I will be honest. I don’t like being stuck in the house. I don’t like isolation. I have been social, since birth according to my parents, and so for me social distancing has been difficult. For many of you this has only been in place for a few weeks now. But for me with a new baby I have been “social distancing” for 6 weeks and counting. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the quiet, to allow for our minds to go to dark places, or to become panicked about what is happening in the world around us and the risks we all face. It becomes easy to lose hope.
This is when the Bible can be our light in the dark times. This is where we can use this copious free time to work on our faith and to begin the practice of prayer and connecting with God amidst the quiet. Or, if you are in a situation like me, you can work on this amidst the intense chaos. You would think that staying home all the time would give me more free time but it is the opposite between working and caring for two children under two. But in times of pandemic, in times of grief, in times of loneliness and anxiety, what we need is Christ not more stress. What we need is a word of hope.
Corona Virus comes at a unique time in the Christian calendar, Lent. Lent by definition is a time of introspection, a time of darkness, a time of sorrow for many people. Our scriptures also remind us of the darkness of the world as well. The people of Israel constantly lived in fear, isolation, darkness, and anxiety. In Ezekiel those bones that he was commanded to preach to, weren’t there because they lived to a ripe old age and died of natural causes. They were the remnants of people slain by the Babylonians during a time of conquest. So many people were killed that there was no time to bury the remains but rather they were left there to the elements, a constant reminder of destruction and death.
They were from a very dark time in Israel’s history, the Diaspora. Yet God urges Ezekiel to trust in him, to trust that even in the darkest of times he had the power to breathe life into everyone even when all seemed lost. He even had the power to reanimate the lifeless bones. There is hope even when all hope seems lost. This is the very same message that Christ preaches to his disciples and the people of Israel in his time. This is the very same message that we are to take away from the story of Lazarus. Christ purposefully allows for his friend to die even though it pains him greatly to do so, so that down the road you and I can see that through Christ even the darkest moments do not need to overtake us if we trust in God. Death itself does not have the final say.
Mary Karr, an award winning poet and memoirist, writes “If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then – for me, anyway – a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren’t yet operational. There’s been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible”. We are living in a time of darkness. The world is changing. Our lives have changed drastically already in just a short period of time.
These changes are going to be hard for all of us. We may be living through our personal hells right now. Some may lose people they love, others mourn their freedom, and yet others mourn the loss of their communities with these social distancing recommendations. We are in a state of grief right now. We need to recognize it. We may identify with Martha and Mary moved to tears over the state of the world. We may be like Christ and want to weep for what is happening to our neighbors and communities. It is healthy and ok to do so. But we must remember that even though there is darkness, it will not last forever. Even though we may weep and grieve throughout this time, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Remember even Christ, who knew what was to happen, wept in pain at the death of Lazarus. Yet he was comforted and comforted those around him with the idea that this was not forever, that with God death is not the end. With God, we do not need to give into those darker thoughts and emotions. We can recognize them and take heart for we are not alone. God walks with us through the darkness looking to lead us to the light once more.
Yes our lives are changed forever. Our previous understanding of the world is dying but in its wake what will God reveal to us? It is up to us to find out and to rebuild our lives and our understanding of the world around that. In Jesus’ time the world learned that death was not the finality of life. In Ezekiel’s time conquest and death was not the end of a nation. Corona virus does not need to be the end of our world either and it does not need to be the definition of our days. So please stay home and safe but use this time to pray, to study your scriptures, to reconnect with loved ones in conversation (phones and internet still work), connect with the natural world on walks and bike rides, and turn off the 24 hour news and do not allow for the coverage to destroy your days. Allow for this time to build you up in faith and strengthen your relationship with God. Perhaps this is the message we can take from our stressful Lenten journeys this year. Remember the words of our scriptures and allow them to build up your resolve. God reassured the people of Israel and us when he said, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord”. God’s spirit is in each of you. Tap into it and connect with the essence of God in your lives even amidst what may seem like the apocalypse. Work this week to connect with God. Pray, meditate, walk and notice the world in new ways and find God very much alive in these troubling times.
 Mary Karr, 21st century Poet and Memoirist.
 Ezekiel 37: 14, NRSV.
(Based on Ezekiel 37: 1-14 and John 11: 1-45)