God is good and hope is a gift from God. As we enter the one-year mark of this global pandemic, I encourage you to take a moment to look up, pause, and call to mind the promises that we have of God’s enduring faithfulness to us in our whole human journey. For me, this year has been made up of a combination of experiences: hope, fear, darkness, light, respect, challenge – the list is long, and you can certainly add your own descriptors. And the reasons for them.
In March of 2020, at the same time as the globe was convulsing under the emerging realization that we humans were very vulnerable to this little virus, my mother Ruth, with whom I am very close, shared with us kids that she had at most a few months to live. Her doctors were very certain of this, although there were some peculiarities in her condition that caused us to have hope that there might be other factors that would extend her life. So we put my Mom on all the prayer lists we could! And the flood of encouragement, compassion, support and kindness really helped with perspective and isolation in the threshold time being occupied between this world and the world to come.
We know that we are living in a time of true gift, mystery and promise. Even though the world around us was shutting down, my siblings and I still had this tangible relationship to uplift us and sustain us in this time of deep anxiety. The mystery of the human body continues to baffle: the really good, attentive and diligent medical care that Mom has received, along with the spiritual prayer support, have worked so well together that, as I write this, she is still alive and relatively well, functioning independently, loving her children and grandchildren, her dogs, her friends and neighbours and community with that beautiful grace of knowing the value of a seriously precious opportunity to express love in the here and now.
The promise of God’s eternal love for us in this world and in the world to come has sustained me and my Mom in hope beyond our sorrows. In some ways, this experience of facing my Mom’s imminent death and working to understand God’s promises to us – Emmanuel, that God is with us – has given me a long view of hope, purpose and lovingkindness. Many who are reading this will have experienced the death of friends, neighbours and loved ones in this past year, whether through COVID-19 or other causes. Our deep pain at these un-commemorated moments of profound loss is compounded and multiplied as grief piles upon grief without proper acknowledgement or honour. Our God of Love, who knows you from when you were formed in the womb, is with us – is with you. We are beloved, and our tears are precious in the sight of Jesus. Know that you are not alone in your grief, and that there are many who are holding you in prayer this very moment. Let us be galvanized, too, by our grief and our realization of the preciousness of life, remembering that our purpose as disciples of Christ and as Church is to serve the least, the lost, the lonely. Can we look intentionally at how we understand the values of our faith in politics and policies, hearing again the teachings of Jesus to remind us of our responsibility to care for one another? What does loving our neighbours look like in practical action?
I cannot help but feel that we are in a time of deep re-orientation as a Church – a time when we have outgrown the usefulness of some of our habits and habitats, and we now have opportunity to strategically and intentionally grow into new ways of being responsive to God’s call to us in the prophet Micah to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” We pray to God for humility in abundance, so that we can see the needs around us and creatively address them. This pandemic is a time of great transition and upheaval, in our Church, in our communities, and across the globe. Part of our pain and anxiety in transition is in letting go of certainty. In learning to appreciate the beautiful moments that we have left together with my Mom, I have come to trust and hope more surely – not because of our goodness, but because of God’s promises to us. God’s lifegiving and liberating love will keep us – as a family, as a church family, as a global community.