With Easter and Good Friday this weekend, the Register continued its series of conversations with religious leaders in the community by speaking with the Rev. Jocelyn Tupper of the United Methodist Church in Iola.
The topics of conversation focused on faith/reason, anxiety, isolation and celebrating Easter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regarding faith and its relation to science and medicine, Tupper said “God takes care of us, [but] God also gave us minds.”
In her words, “we’ve let God down” when we “don’t use that ability,” to think and solve problems for the betterment of the world and others.
God never leaves us “a magic cure” to all our problems, so it’s important to engage the gift of our critical faculties.
Tupper said she’s “trusting the medical community to move us through” the pandemic, even as she prays and encourages others to do the same.
It’s important not to be “simplistic about faith,” she said. “God’s not just gonna put us in a little [protective] bubble,” which is why we must be “stewards and caretakers” both of ourselves and others.
“Life’s a gift,” Tupper said, but added God never promised how long it would last.
“God gave me an ability to do things, and I need to do my best,” which includes maintaining a sense of independence and self-responsibility.
WHEN faced with anxiety and fear, whether during the pandemic or in our lives more generally, Tupper said “one of the easiest things to do is to pause and be in prayer.”
It’s alright to say: “God, I need some reassurance. … I’m struggling.”
She also highlighted the importance of maintaining our daily routines as much as possible, as well as practicing healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating regularly and reading instead of watching television.
“Don’t listen to the news all the time,” she added. “[Y]ou need to be safe by staying informed, but don’t just sit in front of the television such that it becomes repetitious.”
Tupper is a big proponent of taking walks as a form of meditation, and encourages people to practice devotions. One of her favorites is titled “Jesus Calling” (2010) by Sarah Young.
In general, “finding some regularity to what you’re doing” can be centering and help to calm you down, she said.
REGARDING isolation and loneliness brought about by social distancing measures, Tupper suggested it’s OK to recognize how difficult it can be, since “we’re created to be in companionship.”
Along these lines she said: “We gather together,” and such gathering is vital to practicing one’s faith. Hence, in a sense, “we’ve lost a community, and we don’t know what to do without it.”
“Not being able to see each other, touch each other,” these things are hard; and no matter how much time we spend on the phone or Zoom/Facetime calls, “you just can’t replicate” face-to-face contact.
That’s one reason why “there’s a sadness with the pandemic,” and why a lot of what she does to help others these days is simply listen to whatever they’re going through.
Nonetheless, Tupper said, “there are some things that have not changed. … I wake up knowing I have family and friends who love me and care for me. … and I still talk to God.”
This is the case “even when we’re separated.”
One of her favorite passages in the New Testament along these lines is Romans 8:9, which translates from the Greek as “…you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
She also said it’s important to look for reminders in our lives of God’s presence, like yellow dandelions or a bright pink moon. That’s “how I know God is there,” she said.
IN RELATION to celebrating Easter during the pandemic, Tupper highlighted a number of ways through which we can identify with the disciples after the crucifixion of Jesus, which helps us find new meaning in the story.
Just as we’re currently living in “dark times,” she said, on Good Friday it was “dark and dreary and nasty and Jesus was dead.”
Not only that, but “the disciples had also hidden themselves away … afraid someone or something would come and get them.”
“That’s kind of where we are right now,” she added.
But just as “we’re now in darkness,” there “will also be a rising.”
Though people may not be able to physically gather in church this year, it’s not that “Easter is canceled,” Tupper explained.
“There’s always Easter,” even if it lives on in new ways. “Easter is alive in us … alive in our senses and our very being. … even in the midst of darkness.”
And that Easter is alive “calls us to hope … in a future we cannot see or imagine,” which is so important because we all need someone or something to turn to, whether God or one another.
She concluded by saying: “God promises us goodness; I trust that.”
“We’ll live past this. This will not last forever.”