BY I am writing this on April Fools’ Day. Yet, none of us are fools during this time.
The rise of COVID-19 has given all of us time to think and process. For my spouse Joy and I, we have taken a little time to sort through old pictures and recall great stories from our life. This has helped us continue to move through the quarantine being faithful to social distancing and the numerous advisories to stay safe.
Joy has also been working long hours. She is a professional in healthcare supply chain management. She is working diligently so hospitals and medical professionals can have the supplies they need. It’s Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m.
Joy just told me, “I’ve already had to respond to requests for cleaning products in North Carolina, sleeper / shower / laundry trailers for Louisiana, tents for rural Louisiana, and cots, beds, and air scrubbers for Arkansas. Just another morning start to a Coronavirus day.”
This is a time in all of our lives where we are adjusting to becoming practical. We are seeing human beings as incredibly designed people in need of care. As a deep thinker, I’ve been thinking through what I’ve learned over the years when I have been in preparation for Easter. I’ve asked myself: What are the practical lessons that I can learn from the Easter story? What am I seeing take place all around me – in our community, nation, and world?
Sure, one can focus on negative things, point fingers, and complain; but, what are the positive virtues that we all can focus on during this time as we navigate unchartered territory? Beyond the busyness and preparation that I have always encountered while getting ready for Holy Week and Easter, there are some universal virtues that can be applied to all of our lives. I draw these virtues from the teachings and example of Jesus.
However, other traditions of faith and examples of humanity teach me the same, or similar virtues. Overall, people around us are living out these virtues these days in real time. The first virtue is humility.
I recall that on the Thursday before Christ was crucified and prior to celebrating the first Eucharist, he knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples. It was customary in the first century that persons removed their sandals before entering a home. The washing of the feet was the job of the servant of the house. No one ever imagined that the Messiah would actually perform the washing of the feet. Yet, on this day, Jesus took on the role of a servant.
I am grateful for so many of you in our community that live your lives with humility. Our current time has required humility from all of us. Humility is a universal virtue where we think of others before we think of ourselves. Some of us have been forced into humility because of situations we have encountered and some of us can be naturally humble. Either way, humility says, “You are important, you are worth it, and I am here for you.”
The second virtue is sacrifice. My faith tradition teaches me that the Christ sacrificed his life so that others can live. He did this in humility, even as those gathered around him cast lots for his clothing and pierced his side. We are living in a time where self-sacrifice is helping others to live. Every time we decide to stay home, limit close encounters, and practice hygiene we are helping our community. Doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, and first responders are living this out as well.
Those who deliver goods and services so that we might live, put themselves at risk every day during these times. But what if we added something to sacrifice? What if we looked closely through the lenses of those who are in need in our community? I know for me personally, I often don’t take the time to look.
Norman Vincent Peale once said, “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”
There are simple things we all can do during this time that might surprise us. One of those is that when we go grocery shopping; if we are able, we can purchase an additional bag of groceries to drop off at our local food banks. We can look through the eyes of those in need and be a provider. Or for those who are lonely, we can feel the needs of their hearts and be listeners.
Self-sacrifice always includes allowing ourselves – our lives – to benefit others. This is what Jesus did on the cross. Self-sacrifice so that others may live and be whole can be our Easter offering! The third virtue is resurrection. New life. It is what we all anticipate. It is also the hope that we live. We know that difficult times will not go on forever. We know that a new day is rising.
I grew up where there were four seasons. Spring was my favorite time of the year. It was the time when the dormant winter was replaced with budding dogwoods and springing bulbs. It was a season that said, year after year, that life blooms and that life is beautiful. It reminds me that in the face of darkness there is hope and there is a future. This is the Easter promise for all of creation.
This will definitely be a different kind of Holy Week than I have ever experienced. But perhaps what makes it holy anyway is the virtuous goodness of the Christ teaching us to humble ourselves, to come alongside others, and to point to the hope of resurrection. Be an encourager. Be kind.
Matthew Williams is the pastor of the Lighthouse United Methodist Church of Boca Grande.