Date: April 5, 2020 Palm Sunday
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
Reflection: Rev. Kim P. Wells
Last weekend, I heard an interview with an EMT on National Public Radio. The man has been in the profession for over twenty years. He has dealt with many difficult situations. Part of his job is telling people when their loved one has died. He is familiar with being the one to break the news to the spouse or the parent that their beloved has died. That is part of his job and that is part of why he went into that work. He wanted to be the one to serve people in such times and to offer the tenderness and consolation that is so important in those tragic situations.
And now this EMT is in the midst of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York where there are many deaths. He talked about having to tell a family that their loved one had died of the virus. From 6 feet away. Without a hand on their arm. Without offering his shoulder to absorb their sobs. Only able to give words across what felt like an abyss without physical human touch. He said after delivering the news they all turned to go. He went back to the ambulance. Got inside. And cried. For the first time in his career. Not being able to offer physical touch as human consolation was his undoing. He said it is the hardest thing he has done in his entire professional life.
We have a health care professional in our church family who is on the front lives of COVID-19 working as a nurse in the pulmonary unit at an area hospital. One way to look at this is, How awful. Poor thing. Facing such demanding, scary circumstances! Literally putting her life on the line.
Another way to look at this is that she is doing what she has been called to do. She was called to serve in the healthcare profession, to help take care of people who are sick, to offer treatment and solace to those who are suffering. And here she is able to do just that. She has been given the opportunity to do what she was called to do, to fulfill her life’s mission, to offer the service that she is meant to give. And when it is desperately needed. How beautiful that she is able to do that.
Today we remember Palm Sunday and the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey in a procession of sorts with onlookers waving palm branches. He knew that his life was in danger. He knew the religious leaders wanted to have him killed. He could have snuck into the city for the obligatory Passover observance. He could have gone on the down low; used some kind of disguise that would have hidden his identity from the random public and from those seeking to kill him. Instead, we are told of a procession. A public event. Making a scene. The people know exactly who he is. They shout, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee!” Jesus does not retreat from being a conduit of Divine Love. He doesn’t look for the easy way out. He doesn’t play it safe. He does what he is here to do. He does what he is called to do. He lives God’s dream.
I think it is timely that the corona virus pandemic has erupted in the season of Lent. This is an introspective season. A time to reflect and reconsider. A time to be still and know. As we said on Ash Wednesday, a time to re-turn our lives to God. This pandemic is creating an opportunity for us to think about our lives, our society, our government, our economy, our values, our spirituality, our family, our faith community, and our relationships, in new ways. It is giving us time to think and process instead of being lost in our obsessive work and busy-ness. This is a time to explore and examine our inner terrain – as individuals and as a society.
It is a time to consider how we need to put the common good, the welfare of others, the health of everyone and the planet itself above self protection and personal gain. This is why Jesus went to Jerusalem. He was not going to stopped.
We are hearing a lot these days about mitigation. Mitigation is the act of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. So, yes, we are talking about the mitigation of COVID-19; reducing the spread and severity of the impact of the of the virus. And we should be mitigating COVID-19.
But usually the concept of mitigation is applied in a different way. We want to mitigate the sacrifice we will have to make. We want to mitigate what it will cost us to get something done. We want to mitigate the inconvenience or the effort we will need to expend. We want to mitigate our personal sacrifice. Mitigate is often about reducing the seriousness or severity of the impact to our bank account or personal comfort or individual choice.
Jesus did not mitigate the personal cost to himself, the price he would have to pay, for expressing ultimate love that would threaten the current power arrangements of his day (and ours). Nurses and healthcare workers and EMTs don’t mitigate their personal discomfort when it comes to helping others.
I saw this on Twitter this week:
“My mom is a 69 year old nurse and her hospital is deploying her to the front lines next week
She called me to tell me where important documents are, if ‘something happens because this virus kills and kills quick’
Now I know how it feels to have a loved one to war”
Roland Scahill 3/28/20
“And to be clear, this isn’t a criticism of her hospital, but to point out that nurses don’t stop. Ever.
They have no fear.
They save lives.”
So, in these corona days as Lent draws to a close and we remember Jesus’ triumphant procession into Jerusalem on a donkey to meet his meet his death, we can think about how we are joyfully, wholeheartedly, sacrificially expending our lives to relieve suffering, to contribute to the common good, and to live out our life’s purpose – to love. Amen.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)