A kind of weariness has caught up with me this week. In many ways my life has been nonstop problem solving since mid-March. Four months later my corner of the world has adapted to the limitations of pandemic. The congregation I serve is all Zoom, all the time with the understanding that we will not gather in person again until it is safe for every one of us. This week it has finally hit me, though. As a new routine has established itself, I feel more unsettled than I have during the last few months. Now in these quieter days of summer there is time for me to feel the feelings for myself. I’ve been too busy helping everyone else for my own feelings to come to the surface.
Now that they are here, I’m ready for them to pass. No matter how many times I tell myself that I have all that I need and I have the privilege of working from home, frustration still simmers. I am impatient when everyday tasks are more complicated than I expected. I am forgetting the simplest tasks. I spend too much time looking for my phone. I get teary over commercials that I’ve seen hundreds of times. And, if I am honest, I am still lamenting the sabbatical I was supposed to have this summer. None of these things are unbearable; indeed, they are signs of ongoing stress. Over and over again, I have told people to be gentle with themselves because pandemic magnifies our vulnerabilities. Time to heed my own words.
I read Jacob’s words in Genesis, “Surely, the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!” and realize I could say nearly the same thing. Yes, God is in this place, this time of pandemic. I know this is true, and yet, I often forget the power of this truth. Those angels ascending and descending in Jacob’s dream are a lovely metaphor for God’s continued work in the world. God moves through the world, through us, in ways we seldom grasp in the moment. Our failure to notice God does not negate God’s presence, God’s works of love.
Too many of us are simply waiting for pandemic to be over. Too many are already acting as if COVID-19 is not real and poses no threat. Too many of us are not considering how our actions might affect others. We are so desperate to “return to normal” that we are not attending to what God might be asking of us in this very moment. Yes, its hard to be without direct human contact. Yes, its hard to avoid crowds. Yes, its hard to be without a variety of things we have taken for granted. And it is probably harder for those who don’t have the option of working from home, those who rely on public transportation, those who work in healthcare, and teachers being asked to go back into classrooms, and many others who cannot distance themselves from others due to circumstances. The reality is that pandemic is hard for all of us in different ways. To pretend otherwise leads to pent up emotions that come out sideways (like yelling at the food processor when the lid was stuck on – yeah, I did that). Pretending that everything is “normal” also gets in the way of recognizing the movement of the Spirit.
Psalm 139 (one of my personal favorites) reminds us that there is no place we can go where God is not already there. Even in pandemic, God is with us, waiting for us to notice. Right now God is sowing seeds of goodness, grace, love, forgiveness – seeds of the Kingdom – throughout the world and among us. We know there are those who sow seeds of fear, hatred, division, and violence. Our focus ought to be nurturing the seeds of God’s Realm, making sure these seeds grow and bear fruit. While we cannot necessarily remove the other things, we can choose not to nurture them, not to strengthen them, not to let them grow in our lives or in our communities. We don’t need to worry about saving souls; God has that covered. We need to focus on saving lives. We need to do everything in our power to prevent the worsening of this pandemic – everything from adhering to the basics such as wearing a mask and physically distancing to the more complicated decisions of how and when to safely meet in person. In addition, we can advocate for those who often go unheard and unseen and devalued by those with decision-making power. And we can choose to stop making judgements about how other people are coping with pandemic; most people do the best they can with what they have.
Surely, God is in this with us! Even in the moments when we forget or fail to notice, God is present and moving in the world. May we trust God’s presence enough to act with loving-kindness toward ourselves, our neighbors, and the whole of Creation.
RCL – Year A – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 19, 2020
Genesis 28:10-19a with Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 or
Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or
Isaiah 44:6-8 with Psalm 86:11-17
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43