Pastor’s Friday Comments (03.13.20)

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne

If ever there were a global event that demonstrated the interconnectedness of all human life, surely the current health crisis is it. Quite literally something happens to a person half-way around the world and within a matter of days that life touches our own. We are all in this together.

Though some areas may be impacted more severely than others, though certain groups may be more affected, though developed countries may be able to weather the storm more successfully than poorer nations, we are all in this together.

And yet, we are in so many ways isolated from one another. We are literally isolated by prudence and an abundance of caution. But we may also be isolated by our concerns for ourselves and our families from those whom we do not know. We hear that someone in a particular area has contracted the virus and our immediate thoughts are personal and familial. How close was this person’s location to my own? Was his or her state of health similar to mine, and therefore could it tell me something about my own risks? Did I come into contact with this person or did someone I know? What are the members of my family doing to avoid contagion?

Statistically, your individual chance of contracting Covid-19 is rare, having serious health issues because of it even rarer. But “any (person’s) death diminishes me.” No matter how close or distant the crisis seems to you, there are people around the world whose lives have been turned upside down. That’s true every day, of course, but the global pervasiveness of the current situation drives that point home dramatically.

Perhaps a little isolation could be a good thing. Lent is supposed to be a time for introspection and reflection. If you are forced to remove yourself – even temporarily, incompletely, involuntarily – from large groups of people, it could provide time to reflect on what is truly important to you and what is simply necessary, but trivial and mundane. It could make you think about how important your contact with others is, how essential a human touch. And, if we can get outside of our own heads for a bit, it might help us to see that there are people for whom loneliness and isolation are constant companions every day that they live.

Of course, it may also offer unexpected time and opportunity to commune with your Creator. I will not join the inevitable chorus of those who surmise that disasters and crises are evidence of God’s wrath, but I will certainly say that, if we are open and willing, God can use any situation in which we find ourselves to demonstrate the divine presence and the power to see us through any challenge that we may face. How you use whatever time you have away from your routine is up to you but time alone with God could be the most worthwhile way to turn crisis into blessing.

In the meantime, we must care for one another as a family of faith. Deacons and staff will be in touch with our members, especially those who are isolated – and that may eventually be all of us. We will continue to have the weekly sermons available online, even if we are not able to meet as a congregation. And we will let you know in as many ways as possible any alterations in schedule.

Prayer is critical – for our world, for our leaders, for health care professionals who put themselves in danger, for our families, and those whom we do not know. Let us refrain from offering our puny advice to God and, instead, simply bow in humility, and offer all we are and have to the One who can see us through whatever we may have to face.