouble of life? The only way to do that is to imagine Jesus’ walking through them, before you begin your spiritual adventure walking into the wounds and pains of life.
You will discover six themes flowing through these meditations, in which I have attached various chapters to each theme. These six themes are:
Fear and Anger
Compassion and Comfort
Hope and Faith
Stephen W. Locke