April 8, 2020
“Raise your voice like a trumpet. To my people proclaim their rebellious acts.”
COVID-19 has stricken many in our nation, causing illness, death and devastation across this land. The lives and livelihoods of millions of households urban, suburban and rural, big and small, have faced loss, challenge, isolation, and dislocation. COVID-19 is not divine punishment. Our initial federal reaction of unholy arrogance, refusing to take it seriously, delayed emergency response unmasking gutted preparedness, lack of protective gear expanding risk and impact, and declaring imminent victory in the face of tragedy is manifest sin crying out for God’s presence and healing.
“’Why have we fasted, if you do not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice?’”
Holding worship services virtually, not in person, are humane acts of loving kindness, consistent with promoting the health and safety of all God’s people. Contrary to several pastoral pronouncements that large gatherings in this moment are acts of “religious freedom,” true religious freedom is living in the consciousness that God transcends boundaries of exclusion and buildings in which people gather.
“You exploit all your workers.”
Our heroes include first responders, caregivers, hospital staff, sanitation and grocery workers and those working in essential services who have taken risks to provide loving treatment, sustenance, supplies and transport. Many have worked despite not having adequate protections. In cities across the country, valiant responders and providers suffering health consequences are often people of color.
44% of Americans survive on hourly minimum-wage jobs that do not provide sick leave or telework policies. Many workers will not be able to qualify for relief or benefits that will allow them to pay for rent, food, health care and other basic needs.
“Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me….to let the oppressed go free.”
“Covid is just unmasking the deep disinvestment in our communities, the historical injustices and the impact of residential segregation. This is the time to name racism as the cause of all those things. The overrepresentation of people of color in poverty and white people in wealth is not just a happenstance….It’s because we’re not valued.” (Dr. Camara Jones, family physician and epidemiologist, visiting fellow at Harvard)
The very low-income, unhoused people, prisoners with health risks, the elderly, and migrant people need support, counsel, care, rapid response and the opportunity to survive and thrive, knowing that many are especially vulnerable: in their liberation is our liberation.
“Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor.”
Locally-generated, creative community organizing and community-based human service programs have allowed for direct assistance to go to places that would otherwise go without and strengthen initiative and capacity for the long haul. People of faith are reaching out and stepping forward, in collaboration with service providers, funders, and community members to prepare and deliver meals, offer shelter, provide rental assistance, talk with local residents and seniors who are alone or isolated, and provide critical, credible information.
“Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.”
This season of stay at home and personal reflection may reveal our own shadows and offer the possibility of connection with family that lead us to our true selves and guide us to restoration and wholeness, forming in us the heart of wounded healers.
“Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh’s glory come behind you.”
Economic hardship may be a reality for many for an indefinite period of time. God seeks, not the solitary “prophet” with all the answers, but the small, base communities who challenge the dominant paradigm and promote the dignity of workers and a sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all. By consulting impacted community members, the idolatrous notion, “I consume, therefore I am,” may be overcome by new endeavors for the just distribution of resources, education, and opportunity.
“You will be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never run dry.”
We are organic matter, soft clay, fully human, fully alive, the work of God’s hands. As COVID-19 subsides, we may find new rhythms of work and home, play and prayer and so give glory to God who goes by many names, All-Merciful, Compassionate One, God-with-us.
“Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt; you will be called ‘Breach-mender’, ‘Restorer of streets to be lived in.’
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of the need to confront the giant triplets of militarism, racism, and poverty, to which environmental degradation and climate change can be added. Active nonviolence, racial justice as a way of life, living wage jobs, and climate justice speak to God’s dream of beloved community here “on earth, as in heaven.”
In these holy times for the three Abrahamic faiths, how will we answer the call to be God’s co-conspirators for loving and just actions, a “fast pleasing to God,” in 2020 and beyond?