“Retreat from the Storm” Jean-François Millet ca. 1846. Public Domain.
Psalm 143 Contemporary English Version
1Listen, Lord, as I pray! You are faithful and honest and will answer my prayer. 2 I am your servant. Don’t try me in your court, because no one is innocent by your standards.
3 My enemies are chasing me, crushing me in the ground. I am in total darkness, like someone long dead. 4 I have given up all hope, and I feel numb all over.
5 I remember to think about the many things you did in years gone by. 6 Then I lift my hands in prayer, because my soul is a desert, thirsty for water from you.
7 Please hurry, Lord, and answer my prayer. I feel hopeless. Don’t turn away and leave me here to die. 8 Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you. I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance.
9 Please rescue me from my enemies, Lord! I come to you for safety. 10 You are my God. Show me what you want me to do, and let your gentle Spirit lead me in the right path.
11 Be true to your name, Lord, and keep my life safe. Use your saving power to protect me from trouble. 12 I am your servant. Show how much you love me by destroying my enemies.
Psalm 143 is one of seven “penitential psalms.” These psalms focus on the theme of repentance, which is customarily defined as “the recognition, rejection, and abhorrence of one’s sin” (see books like González’s Essential Theological Terms, 2005). Traditionally, these psalms are used for personal study and in worship service liturgies that focus on repentance, contrition, and penance and are popular psalms during penitential times in the Church calendar like the first half of Advent and the season of Lent.
Psalm 143 is unique in this list; however because it fails to fit the traditional definition and formula of a penitential psalm. Here, the psalmist is not confessing personal misdeeds and is not asking God for forgiveness. The “sin” comes from outside in the form of enemies. Biblical scholar James L. Mays writes:
The danger and need in which the psalm is said arises because of an enemy, a mortal foe whose work is darkness and death…The prayer is not made because of some sin but because (of) the assault of the enemy and the prospect of death” (Mays Psalms 1994, p. 434).
Upon feeling this threat, the psalmist petitions God for immediate rescue, wisdom, and continued protection.
Perhaps one of the lingering impressions of the COVID-19 outbreak will be that we are more aware of our interconnectedness in this world. We, our friends, neighbors, co-workers are getting the virus despite drastic precautions, and we are working, fighting to maintain our connections to one another using both new and old technologies.
The outbreak could also uncover the differences and inequalities in this world. How we weather the outbreak depends largely on where we were born, what class, caste, or socio-economic reality we were raised in and what life circumstances got us to today. There is something adventurous about this new reality for some, and something overwhelmingly scary for others.
Whatever our situation, a prayer like Psalm 143 is useful. It reminds people of faith to call upon God in times of trouble and seek help:
As the enemy crashes around us, O God, Rescue us quickly. As we worry about the future, Give us the wisdom to protect one another And guide our doctors, nurses, and public leaders. Be true to your name, O God, and keep us safe. Today and forever. Amen.
“Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, 1975” by Martin Parr. National Museums of Liverpool.
Eutychus By Rosemary Dobson (1920-2012)
The first day of the week he spoke to them In Troas when they met to break their bread, And preached till midnight. Eutychus afterward Could not remember anything he said.
This was an irony not easily faced: Indeed, he kept it largely unconfessed That after travelling many days and nights In dangers often, and by hardships pressed,
To hear the words of Paulus and receive Some healing comfort for his troubled mind He could not fix his thoughts, was sorely vexed By others pushing in the crowd behind,
Till, smarting with discomfiture and grief, He reached a window not above his height And climbed on the sill and looking out Breathed in the soporific airs of night.
To saints who have received the word of God One lifetime is too short for telling all The joyful news. And certainly an hour Did not suffice in Troas for Saint Paul.
His discourse lengthened. Eutychus’s head Sank on his chest (and for his sake we weep), The saint in words that none who heard forgot Spoke of Damascus. Eutychus was asleep.
Now they were gathered in an upper room That rose three lofts above, as it is said, And from his window Eutychus fell down And those that took him up pronounced him dead.
Saint Paul went straightway to the youth and held His body in his arms, and cried to those Who stood about, ‘Be troubled not. For see His life is in him.’ And the young man rose,
His troubled mind at peace, his body healed. And others there were saved that else were lost. And in the morning Paul went on afoot To reach Jerusalem by Pentecost.
