April 29, 2020
Rev. Estelle Margarones
Yesterday Governor Mills extended the stay at home order and outlined a stepped approach to returning to reopening the state. First Parish will also take a stepped approach. This is just the beginning of a time of deep discernment; not only about what the process of reopening will look like, but also about how we will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our faith community and the world around us.
I want to assure you that we will proceed with caution, following the way of Jesus who was always mindful of the most vulnerable. I know we want to be together, not only because it’s the experience to which we’re accustomed or even because we are social creatures, but because everything about Christianity is relational beginning with the selves of the Trinity! Even as we all long to see one another, I know that we also aspire to live up to First Parish’s Vision and Mission Statements:
Following the way of Jesus, we aspire to authentically invite, courageously include, and generously serve all with compassion and grace. Following the way of Jesus, we celebrate inspirational worship; create life-changing experiences for children, youth, families, and individuals; and practice meaningful congregational care. While respecting our diversity, we courageously advocate for justice and mercy, and intentionally respond to the needs of our community and the world.
I’m struck by the tension created simply by embodying what it means to be “following the way of Jesus” in the world at this time. Pastor Dan Hollis once remarked, “It’s hard to be Christian” to which I would add, ‘It sure is--if you’re doing it correctly!’ Being Christian demands more of us than what is self-serving or merely sufficient…and it can be hard. Being Christian means consciously being courageously inclusive, advocating for the vulnerable, and being intentional about serving needs.
In a completely upended way, ‘courageous inclusion’ in the time of a pandemic may mean consciously practicing physical distancing protocols. It takes courage to put self-interest aside for the benefit of the vulnerable. It takes courage to advocate for protocols that ensure no one gets left behind. It takes courage to respond to the needs of the community and the world when they demand a sacrifice of more than (just) time or money.
You may know that Margaret Mead, the famed anthropologist, was once asked to share what she saw as the sign of the first civilized society. She remarked that it was a 15,000-year-old femur. You see, the bone had healed. With a broken femur, you can’t walk or hunt and you’re a sitting duck for predators. That someone cared for the injured, weak one showed a civilized society.
Given our advances with medicine, it would take about 6 weeks for a broken femur to heal today. Centuries ago, it likely took far longer. Imagine putting your life ‘on hold’ so that the most vulnerable are safe and protected from danger. (Pro tip: you don’t have to imagine it at all--you are living it now!)
I know that it’s been challenging to stay at home. I’ve heard you say you have spring fever and cabin fever and feel stuck. Please remember, you’re not stuck at home--you’re safe at home. And you’re not only showing signs of a civilized society, but practicing what it means to be Christian when you stay home to protect folks like my sister who recently finished cancer treatment (and all of her patients at a dialysis center), my asthmatic nephew, and my friend’s week old infant. I have heard people say that they want to help. The CDC’s York County liaison said yesterday on a conference call, that it *is being helpful* when people practice social distancing and stay safer at home.
Social distancing is actually physical distancing. We can still socialize. For example, you can call your friends and family, wave at neighbors, thank a grocery clerk or police officer, put a note on your mailbox or garbage can, be active on social media account, take a free adult ed class, and join me for a virtual coffee hour this Sunday at 11:00. (We’ll try a Zoom coffee hour and see how it goes. Pour your own coffee or tea and join me from home.) For the link, please email me by 10:00 this Sunday morning: Estelle@FirstParishYork.net.
3 John1:2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health…
Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Prov 31:8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Psalm 82:3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.