From the Interim Rector - February 25
This week we have reached some significant milestones. As of this Sunday, with the exception of a few services in September and October of last year, we have not met for Holy Eucharist for a full year. We have not had in-person Sunday School. We have not had in-person Coffee Hour. The choir has not sung. We have not been together in all the ways in which a parish community would normally be together. It’s also been a year since I was hospitalized for Covid-19. On the day I was admitted to the hospital there were less than 30 reported cases of Covid in the city of New York. As of today, a year later, 701,000+ New Yorkers are known to have contracted this virus. And, as we know from the news this week, a year into this pandemic we have exceeded 500,000 deaths in the United States. So many times over the last year I have been reminded of James 4:14. James writes: “You do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
In addressing this grim milestone our President asked that we not become numb to the sorrow. Knowing his own life’s journey through grief and his deep faith as we do, we know he knows of what he speaks. This pandemic has brought great sorrow to millions of people. Sorrow at the death of loved ones. Sorrow at the loss of jobs, even of entire careers and businesses. Sorrow at the isolation we have had to endure in an effort to keep ourselves and one another safe. Sorrow at missed graduations, postponed weddings, and all the other stages of life that we celebrate with family and friends. In the midst of so much sorrow on so many levels and in so many places in our lives it would be easy to grow numb. And yet, as people of faith we know that the sorrow we experience is in truth the affirmation of life. At the Commendation of the Departed contained in the Burial Rite of our church the Celebrant speaks the words: “All we go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” How? How can we say alleluia in the midst of all that we have lost. How can we say alleluia if we truly are just “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”? Because, in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, the life we live we live by faith in Jesus Christ who loves us and gave himself for us. Because, again quoting Paul, we are not our own. We have been bought with a price—the price of God’s inescapable love that claims us as God’s own.
The affirmation of life that sorrow brings with it is the affirmation that God has created us to be creatures that actively co-create with God a world in which each life is celebrated, each life is valued, each life is recognized as an extension of our own life so that loving our neighbor as ourselves is as simple as loving ourselves. Our collective sorrow and our individual sorrows give us hope in the midst of loss, courage in the face of uncertainty, and life more abundant and free. That is why we can make our song. Even at the grave of over 500,000 of our neighbors.