I like this story of young Eutychus For I, like him, am troubled too, and weak, And may, like him, be too preoccupied To listen if a saint should come to speak.
And yet, I think, if some event befall To bring me face to face with holiness, I should not fail to recognize the truth And spring to life again, like Eutychus.
I have a strong memory of my father falling asleep during church most Sundays. While I was growing up, he was a dairy farmer and full-time factory worker, so sleep was generally in short supply. By the time we made it to Sunday morning services, he had already been up for six hours, milking cows, doing chores, and wrangling us kids to get out the door on time.
Whenever the dozing involved the occasional snore, my mother would gently nudge his arm, and he would wake back up, at least for a while.
I expected that this new life of "Stay Home, Stay Safe" would be a bit slower. There would be less running around, managing schedules, and more time enjoying the comforts of home. Instead, Leah and I have noticed that our bodies are sore. We are tired by the end of each day. We are trying to fit work, our children's education, chores, sugaring, garden planning, and family time into every day. Adding a new batch of chicks, turkey poults and baby goats (we got three goats last week – reflection to come), and having our water pressure tank conk out this weekend (something failing under pressure is probably another upcoming reflection!) has only added to the daily work. This new way of working, playing, creating, raising, and fixing are using new sets of muscles. Having to think through how to hold this all together keeps our minds engaged all day.
The story of Eutychus (U-TÍ-KUS) is one of my favorite stories in the book of Acts. It tells the story of a young man who falls asleep during one of the Apostle Paul's excessively long sermons. Because he has perched himself in the window sill, he falls out, apparently to his death. But the story does not end grimly. Either through misdiagnosis or resurrection (scholars are split on the specifics of this story), Eutychus can make it home with the help of his friends.
I also enjoy Rosemary Dobson's poem about Eutychus because she provides an imaginative context for the story. The kid was tired from traveling all day to hear this wandering holy man speak. He desires to be present, but the body can only handle so much, and even the most eloquent and moving of speeches cannot hold the attention of tired people.
Think of all the new muscles we are using these days. Think of all the new neural pathways we are creating in our brains right now. We are having to move and think in new ways all day long. There's a good reason for being tired these days.
Soreness, tiredness, and a little exhaustion means we are getting stronger. But let us be patient with ourselves. Gracious too. It looks more and more like we are training for a long-distance race than a sprint. So, we should take time to rest our bodies and minds when we need it and not feel guilty when the house remains messy and the laundry piles up.
I need this as well, so I've decided to forgo these reflections on Saturdays. Taking one day off a week will give my body and mind a chance to rest and recover. Besides, taking time for rest every week sounds pretty religious too! Moving forward, UCH Reflections will go out Sunday-Friday by noon.
De Profundis, in Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, ca 1416. Folio 70r - the Musée Condé, Chantilly. Public Domain.
I Am Waiting By Lawrence Ferlinghetti
I am waiting for my case to come up and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder and I am waiting for someone to really discover America and wail and I am waiting for the discovery of a new symbolic western frontier and I am waiting for the American Eagle to really spread its wings and straighten up and fly right and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety to drop dead and I am waiting for the war to be fought which will make the world safe for anarchy and I am waiting for the final withering away of all governments and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the Second Coming and I am waiting for a religious revival to sweep thru the state of Arizona and I am waiting for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored and I am waiting for them to prove that God is really American and I am waiting to see God on television piped onto church altars if only they can find the right channel to tune in on and I am waiting for the Last Supper to be served again with a strange new appetizer and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for my number to be called and I am waiting for the Salvation Army to take over and I am waiting for the meek to be blessed and inherit the earth without taxes and I am waiting for forests and animals to reclaim the earth as theirs and I am waiting for a way to be devised to destroy all nationalisms without killing anybody and I am waiting for linnets and planets to fall like rain and I am waiting for lovers and weepers to lie down together again in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed and I am anxiously waiting for the secret of eternal life to be discovered by an obscure general