The body is resilient. But, the Body is not well.

By the Reverend Jered Weber-Johnson

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“I believe that the community – in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures – is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.”

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

1 Corinthians 12:20-21

 

The body is resilient. But, the body is not well.

There will come a day in the not too distant future — weeks we hope, but likely months — when we will be able to say that this pandemic is over. The full toll this virus will take is still unclear. But, it has already illuminated much about the well-being of our individual communities, and about the health of our body as a nation. 

In some respects, the current Coronavirus outbreak shows us just how abundant, compassionate, and empathetic we can be as a people. The lengths that individuals, institutions, and business have gone to create a web of support around the most vulnerable in our midst, is laudable. The generosity and the resilience of so many, is truly amazing. We have adapted and sacrificed so much as a people in just days and weeks, all so that we could beat this pandemic.

The body is resilient.

Yet this present crisis also throws into stark relief the chronic unhealth that has long plagued our body. Social-distancing works for those of us privileged enough to have jobs and networks of support. For the poor, the unemployed, and many who live alone, this pandemic illuminates just how thin the margins are for survival. With school closures we have come to a full realization of just how dependent we are on teachers and educators for a whole host of social services. As volunteers dry up and the economy wobbles toward recession, nonprofits, food shelves, and homeless shelters are rightly concerned about their long term ability to serve the poor.

The body is not well.

Some of our leaders encourage a blatant disregard for the best wisdom and guidance from medical professionals, further jeopardizing the most vulnerable in our midst – the immunocompromised, the elderly, and those with respiratory conditions. Perhaps the most craven of all are those who would suggest that some lives are expendable for the sake of the economy — that corporations and profits matter more than the lives that will be lost if this pandemic is not checked. In this time when we are sheltering in place, we hear the language of “non-essential” businesses and workers, and it would appear that for some of our leaders there are essential and non-essential people. 

The body is resilient. But, the body is not well.

Scripture tells us that within the Body of Christ, there is no such thing as a “non-essential” member. Jesus teaches that we are all beloved of God, all regarded as of infinite worth to our Creator. And, the story of our faith is that Jesus died and rose to free us from sin and death, to make us well. 

When this pandemic has passed we who have celebrated Jesus’ victory over death and who have experienced his healing in our bodies through the love of this community and the sacraments, will fight like mad to heal the wider community of which we are a part. We will fight for an economy that values people over profits, a better safety net for our neighbors, and for a politics that reflects the best of what we’ve seen in these past weeks. 

For the first time in a long long time, the church will not gather together in a building to celebrate Holy Week and Easter. We will, like the first Christians, gather in our homes, with our nearest and dearest, or simply alone, and we will mark the days of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his betrayal, trial, and execution. And, in the dark of night, we will light candles, raise our full-throated alleluias, and observe with Christians scattered around the world, the Resurrection of our Lord. We will do these things apart from one another, not out of fear of a virus, but because we have been recipients of a love that knows no fear, that compels us to sacrifice, even distance ourselves from the community and sacraments we so cherish, as an act of love and care for others. 

Let us pray that we who celebrate and experience being buried with Christ in his death and raised to new life with him in his resurrection, might extend and share his healing love to the world. May we be hands that heal, lips that speak peace, legs that stand for justice, and arms that protect the vulnerable. 

 

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