“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:12-13).
One could make a pretty good argument right now that hope is the greatest, but I know that love has been the strongest guidepost and will remain so for me and our cluster leadership. Love is why we suspended in-person gatherings, including worship. Love is why people are calling one another and checking in with one another. Love is why so many of us are learning new technologies that help us stay connected in this digital age. Love is why we are finding new ways to care for our neighbors (those next doors and those across the globe). I hope and trust that love, more than anything else, will guide decisions about how and when to re-open. Most important of all, God’s love for us is something we can continue to depend on.
Know that God’s deep abiding love for the entire cosmos is not going to waver. It is a love that is steadfast and abundant, both personal and far-reaching. It continues to free us both from something (shame, guilt, participation in unjust systems) and for something (love of our neighbors, transforming the world into God’s reign).
We are, each one of us, created by God. We are beloved. What is more, with the incarnation, God being born in human form, God through Jesus knows what it is like to be embodied. I have to say that a pandemic makes me appreciate the incarnation in brand new ways, and I already had a healthy appreciation for Immanuel, God is with us. I so appreciate being able to imagine that God, in Jesus, knows the toll the pandemic is having on embodied people.
Some of us already know people who have died from the virus. Others of us are grieving the loss of the way things were. We are grieving the loss of human interaction and the needed physical touch that comes with it. We are grieving cancelled events and gatherings. Sometimes I judge these feelings in myself, “those are not big problems compared to actual death Meggan” and yet I know that if a parishioner judged his own grief I would say, “those are still your real feelings and they are valid.”
I can sense in myself the toll of everything. I am not as productive as I would like to be. I need more refueling, whether it comes in the form of hydration, conversations, sleep, things that make me laugh, or prayer. I also need to get rid of the stress hormone, cortisol. It has been hammered home to me recently that more exercise is good right now. It is not just good; it’s crucial. If I do not get rid of that hormone by taking a walk around my neighborhood, chances are I might release it in a conversation with an innocent parishioner/relative/friend/colleague.
I have been thinking about all of this through the lens of stewardship. Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be stewards of so much: financial resources, the natural world, the resources passed down from past generations, our time, our relationships, and yes, our bodies. And if we neglect our bodies, we are not much good stewarding anything else and we will not be ready emotionally to care for the people who die during this chapter or care for those left behind to mourn.
Here are some things I encouraged my parishioners to do when the stay home order was put in place in Idaho and that I hope we all continue to do in the months ahead: Build up or nurture circles of support. Use the telephone, video chat, pen and paper. Get some exercise every day. More is better. Get rid of that cortisol. Get enough sleep and keep eating a nutritious diet. Change expectations for productivity–you will not be as productive during this time and that is okay.
Love of God, love of neighbor, and yes, love of self, are simple guideposts but they so often seem easily dismissed or strangely interpreted. Whether it is in the grocery store or in a church meeting or in a phone conversation or in our self-talk, I pray we are guided by compassion. In the months ahead, I hope that the line from the old song is true, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Let us pray...
Our Lord and our God grant us grace to know your love in whatever we face. Give us patience and thankfulness even in our pain, anxiety, or loss; and move us with compassion and tenderness for our afflicted neighbors; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.