This week I found comfort and meaning in the words I’m sharing below. They come from Rev. Jake Morrill, a Unitarian Universalist minister who leads the UU Christian Fellowship. Their tagline is “freely following Jesus.” Christianity is not my primary faith source, and I don’t identify as a Christian. I did grow up as a Christian, however, so Christianity is my faith of origin.
Just as there are Unitarian Universalist Buddhists, and Unitarian Universalist Pagans, and Unitarian Universalist Atheists, there are surely Unitarian Universalist Christians. Here are the words of Rev. Jake. If you want to get their emails like I do, contact them at email@example.com.
As we read in Psalm 34:17-18, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”
I’m relying on words like these this week, through these unsteady days. Not because I believe, with wishful thinking, that God will erase the pandemic all at once; or that the economy will bob up from its depths, and trundle on, unaffected. I’m leaning on God’s power and peace this week because, in it, I find that source of ever-present and holy love, which companions the broken-hearted, binds up the wounds, and weeps with those who weep. This week, I’m leaning on God’s power and peace because, in the storm of the headlines and the storm of my own anxiety, in God’s love, I find shelter.
Ever-present and holy love. That’s what I believe in, and where I find common faith with this UU Christian. I believe there is love within me, between you and me, and beyond me in mystery.
What do you have that sustains you in difficult times? Do you believe in a God like the one found in the Bible verse above, who “is near to the brokenhearted”? Do you have faith in humanity, the goodness within us that calls us to help one another in a crisis? Do you have faith in nature--the unfolding of life and death, stars, planets, grass, flowers, rivers—is that where you go to feel grounded and at peace?
May you find what sustains you in hope. May you hold onto that during this crisis and know that you are not alone.
God, Spirit of Jesus, Mother Nature, Merciful Allah, Great Spirit, hear this prayer.
May we be held by hope and faith. May we find comfort and meaning in the Bible, in poetry, in sacred texts, in words and images we find on the internet. May we maintain and strengthen our ties with loved ones—those we are sheltering in place with, and those who are far away.
May we be reminded that all of humanity is one. We are one in love, we are one in sharing this fragile, fleeting precious life on this beautiful spinning blue-green planet.
I am writing this column to address the elephant in the room: the coronavirus. As a daily consumer of national and world news, I’ve followed this disease during its outbreak in China in recent months. In a similar way, I followed the news of the Ebola virus a few years ago. That disease stayed “over there,” being confined to Africa. This disease has gone from “over there” to over here, currently with an outbreak emerging in Washington state.
In a few days, I will talk with the board of trustees about the Fellowship’s contingency plans for if and when the coronavirus is in this community—logistics and policies about risks and communication and best practices. In this moment, however, I am reflecting on the spread of this disease from a personal, human, emotional / spiritual perspective.
I’m scared. The experience of following this disease on the news feels like a super slow-motion disaster…one that’s far in the distance and coming inevitably but unpredictably closer. Fundamentally, the epidemic is challenging my false sense of invulnerability.
I’m 51 years old. My parents are both long-lived; I’m physically fit and don’t get sick very often. It’s tempting to think that I’ll be fine, even if the disease spreads here. I’ve lived a life of privilege. Hardships that have affected other communities and other countries haven’t hit me.
And, I’m scared. This is the fear of death, my own death and the death of my loved ones (including my parents and step-parents). The spiritual work is to name this fear. The spiritual work is to confront the fact that we all are dying, and to come to peace with that.
I’m writing this and I think—the Buddhists have a lot to say about this. I remember, “Thich Nhat Hanh said something useful about this, maybe I can find that again.” What I found was a 92-second video of Thich Nhat Hanh speaking about death and it is one of the most profound and wise things I’ve ever heard. It made my fear dissolve into laughter. Watch it here if you have internet and 92 seconds to spend:
And here is the transcript of his words:
When you look at a cloud, you think of the cloud as being. And later on, when the cloud becomes the rain, you don’t see the cloud anymore--and you say the cloud is not there. And you describe the cloud as non-being. But if you look deeply, you can see the cloud in the rain. And that is why it’s impossible for a cloud to die. A cloud can become rain, or snow, or ice, but a cloud cannot become nothing. And that is why the notion of death cannot be applied to reality. There is a transformation, there is a continuation, but you cannot say that there is death, because in your mind to die means from something you suddenly become nothing. From someone you suddenly become no one. And so, the notion of death cannot apply to reality, whether to a cloud or to a human being. And the Buddha did not die, the Buddha only continued, by his sangha, by his dharma, and you can touch the Buddha in the here and the now. And that is why ideas like being born and dying; coming and going; being and non-being should be removed by the practice of looking deeply. And when you can remove these notions, you are free and you have non-fear. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Spirit of Life and Love, presence that transcends death, be with me now.
Grant me the courage to name my fear, to bring it into the light where I can see it and deal with it.
Grant me the wisdom to see that death will come-- I just don’t know when--and that death is part of life, not to be feared.
Sprit of love and compassion, be with those who are sick with coronavirus. Be with those who are sacred that they might be sick. Be with those, the health care workers and officials, who are toiling to keep others safe and healthy, even though they risk their own health and safety. Give us strength and understanding as a nation, as a race, as a human species, in the face of this profound threat.
May we be well in our spirits, minds and bodies. May we be free from fear.
Amen. Aho. Blessed Be.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
Drew's office hours are suspended until further notice. However, he is reachable at any time via email, phone, or text.
Day off: Monday
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