April 5, 2020 Service
Last night I lay a-sleeping there came a dream so fair, I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there. I heard the children singing, and ever as they sang, methought the voice of angels from heav'n in answer rang.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Lift up your gates and sing, Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!
The opening music was suggested by Dr. Dorsey Blake for this occasion…The Triumphant Entry…Palm Sunday. At first I thought it would not be appropriate to address Palm Sunday today…I thought there was some, more important topic to discuss. In light of the current shelter-in-place order…in light of the spread of COVID-19…the tragic deaths and the economic hardships…the intensified suffering of existing migrants and new, COVID-19 migrants. It is an uncertain time. And then I listened to this music.
Ms. Norman’s voice reminds me that beauty exists in humanity. It gives me greater hope in our species that we will wake up to our responsibility to each other…that we will be humbled through the experience of our encounter with this virus…this piece of RNA that is threatening our species. In the story of Jerusalem...Jesus’ experience of entering Jerusalem…facing his fate…standing up to the responsibility placed upon him in his time we can learn to do the same in our own time. The suffering…the injustice…is, of course, a part of our story…it is a part of the human story…a part of the story of life on earth…the story of the cosmos. But so is the New Earth…the New Jerusalem. Just as morning follows evening…joy will follow suffering.
The suffering that is happening right now...the daily fear that we will be next brings to mind this poem I read recently by Deena Metzger, a poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller, teacher, healer and medicine woman.
First the animals began dying, going extinct, and we did not stop what we were doing because we are not animals. Then the glaciers started melting and we did not stop what we were doing because we thought we could do without them. Then the forests were disappearing and we did not stop cutting down the trees because we could not imagine being unable to breathe. Then the virus came and there was no one to stop us but ourselves. This poem is an adaptation of the well known message by Martin Niemöller . First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The effect is the same…because we do not understand the connection between us all…the animals, the glaciers, the trees, the virus…the socialists, the trade unionists, the Jews…we ourselves will be lost…will we be there for each other? Will we be able to develop compassion for each other…despite social distancing…despite our fear of one another? Howard Thurman wrote about compassion:
God is making room in my heart for compassion: the awareness that where my life begins is where your life begins; the awareness that the sensitiveness to your needs cannot be separated from the sensitiveness to my needs…
If nothing else has become clear during this exceptional time it is that we are connected…that our own needs cannot be separated from the needs of the other…we share everything; the coronavirus included…we are indeed one…
I will leave you today with the words of poet Lynn Ungar entitled, Pandemic.This was shared with us by our Associate Minister-at-Large, Rev. Liz Olson. May we meditate on these words in the days ahead, some of the most sacred days in the Christian calendar…Holy Week…
Pandemic What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.