practitioner and I am waiting for the storms of life to be over and I am waiting to set sail for happiness and I am waiting for a reconstructed Mayflower to reach America with its picture story and tv rights sold in advance to the natives and I am waiting for the lost music to sound again in the Lost Continent in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the day that maketh all things clear and I am awaiting retribution for what America did to Tom Sawyer and I am waiting for Alice in Wonderland to retransmit to me her total dream of innocence and I am waiting for Childe Roland to come to the final darkest tower and I am waiting for Aphrodite to grow live arms at a final disarmament conference in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting to get some intimations of immortality by recollecting my early childhood and I am waiting for the green mornings to come again youth’s dumb green fields come back again and I am waiting for some strains of unpremeditated art to shake my typewriter and I am waiting to write the great indelible poem and I am waiting for the last long careless rapture and I am perpetually waiting for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn to catch each other up at last and embrace and I am awaiting perpetually and forever a renaissance of wonder
Psalm 130 is one of a collection of “songs of ascent” or “pilgrim songs” comprising Psalm 120-134. The city of Jerusalem is situated on a hill, and Jews traveling to the city for important festivals sang these songs as they ascended the uphill road to the city. Of this collection, Psalm 130 is perhaps the best known. Commonly known by its opening words in Latin, De Profundis, or “Out of the Depths,” this psalm has influenced many theologians over the centuries. Martin Luther called it “a proper master and doctor of Scripture.” John Wesley’s transforming experience at Aldersgate was provoked by hearing this psalm sung. Hebrew Bible scholar James L. Mays notes that “This record commends the psalm as a succinct but powerful expression of the theme that is the heart of Scripture: the human predicament and its dependence on divine grace.”
There are four parts to this psalm: • An invocation, or request for God to listen • A confession, comprised of a statement about sin and divine forgiveness • A confession of faith in the form of waiting and hope • A statement of adoration
Waiting on God is referenced throughout our Scriptures so often that it is likely one of our primary stances in our relationship with the divine. The author of James’ letter tells the recipients to
Be patient, sisters, and brothers until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. - James 5:7-8
Likewise, the prophet Micah writes,
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. – Micah 7:7
There is an aspect of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, and the social distancing we are all practicing that feels like waiting. We are waiting for more information, new recommendations, and toilet paper in the grocery store. We are wondering when businesses will open back up, and we can return to normal, or at the very least, something closer to the way things were two weeks ago. Some of us are experiencing boredom, tiredness, and the sense that we are living out the life of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day.
Waiting is not a fun activity for most of us. But what if waiting with patience and with hope was more than a mindless activity? What if it was a spiritual discipline? What if waiting - like the waiting we practice during Advent - prepares us for what comes next? That type of waiting has expectations, goals, and some degree of certainty that one day these present troubles will be lifted, and life will flourish.
May we wait patiently and with hope these days, trusting that God is among us and about to do something grand.
Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:8-3:3 Contemporary English Version
Five years after King Jehoiachin of Judah had been led away as a prisoner to Babylonia, I was living near the Chebar River among those who had been taken there with him. Then on the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, the heavens suddenly opened. The Lord placed his hand upon me and showed me some visions.
“Ezekiel, don’t rebel against me, as they have done,” The Lord said. “Instead, listen to everything I tell you. And now, Ezekiel, open your mouth and eat what I am going to give you.”
Just then, I saw a hand stretched out toward me. And in it was a scroll. The hand opened the scroll, and both sides of it were filled with words of sadness, mourning, and grief.
The Lord said, “Ezekiel, son of man, after you eat this scroll, go speak to the people of Israel.”
The Lord handed me the scroll and said, “Eat this and fill up on it.” So I ate the scroll, and it tasted sweet as honey.
Ezekiel 1:1-3, 2:8-3:3 Xylophagia is a condition involving the consumption of paper. Its causes are multiple, including developmental delay, psychiatric illness, learned behavior, or a malabsorption condition like celiac disease. Today’s lesson from the strangest book in the Bible, the book of Ezekiel, uses Xylophagia as the guiding image for receiving a revelation from the Divine.
