One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride, a madcap fable about true love, fencing, fighting, torture, pirates, and revenge, among other things. I can quote the entire thing– and if you don’t believe me, just ask my family and former students.
One of the funniest early scenes in the movie involves the kidnapping of a beautiful princess. As her kidnappers take her off in a boat through eel-infested waters, she jumps over the side in a bid to escape.
The mastermind of the trio of kidnappers orders one of his assistants, Inigo, played by the talented Mandy Patinkin, to jump in after her. “I don’t swim,” he shrugs. The leader turns to the other one, Fezzik, played by former pro wrestler Andre the Giant, who mutters sheepishly, “I only dog paddle.”
I imagine that there have been times during 2020 when we have all been landing somewhere between Inigo and Fezzik when it comes to swimming through the changes we have weathered.
Sometimes we feel like we can’t swim.
Sometimes we feel like we can only dog paddle.
And on this Ascension Day, the tide feels like it is rising against us in so many places around the world.
It has been a whirlwind since parishes all over the world—and including across the Episcopal Church—began to close their physical doors in solidarity with the most vulnerable members of our populations. And now, weeks later, we face the question of continuing our fast from communal worship even as other.
As for me and my house, even as cities and states fling wide the doors again, we will continue in solidarity and vigilance, in continuing physical distancing, hygiene, and the wearing of masks to protect those around us. This decision has been solidified by the last several days I have been spending supporting my mother while she has been in hospital. I have watched doctors, nurses, and other staff continuing to do their jobs in the most trying of circumstances. We call them heroes—but too often we call people heroes but then are content to continue to put them in harm’s way.
In last week’s gospel, we heard Jesus talk about sending us “another Advocate” to teach us, lead us, and encourage us after Jesus’s ascension, which we officially celebrate today. That advocate leads us through love, kindness, goodness, and self-control, according to Galatians 5:22-23.
This is a time for us to call the Holy Spirit alongside us and lead us into wisdom, courage, and compassion. Not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of each and every person whose life we may inadvertently touch. In welcoming the life-giving power of the Spirit into our lives, we, like Dorothy, can be empowered to fight the forces of fear and greed that endanger all of us, and instead be empowered and encouraged to walk alongside each other—especially those who are vulnerable.
Come, Holy Spirit. Help us to keep having the faith to keep swimming, and lifting each other up in love.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.