A Thought from the Bishop at Noon on Friday, March 13, 2020
Aloha my Siblings in Christ Jesus,
After four days rising early to make it to a 5:00 AM virtual House of Bishops meeting, I tried to sleep in today. It didn’t work. I was duly wide awake by 4:15 AM. That worked out since I had a 7:30 AM emergency ‘Iolani School Board virtual meeting. I, like many of you, have been tracking news about COVID-19, and pondering the impact on our churches and schools. I have been praying for our clergy and God’s people in our congregations. I have been ruminating on the impact on our communities and, especially, the working poor. I have been generally worrying.
As of right now, we have not been asked to close churches for public worship. I am closely monitoring news from the State and the Counties. We are trying to address best practices. We are preparing for the likelihood that the churches will be asked to close for public worship.
Early this morning I read the article “Influenza Deaths in Hawaiʻi, 1918-1920” by Robert C. Schmitt and Eleanor C. Nordyke (see
). There is nothing like historical perspective to remind one that previous generations experienced such crises, and certainly more often than we do. There is a reason the Bible mentions plagues and pestilence so often. We are one with our ancestors. As biological creatures, we are not special. As the Stanford physicist, Leonard Susskind, has noted: “Unforeseen surprises are the rule in science, not the exception. Remember: Stuff happens.”
These events remind us of our dependence on God and on one another. In the quiet of the morning, I was reminded of rocking my sons (and more recently my grandson) as little babies and reading to them (long before they knew what they were hearing), the King James Version of the Bible, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and John Donne. As often as not, I would settle on Donne’s prose as well as his poetry. This morning, his most famous line ran through my mind over and over again:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne (1572-1631)
“Meditation 17” in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, 1624
for the whole text)
We are interconnected. Our most valued practices can be – when necessary – sacrificed for the other. We are in this life together and, therefore, we must not sacrifice relationships and personal contact for physical safety. This present age may remind us that as a society we have become too dependent on the material, our own personal comfort, and our individualism. What is the common good? How in my life do I show God’s love?
The virtue that we are called to at this time is “humility.” You and I have been given the gift to remember that in the vast cosmos, on this tiny blue planet, we are one of many. We are each
vulnerable and yet responsible one for another. In my study of 1 Peter for the upcoming Lambeth Conference, I am finding words of resilience: “God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under God’s power so that he may raise you up in the last day. Throw all your anxiety onto him, because he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:5b-7 (translation from the Common English Bible). What is more comforting than the words: “Throw all your anxiety onto him, because he cares about you.”?
Over the next weeks, life may not quickly get back to normal. We will need one another all the more. Each of us will need to call and contact folk we would generally just give a nod or a polite smile. Further, we can call on God. We are not alone. With Paul, I am daily convinced, “…. that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created” (Romans 8:38-39).
Please know that you are in my prayers. Remember me.
Loving Jesus, you are compassionate to those in need and heal the sick in body and mind. Look kindly on those who are fearful at this time. Help us all to put away all thoughts and actions that separate us from you and from one another. Give us grace to live our lives confident in your promise that you are with us always. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbor, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to care for the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love, for your name’s sake. Amen.