Ezekiel, a wealthy priest of the temple in Jerusalem, was carried into exile after the city was captured by Babylonia. He lost everything in this calamity and struggled to make sense of how this has happened. He was inspired to explore the causes of the destruction, and what the outcomes mean for his community’s future and relationship to God. There is a lot of difficult, condemning words in his writing, but also one of the most beautiful movements of Scripture. Specifically, in chapters 9-11, the Spirit of God moves out of the temple in Jerusalem and into the hearts of the people in exile. The idea that God is present where the people are was a new concept in the history of theological reflection in ancient Israel.
“Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far away among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while in the countries where they have gone.” - Ezekiel 11:16
It’s a hopeful message for us today – that God follows God’s people where they are. All of this because Ezekiel was inspired to think in a new way during a difficult time.
Inspiration is a beautiful thing. We are likely to find it, especially in times like these, when all of our usual ways and means are disrupted. And who knows that will grow out of a new insight, learning, or revelation.
Ignaz Moscheles was a prominent composer and piano virtuoso in 19th century London and Leipzig. He grew up in a musical home with his father playing the guitar and hoping that his children would become musicians in adulthood. When Moscheles’s older sister resisted piano lessons at an early age, they were transferred to the younger Ignaz. And he was hooked. As a ten-year-old, Moscheles spent his free time at the library, searching for new and exciting sheet music, much to his piano teacher’s dismay. His piano teacher warned Ignaz about studying more eccentric pieces, “before developing a style based on more respectable models.” One day, the young Moscheles discovered Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique in the library and was overwhelmed. Unable to afford the sheet music, he transcribed the entire piece out of the library copy, note by note, and took it home. There, against his teacher’s wishes, he practiced the piece over and over. Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique especially, and later, the rest of Beethoven’s catalog would inspire and influence Moscheles’ for the rest of his life.
Sammy Angstman has recorded the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. To listen to this, go to https://youtu.be/VSqqoFZAzO8.
May we seek inspiration. Who knows what new idea, practice, or insight will stay with us when this present trouble has ended.
“The Annunciation” Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi Botticelli ca. 1485-92. Public Domain.
Words By Nikolai Gumilyov Translated by Simon Franklin
In ancient days, when God cast down his gaze Upon the newly created world, Words could stop the sun, Words could shatter cities.
Eagles didn’t spread their wings, And stars huddled, horror-stricken, round the moon, Whenever words, like pink flame, Drifted through the heights.
But lower down in life came numbers, Like domestic, subjugated cattle; Clever number can convey All shade of meaning.
The gray, old sage, who had transcended good and evil And subdued them to his will, Had not the nerve to risk a sound, So, with his staff, he traced a number in the sand.
But we’ve forgotten that only words Stay radiant among earthly troubles, And in the Gospel of St. John It does say that the word is God.
We have set their limits At the meager boundaries of matter, And, like bees in a vacated hive, Dead words smell foul.
Today is Lady Day, or the Feast of the Annunciation. This holy day commemorates the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary in our gospel story from Luke. In it, the angel approaches Mary and announces that she will carry and give birth to Jesus. This day has been observed since the early fourth century and is celebrated today by Protestants and Catholics alike around the world. It also means that Christmas is exactly nine months away.
Because of its closeness to the Vernal Equinox, Lady Day was also the traditional new year in the England until 1752. On this day, year-long contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin and end. Farming families who were changing farms would travel on March 25th to their new farms and settle in before the planting season.
I enjoy Luke’s telling of this story because Mary is depicted as a wise, curious, and thoughtful character. She is perplexed by the angels greeting
"The serenity prayer in spanish on the mexican side of the border......ironic and poetic." by Natashalatrasha is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enable you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossae, during the first century, was a small Phrygian settlement in what is now southern Turkey. During the middle decades, news of the early Christ movement reached the town, and a small house church formed and grew. A relationship developed with this small community and the Apostle Paul and his followers. Out of this relationship, we have this rich letter to the Colossians, written around 90CE.
Unlike many of the other letters in the Christian Scriptures, the purpose of this writing was not corrective. Instead, Colossians was written to encourage the recipients during a confusing time. Some of this encouragement comes in the form of teaching through early hymns. Verses 12-14 in today’s readings are part of one of the earliest recorded Christian hymns.
Repeatedly in the letter, the Apostle Paul prays that the Colossians be strengthened by God presence among them so that they may “endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to God.”
