When I began this marathon on March 6th of ‘life at home’ I sensed I
was in for the long haul. I had given my last Lyft ride and prepared my church for the ‘no touching hug fest’ that we tend to carry off each week. By the following Thursday I had called the staff and leadership team together to let them know I had decided ‘no gatherings at the church’ for the foreseeable future. After sharing with them the information I had been given by very credible sources, they unanimously agreed. “Do you think we will be back by Easter”? It was an honest question and my answer was, “Under the best circumstances we might be back by Mother’s Day”. I have now amended that to Father’s Day. The journey began. The following Tuesday I noticed a hint of sadness in my being. Each subsequent Tuesday it has gotten progressively deeper. I talked with my son Mateo, a couple of days ago and he shared with me that he too found Tuesday blues showing up.
Forty years ago I was privileged to spend the day with nine other chaplains and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross MD. It was a remarkable time as she walked us through her personal journey in the study of grief. DABDA was how she taught us to see the identifiable stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. This I have come to know— grief is a gift— and it strips you away from attachments to what we thought we had. This past Tuesday my grief was deep. There were the personal losses like a road trip with my boys in June, the loss of routine, human connections. Then there was the deeper grief of scenes of refrigerator truck morgues at hospitals, nurses pleading for help and the ongoing parade of lies, meanness, scapegoating and self congratulating narcissism from______. It was a sad day.
Today is Saturday, I have already walked my neighborhood loop which takes me by ponds, birds, kids on bikes. Everyone, and I mean everyone waves and greets from a distance. This is as if Mother Nature has hit a giant reset button. I in no way want to minimize that loss, pain and grief. My sense is my ministry, in and through my congregation, will be to walk with the world as we slowly heal, while never forgetting just how much we need each other.
My daughter Amy read me her Palm Sunday prayer for tomorrow. I share it in closing, with her permission—
God our Hope, today is a Palm Sunday like no other.
The separation in our lives is undeniable – when we would usually gather to
remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem by waving palms and singing hosannas, today we stay home and wait for the angel of death to pass over us.
When we would usually enter this Holy week journey toward Easter with a sense of reverence and anticipation of resurrection, today we stay home fearful and locked away.
And yet – all of this is your story. None of this is new to you, God. We’ve heard about your redeeming grace that saved the Israelites who marked their doorposts, but now we pray daily – “Mark us by your love, oh God – that we would be spared from suffering!”
We’ve heard the story of the disciples who fled the crucifixion and locked themselves away, but now we long to hear Christ say, “Peace be with you,” and to “Receive the Holy Spirit” from his breath in the room.
We’ve heard so many times about when the people raised their palms and threw their cloaks on the ground with shouts of “Hosanna!”
But today, they are more than just words from our sacred past. They are the cries of our hearts – “Save us!” Save us, Jesus. Save us…
Help us to follow you in the way that leads to new life; the way of the cross. Hear our prayers for our community and for the world.
Unite us in your love, that even in this time of isolation and suffering, your grace will be revealed. Guide us all, in the ways of your justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good.
Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources responsibly in the service of others and to your honor.
Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as You love us.
Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation.
Give strength to the caregivers – the doctors and nurses, the sanitation workers and first responders, the grocery store workers, truck drivers and mail carriers who are keeping our communities alive. Comfort all who mourn in grief, who suffer loneliness in isolation, depression or anxiety in the stress and weight of this difficult and painful time.
In mercy, receive all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal love. Hear our prayers, oh God. Save us. We ask all this in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.
Onward and Inward, Mark