Many of us, even when we’ve had to hold tragedy and blessing together during this time of pandemic, have recognized that there has been goodness that God has placed in our life and that goodness is very often people and not things. As we head into the next phase, Bishop Hughes asks us to consider: what is it that we want to hold onto? (Time: 4:25.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. It is Eastertide and we are in the midst of Spring. And finally we are at that place where vaccines seem to be readily available all across our state. Where you could wake up on Monday, decide you want to get vaccinated, probably get an appointment in the next day or two. That is such a change for us and that change lets us know that, at least for now, right here and in this place – it’s not in this way the whole world over, but for right now, right here in this place -- it’s entirely possible that we’ve entered the ending phase of pandemic.
Notice I said phase. It’s not as if that there’s a switch that we can flip on or off and then suddenly there will be no more pandemic. It will go on for weeks and months, maybe into the next year before we reach a place where we realize, “Oh, we think that is part of our past now.” But we’re in that ending phase.
And I think it’s important for us right now, especially in Eastertide, at a time when we talk about transformation and how much resurrection has changed us and changed who we are in relationship with God. But to talk about the transformation that God has done with, for and to us during this time of pandemic. Many of us, even when we’ve had to hold tragedy and blessing together during this time, have recognized that there has been goodness that God has placed in our life and that goodness is very often people and not things. We have come to cherish people in a way that we did not before, it’s been a reawakening of relationships, a reawakening of the kind of time that we give to relationships and the goodness that comes from giving that time to relationships. Whether it’s with a spouse or an old friend, a parent, a child or the neighbor next door, we have come to see the importance of being in relationship with other people and how much that blesses us and how much that blesses them and blesses the entire community around us.
And so, as we head into another phase where things will be more active… we might, some of us, may be heading back to the office, some of us will be heading into school, some of us may be going to more gatherings, our churches will be doing more gatherings. As we head into that time, what is it that we want to hold onto? I am reminded of Isaiah, saying to the Nation of Israel in Chapter 43 that God had done former things with them and they shouldn’t be looking to the former things anymore, they should look to the new things that God was doing for them. God has done new things with us in this time – how do we want to take those new things forward with us?
I think of it like this: many of us are having dinner with the same people in our families or in our households seven days a week. Chances are we’re not going to be doing that going forward. But something wonderful came from that closeness so how do we need to think of it going forward? How many nights a week do we want to make sure we have dinner? How many times a day do we want to make sure we check in with each other? How often do we want to plan to see our friends? How will we continue to cherish those good things that God has given us in this time?
One thing is sure: that wherever pandemic takes us next in this winding down (we hope and pray that that is the time that we’re entering), wherever it takes us next, God continues to go with us, God continues to bless us and continues to change us and give us good things for us to cherish. The choice is ours about how we take those things forward with us into the rest of our lives.