Today we do well to pray for strength too, so that we may “endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to God.” Spiritual strength is something like our ability to deal, handle, cope, confront, accept, and overcome confusing times with grace and faithfulness. With news that this new normal may last longer than a few weeks, the spiritual practices of patience and gratitude will undoubtedly be tested.
I leave you with a beloved prayer written by a prominent 20th-century theologian and UCC pastor, Reinhold Niebuhr:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
from “A Psalm of Life” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.
“As long as I live,” the psalmist will praise God. I remember first reading this psalm several years ago and think that this would be a wordy existence. We often think of praising God as something we do with language, singing, praying, saying the right words at the correct times during a worship service, or before dinner.
Psalm 146 falls within a unique category of psalm, one that centers on praising God with life, breath, or very being. These psalms reflect on God as the life-giver, the divine creator, justice bringer, liberator, healer, and host. These psalms are not about praising God as a language act for all these cool traits, but on living these cool traits out as a form of praise. Living a well lived life is a form of praise to God. As folks that have experienced justice, love, mercy, healing, and hospitality, we share in the very life of God. If “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” as Charles Caleb Colton contended in 1820, then imitating the live-giving traits of God is our sincerest form of praise.
There’s something lost in us when we aren’t able to chat in Lantman’s or visit one another at church, school, the gym, or the barn. We aren’t surrounded with as much life as we used to be, and it feels diminishing. But life is happening all around us; we have to work in new ways to experience it.
Yesterday after our community check-in, my daughter Camille and I picked up twelve chicks. Little did Camille know that the rest of our family had picked up three chicks and five poults (baby turkeys) earlier in the day. Our living room now has twenty little cheeping baby birds being over handled by little hands. They already have names – weather themes with this batch – Stormy, Windy, Foggy, Cloudy, Frosty, Hailey, Icy, etc. I love it because we get to see new life grow and thrive while we are temporarily less connected to others right now.
One of my favorite lines from Robert Frost is this: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Perhaps there are new ways to live a well-lived life these days, but even if we begin to struggle, life will go on.
May God bless you and keep you as you live out today.
“Plate with David Anointed by Samuel” (629-630CE). This silver plate was manufactured to commemorate the end of a long, costly war between Byzantium and Persia by the Byzantine emperor Herakleios.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Samuel is in a real pickle in today’s lesson. As Judge, Prophet, and Seer over Israel, he has a unique connection to the Divine. Previously he had anointed Saul as King over Israel, but Saul’s actions caused him to lose favor with God and with the people. So, while Saul is still king, Samuel is called to anoint a successor.
Of course, this is dangerous work, and Samuel fears for his life. To alleviate Samuel’s fears, God provides a way to go about his new mission undetected. He will go to Bethlehem under the guise of making a sacrifice. An animal will be butchered in this ritual. A portion of the meat will be burned on an altar, and the rest of the meat will be used to host a banquet for the community. Having the Judge Samuel come to your town was an honor – having him come to offer a sacrifice and host the banquet was an honor.
Samuel is really there, however, to anoint one of Jesse’s sons the new king of Israel. The tribal leader Jesse had many sons, and they all look kingly. But of those present, none were chosen. God directly counsels Samuel, saying, “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Samuel learns that there was still one other – the youngest brother who was out watching the sheep. Perhaps David was thought too young for such a ceremony or deemed too unimportant in his culture (being the youngest male in the family) to be invited to the banquet. And yet, he was the one chosen to be the next king.
Shepherd imagery is important in the Hebrew Bible. It is used to describe God’s providence and marks the characteristics of a good leader. Perhaps David was anointed because he was already a leader, tending a flock of sheep from an early age. Despite the appearance of youth, he understood the life and death responsibilities of caring for part of God's creation well.
The word pastor is Latin for “one that leads to pasture, sets to grazing, tends, guards and protects.” Sometimes churches call compassionate care like visiting the sick, checking in on the homebound, and regular checking in “Pastoral Care.” At its heart is the need to provide care, support, connection, and encouragement during times of good and times of difficulty. But this work is not reserved for the “Pastor” or appointed minister of a local congregation. The wider congregation has always practiced pastoral care.
