This past Lent, churches in my area were planning our annual Ecumenical Lenten Service. The title of the service was Stations of the Earth and the Cross. The date of the service was March 24th. It was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic when we were strongly advised to go home and hunker down. Maybe we will pick up the pieces of the service next year. It is hard to predict anything. There are so many pieces to pick up and some of them are pretty well broken.
But I could not drop the idea of stations of the earth and the cross. My broken heart and our shattered world makes every day a little or long journey from Good Friday through Holy Saturday and on some days to Resurrection Sunday. I still cannot gather in close company with my own parishioners, never mind our ecumenical partners. And yet I am called to keep praying, stopping, and weeping alone and along side (6 or more feet apart) others who are passionately disturbed and also overwhelmed with joy as God continues to meet us – in creation, in pandemic, and in physical isolation.
Early on I started sending prayers and photographs to my parishioners. Small ones. Personal ones. Prayers of hope for our world and each other. Prayers of delight in the overwhelming beauty and the quiet. Laments for the sick and dying. Here is one of the early prayers when snow was still on the ground.
O God you have showed us
time and time again that church
is not a building and not one form.
You told our ancestors that you would rather
be found in a tent
than in a temple
so how not surprising it is to see
that we too are now hunkering down.
Walking the streets
and the trails
talking to each other by computer
sinking into the silence and meeting you
in kindness, writ all over the faces
of neighbors around the world.
Bear with us Lord
as we try to bear with each other
and with this disaster of Biblical proportions.
Settle us. Help us to listen and obey
new requests to stop rushing about
and just stay home. May we breathe deeply
this cool air tonight and rest in your love. Amen.
Since those early days we have been grieving even more intensely and continuously as our towns and cities rock in protest over the horrific murder of George Floyd, who called out for his mother while he was choked to death. Jesus on the cross looked for his mother too. The prayers of the earth echo both of these men – tears of anguish, tears of grief.
This week on my prayer walk I went through the elementary school yard – now devoid of children. Only the garden seemed to thrive. I was drawn to a peony, wishing that the kids were there to weed the garden and to notice the ants already covering some of the buds. I wanted to lay down in the garden and listen to the bees humming. I thought of all the children of all races who attend this school and I prayed that someone is with them, holding them in love. This prayer came in the evening.
When I dive into the peony
I surrender all claims
that we are separate
flower and me, bud and bloom.
The sweet fragrance overtakes me
and I know why they say
that women swoon.
As we slide into early summer
one day sweat pouring off our skin
another day frost on the rooftops
peony and I hunker in the garden
our hearts weeping
for the beautiful world
calling out for relief.
My prayer today is a simple one.
Help us to know
that we are One
with you and with each other.
May It Be So. Amen
Today while I was on my walk on a trail leading down to the river, I stopped to take a picture of a cluster of yellow iris and another one of a young warbler who I imagined had fallen out of its nest. I sent one of the pictures to a friend and another to my wife. I know that there is a prayer here waiting to take shape. Meanwhile all I can do is wait.