Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm
I was having a lovely time thinking and reading, considering and praying about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman. It is an incredibly rich story – Jesus’ longest recorded dialogue in the gospels, and much more. I had SO much I had to say about it. And then there was Covid 19. The Samaritan Woman needs to wait.
As I am sure you know, Heather, Ann, the wardens, Nurse Kathryn and I have spent considerable time this week working to figure out how to direct and support the parish in the midst of an outbreak that has now been declared a global pandemic and a national emergency.
They didn’t teach us how to do this in seminary.
We have been so very appreciative of the way the immediate community - including the parish leaders already named, as well as the staff, the Altar Guild, the Mission leaders and others - have calmly set themselves to figuring how to adapt their ministries to circumstances we had never thought about. Don’t you find it to be true that hard times often bring out the best in us?
And we’ve been grateful, as well, for the leadership and reassurance of Bishop Doug and his staff, who are guiding us through these turbulent waters.
In the midst of logistics and practicalities and composing emails this week, I have had several moments in which I’ve been struck by the faith implications of the present situation, and so I’d like to share some thoughts about what it means to be people of faith in the midst of crisis.
And then I’d also like to do just a bit of tying these thoughts in to the one of the lessons we’ve heard from scripture this morning.
There’s just no question that this Corona Virus is a very scary business. The transmission and mortality rates are awful. Probably all of us have loved ones in the high risk groups for whom infection can carry grave consequences, if we’re not in those groups ourselves.
I think it’s the unknowns – not knowing how bad it will get or how long it will last, or what the real impacts will be – that is the worst and most immobilizing part of this.
It’s very easy to succumb to feelings of desperation and panic. How many of you out there ran to the store to stock up on toilet paper this week? Raise your hands – no one else can see you.
Do you remember the story we just listened to about Moses and the Israelites? They were in the same boat, and they acted about the same way.
Having traveled through the Sinai wilderness after their dramatic escape from Egypt, they, too, found themselves frightened, facing a dangerous and unknown future. They were without food or water. They, too, succumbed to their fears. Without a Stop and Shop at which to purchase reassurance for themselves, they instead turned on Moses, blaming his faulty leadership for their problems:
“Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”
(Heather and I can count our blessings that these are not OUR parishioners.)
And here’s where we need to pay attention. Moses offered up his problems to God, and solutions unfolded. I think it’s important to notice several things about the way things played out.
So what does it mean to be people of faith in a time of health crisis?
Just as did the people of Israel, we already know the answers, and we have the tools.
But in the meantime we listen to our leaders, to the scientists and medical personnel, we must pay attention, and we must follow directions.
Right now those authorities are advocating “social distancing”. This doesn’t just help you and me to avoid catching the virus, but it slows the transmission, so that as it does spread – as it apparently will - it will not overwhelm our health care system.
Even amidst all of these caring and creative efforts, please take care of yourselves first – it’s no help if you wear yourself out attending to the needs of others and then need someone else to take care of you. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help YOU need.
And please, keep praying – for those who are ill, and for those who are afraid, for the medical folks taking care of the sick, and for the leaders making strategic decisions for our communities.
This is a scary place, but none of us are alone. We know what we need to do; we have the tools; we will get through it together. With God’s help.
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