We are all called to play the role of pastor given our present situation. From our homes, we are calling on folks to check-in, taking care of one another, and helping those in vulnerable situations as best we are able. Perhaps, like David, we aren’t the likely choice to play this role for others, but the time calls for it, and the need is real.
Have courage! Your kind words, outreach, and simple action may be just what another needs today.
1You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. 2 You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, 3 and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. 4 I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. 5 You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows. 6 Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, Lord.
The book of Psalms is the longest in the Bible, containing 150 chapters. Think of it as ancient Israel’s community hymnal – an anthology of sacred music used during times of worship. Like a modern hymnal, the book of Psalms contains a wide range of songs dealing with themes like praise, thanksgiving, grief, confession, injustice, trust, forgiveness, and others. Psalm 23 deals with the idea of providence.
“Providence” is a theological term for is something like God’s continuous upholding and care for the universe, including human beings. It is a key concept in the belief that God is good, loving, caring and benevolent toward creation. Psalm 23 depicts God as a shepherd (a common image of God in the Hebrew Bible) who provides the necessities for a flock of sheep – food, water, protection, and guidance.
By the early first century, Stoic philosophers used the word “providence” as a designation for the deity as a counter to the more fatalistic philosophical beliefs. Instead of being bound to a cruel and calculated fate, the universe is bound together by a benevolent deity that is involved in the wellbeing of all things. Later Christian and Muslim theologians would incorporate both Roman and Greek Stoic thought in their understanding of divine providence when attempting to describe God’s relationship to the world.
Psalm 23 is often read at funeral services because it speaks to the provision God provides in times of want. The one who has passed and those left grieving are not alone and not without divine comfort, compassion and tender care. “Valleys as dark as death” alludes to the fears we have about death. To consider that God is present, even in the darkest times gives us comfort, and perhaps more bandwidth of carrying on.
Today we pray for those who have lost their lives or lost family members to the Coronavirus outbreak, both in Vermont and around the world. We pray for their comfort and safety and that their grief may not overwhelm during this trying time. Blessings,
“empathy” by glsim99 licensed under Creative Common
“Think of Others” by Mahmoud Darwish
As you prepare your breakfast, think of others (Don’t forget to feed the pigeons). As you conduct your wars, think of others (Don’t forget those who want peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others (Think of those who only have clouds to drink from).
As you go home, your own home, think of others (don’t forget those who live in tents).
As you sleep and count the planets, think of others (there are people who have no place to sleep).
As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others (those who have lost their right to speak).
And as you think of distant others think of yourself and say “I wish I were a candle in the darkness.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Gospel of Matthew 22:39
It was an eerie experience to walk through a department store earlier this week to get a few school supplies for my children. Staples like toilet paper, bread and cleaning supplies were all gone. The few folks in the store kept their distance. There was no conversation. I hate to say if felt a little like a zombie movie, but…
I admit that through this, I’ve struggled to pull together a faithful reflection on the current state of affairs. News of the Coronavirus pandemic is ever changing and announcements and new recommendations seem to be coming down to us hourly. How do we begin thinking about something this global, scary, and impersonal? Further, how might we begin to act in faithful ways when recommendations are constantly changing? An added wrinkle to our new reality is the many different types of experiences folks are having and will have as the days progress.
For some, this is an adventure. The family is together, work is being done from home, and despite the circumstances, there are signs of optimism. It’s a great time to catch up on that outstanding project or some reading. Folks are learning new technologies, looking for volunteer opportunities and adapting to the changes as they come.
Other will find this to be a fearful time. COVID-19 is a dangerous disease and many in our community fall into the “vulnerable populations” category. Given the preventative measures recommended by the CDC and the Vermont Department of Health about social distancing and self-isolation, it can feel as if the world we know has come to a crashing halt.
Finally, there are some that are and will be deeply affected by life as it is. Folks in the service industry are now out of work. Children who rely on public schools to provide normalcy, nutrition and positive social interactions now have a large void in their lives. Bills continue, even if work stops, and work for some must continue even when the kids are at home.
Our experiences are not the only experiences. Being mindful of the reality of others is a step toward empathy and another step toward loving our neighbors as ourselves. So, during this time, take care of one another, reaching out to your neighbors by phone, email and video conferencing. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance and be generous in what you have.