I woke up yesterday morning without the unrelenting migraine that had been my constant companion more days than not since the middle of November. It’s probably not a coincidence. I puttered yesterday feeling a range of various emotions that I struggled to put names to. Yes, I felt hope. I felt lighter. I felt heavy. I felt heartbreak. Even as we celebrated the inauguration on Wednesday over 4,000 people died of Covid as this winter continues to rack up ever higher tolls showing just what an unchecked pandemic looks like.
We approach the one-year anniversary of the last time I went somewhere normal (church on March 8, 2020). One year is starting to feel long even to this introvert, especially I see the toll it’s taking on my kids. One year when you’re only six feels like an eternity. They don’t yet know that this will eventually fade as their years grow longer and it won’t seem as long in hindsight as it did in the interminable middle, especially as there’s no clear end date in sight.
And it strikes me that at the core of all of this is a lack of inability to care for our neighbors as ourselves on a national level. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here in this community, but everything we’ve experienced from the systemic racism to nationalism to a lack of willingness to wear a face mask to protect our neighbors is a failure of empathy and a failure of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
I know I come back to this verse frequently but it’s one of the few times we see a direct answer to a question in the gospels. Jesus says, love God and love your neighbor. On these two things hang all of Scripture. It’s one of the few single texts that we can use as a lens for the rest of it. Are we loving God? And are we loving our neighbors?
The question then comes to mind of who is our neighbor. Jesus had an answer for that too. Our neighbor is often the person we’d least classify as such. The man in the ditch might have very well shared the contempt of the day for Samaritans. And yet it was that person--the reviled foreigner from across the border--that was most neighborly in Jesus’ story.
The loss of our neighbors to Covid is a heartache I can’t easily resolve. Nor is the trauma that all of us have experienced in the midst of this long, long year. The strains of white supremacy and Christian nationalism that reared their ugly heads in ever clearer ways these past four years must be examined, repented of where we find strains of them in our own hearts, and then excised from the ruling structures of our country.
There is no unity without justice. No true peace unless it is peace for everyone. There is no room in the Christian faith for anything that resembles “me first, America first” and so forth. After all, the first shall be last. We should use the vast resources of our power as a nation to serve places in the globe where we can, not to dominate them.
And yes, the inauguration gives me hope, not in the person of Biden specifically, but in the diversity of the people he’s bringing into office with him. Both in Vice-President Harris and the rest of his cabinet, I see a group of people that is starting to resemble the beautiful diversity of our country a little more, and in that I have hope that we are at least pointed in a more positive direction.
But no administration is a savior, and the values that made it possible for the former president to win are still among us.
The question is now to each of us: what kind of person will you be? What kind of communities will we promote? And what kind of nation do we truly want to be?
And while no one nation will ever achieve God’s shalom in this world, it is our duty as citizens of God’s community to work towards that wherever we find ourselves.
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What I’m Reading
Read the full text of Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” here
and then go preorder her book here.
Trying to finish books from my Movement Chaplaincy Course this week: