It finally stopped raining, and I was working at home today, trying to abide by an order to stay at home in the county in which I live. Finally, at one point, my eyes bleary, I went outside and was walking carefully up the path in my backyard, and was grateful to see not just the nodding heads of daffodils, but the groundcover we’d planted years ago to hold down the eroding hillside beginning to sprout up and even bloom. The runners intertwined like mad along the slope.
A huge number of us have spent the last several days radically adapting to a new way of life, one where we’ve been urged to avoid being in groups larger than ten, where we think twice about every surface that we touch, where we jump like we’re scalded whenever we hear someone cough or sneeze too close to us. Up until these last few weeks, perhaps some have thought that times of pandemics were a thing of the past—or at the very least were a thing of places without access to modern medicine. Perhaps we reassured ourselves that viruses like COVID19, hopscotching from country to country, were really only the thing of movies like I am Legion; The Stand, and about a hundred zombie movies. But now we have seen how quickly the entire world can be enveloped in anxiety and a sense of helplessness and suspicion. We are being brought face to face with our own vulnerability in a way that seldom happens.
But here’s the thing: that vulnerability was there all along. Our gospel today invites us to consider our interconnectedness, which is a vital lesson to learn from this challenge before us in the coming weeks. We are being given a gift to remake the priorities in our lives from a position of adversarial competition to one of caring for each other—even if we start only because it is in our enlightened self-interest. Maybe from this crisis, our eyes can be opened to embrace some vital truths, truths that are the backbone of God’s dream for us to live our very best life. We are also being called to remember how intertwined our common life together really is—how we’re dependent upon people that often get taken for granted: grocery store workers and pharmacists and sanitation workers.
Perhaps we can see this time as a precious reminder of our shared vulnerability, and as a reminder to be more gentle with each other. Perhaps we can come to see why making sure everyone has access to sick leave and health care is actually in our collective best interest.
We are all only as well as the sickest person among us, and that doesn’t mean to shun each other, but to care for each other, to be considerate of each other, and to make sure that people have expanded access to food and preventive medical care so that they can have the luxury of staying home and out of harm’s way. And so I offer this prayer for this holy time of caring for each other:
We bow before you,
O Love that Sustains the Universe,
and offer our hearts
to be filled by your presence.
Make our hearts a holy habitation, O Holy One,
a living sacrifice,
that we may be anointed by your Spirit.
The Earth your footstool,
the heavens your tapestry of light,
the smallest seed and the mightiest baobab,
the pinwheel of birds
gathering food by your providence,
the beating hearts of loved ones in companionship–
You have made them all, O Wisdom Eternal,
and your wonders whirl before our dazzled eyes.
Still our rushing heedlessness,
that we may give glory to You, Blessed Savior,
and lay our hearts bare to receive your Word
in joy and gratitude.
This day is your gift, O God;
may we center ourselves
in each moment
by your grace,
for You are our steadfast help and stay.
May everything we do
be for the love of our neighbors;
may we willingly sacrifice
for the good of those around us.
May we embrace our shared vulnerability
as a reminder of how precious each and every person is,
and see the imprint of your love, O God, in every person
rather than looking away.
Bend near to those who seek your face, Blessed Jesus,
that we may see you everywhere we look,
from our rising to our resting.
Anoint us to your service, we humbly pray,
and grant your blessing to those we now name.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.