I don’t watch much television, but a week ago Sunday, I stumbled on A Holly Dolly Christmas Special, a Christmas entertainment show featuring country music icon Dolly Parton. It was at the end of the show, and Dolly was singing her new song, I Still Believe, for the first time. Tears rolled down my face as her music tugged at my heartstrings.
Even though we’re walkin’ through the valley of death
Scared and wonderin’ what happens next
Uncertainty, division, anger and the rest
I still believe
Questions of what and why and when
What is it, why it happened and when will it end
These are strange and crazy times that we’re living in
But I still believe
As a state, as a country, and as a world, we have been walking together through the shadow of death for the past nine months as COVID-19 ravages our earth. No one is left untouched. Schools are struggling with how to best keep students safe, millions of people have lost jobs, and we desperately miss seeing our friends and family as we isolate at home.
I believe to my very core we’ll walk again
in the sunshine by the seashore
That we’ll dance and we’ll sing and be happy again
Don’t know how or when but we will again
You’ll see I still believe (I believe)
Our world has not experienced a health emergency like this since the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu), which infected an estimated 500 million people in four successive waves. Words like “hoax,” “illusion,” “deception,” “fraud,” and “ruse” have been used by some to debunk the reality of COVD-19. The refusal of some to take the pandemic seriously has also undermined an effective response to the coronavirus. The sight of maskless people putting others at risk by flippantly defying orders and potentially exposing others to COVID is terrifying. And yet… I Still Believe.
I believe there’s a day and it’s coming soon
Where we’ll unmask this face of doom
Walk hand in hand in perfect harmony
And I believe there are good deeds to be sowed
Nurtured with love to make them grow
I believe that faith can heal our bodies, minds and souls
Yes, that’s what I believe.
In the midst of so much grief, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness, we have also witnessed acts of heroism on the part of our health care professionals and other essential workers who serve us. While most of our churches are not holding worship in-house at this time, disciples of Jesus Christ are finding countless ways to reach out in love to their neighbors, the elderly, the sick, and those who live alone. In our neighborhood, five families have taken turns providing a Sunday soup supper for the group as a sign of neighborliness, grace, and solidarity.
On NBC’s Sunday Today (November 15), Parton said, “I think we’ve just become so divided because people just seem to love to hate. You know? This is the Christmas season coming up, but we need to carry that Christmas spirit of peace on Earth and loving one another. We need to carry that into the new year. And Lord knows, I hope next year is better than this one.” I still believe.
We’ve become hysterical, completely come undone
Oh, but I believe in miracles and that we’ll soon see one
And the world will be a better place when all is said and done
You gotta believe (I believe)
Our world will never be the same because of COVID-19. May the grace we demonstrate toward one another, the unselfishness we exemplify when we social distance and wear a mask, and the restraint we show when refraining from family gatherings because we do not want to cause an outbreak, all witness to our oneness in Christ. What affects one affects all. When we do our part to stop the virus from spreading, we are contributing to the healing of others and our world.
One of the lectionary lessons from yesterday is this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians 5:16-34 (CEB), “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-224 CEB)
How can you and I release the Holy Spirit to move where it wills? How can we still hope in the midst of so much despair? How can we make a difference in our small corner of the world by loving our neighbor, wearing a mask, and reaching out to those in our community who are in desperate physical and spiritual need? How can we not believe? I believe.
I believe in a higher power and in the midst of our darkest hour
There’s a light so bright it can melt away hate and greed
That’s what I believe, I still believe, I believe
I believe to my very core we’ll walk again in the sunshine by the seashore
I still believe that we’ll dance and we’ll sing and be happy again.
In November, when Moderna made the announcement that its vaccine was 94.5% effective against the coronavirus, news spread that Parton had pledged $1 million to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help fund COVID-19 research. On November 17, Dolly tweeted, “When I donated the money to the Covid fund, I just wanted it to do good, and evidently, it is! Let’s just hope we can find a cure real soon.”
You know our hearts you know our needs
You see our fear; you hear our pleas
We come to you on bended knees
Through it all I still believe.
Even though we’re walkin’ through the valley of death I will fear no evil.
This past weekend, several million doses of the coronavirus vaccine began their journey from Michigan and Wisconsin across the country to various locations. The first doses, which were developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, will be given to high-risk health care workers on Monday. As we all wait for the vaccine, we let our health care professionals, essential workers, and the most vulnerable among us go first. As we wait, we pray for the unemployed, the sick, the recovering, and the grieving. And, as we wait, we become ambassadors of Christ who safely reach out to others with love and hope. Why?
Because we still believe. Will you still believe?