A favorite hymn was running through my mind last week as I participated in one virtual meeting after another related to COVID-19. It was reinforced by a recent Zoom meeting of the Council of Bishops, where we heard about countries whose struggles with COVID-19 are far more serious than ours in the U.S.
For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord;
for a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action, help us rise and pledge our word (2x).
(Tune: CWM RHONDDA: United Methodist Hymnal, #428)
The writer of this hymn, Fred Kaan (1929- 2009) was born in the Netherlands and was ordained in the United Reform Church. Kaan was a pastor in England and also served in ecumenical roles in Switzerland. His great love, however, was hymn writing, with a focus on justice, mercy, and abundant life for all people on our earth.
Statistics released last Friday show that nonfarm payrolls fell by 20.5 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%. These are both post-World War II records.The actual unemployment rate, including those not looking for jobs and those who are underemployed, surged to 22.8%.
As our world continues to struggle with COVID-19, how is God calling people of faith to live a life of love and action and seek a just and equal sharing of the resources of our earth?
Lead your people into freedom, from despair your world release,
that redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace.
Show us how, through care and goodness, fear will die and hope increase (2x).
One of the most important markers of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health is relationships. People the world over yearn for meaningful connections with others through care and goodness. Like many around the globe, my husband Gary and I connect with our three children and grandchildren every Sunday evening through Zoom. We don’t often have lots of news since we are all confined to home. However, there is comfort and hope in seeing the faces of those we love, laughing together, and offering support and encouragement.
How is God calling you and me to dispel fear and bring hope by reaching out to those who live alone or are afraid or have fallen onto despair? And how can our communities of faith create systems of caring through personal connection with the most vulnerable among us?
All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned:
pride of status, race or schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice may we hallow life’s brief span (2x).
My heart aches for the millions of students around the world who will not be able celebrate their graduations with friends and family. Nor are any of us able to gather for funerals/memorial services or weddings in ways we had hoped for. These milestones are so important, and it is wonderful to witness the creativity of family and friends as they honor these significant occasions.
Jesus said that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. What is it that kills abundant life in our world? Looking out only for myself? Refusing to help my neighbor? Criticizing those who look differently, dress differently, speak differently, or believe differently? Keeping score? Turning my back on human need?
You, Creator-God, have written, your great name on humankind;
for our growing in your likeness, bring the life of Christ to mind;
that by our response and service, earth its destiny may find (2x).
Clearly, the health and economic effects of COVID-19 continue to be catastrophic for our world. We were honored to have Vice-President Mike Pence visit Des Moines on Friday in response to a rise in confirmed infections in the state. Pence was meeting with religious leaders to encourage them to reopen churches responsibly. At the same time, most of the religious leaders who were present stated clearly that we are not ready yet for in-house worship and must put the safety of parishioners first. It was important dialogue with no easy answers.
About thirty miles from where Vice-President Pence was meeting is Tyson Foods pork plant in Perry where 730 employees – nearly 60% of its workforce – have tested positive for the coronavirus. Many of them are immigrants and refugees. More than 100 patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Polk County, which includes Des Moines. Karl Keeler, president of MercyOne Central Iowa, a major hospital system, told his staff last week that Iowa’s estimated rate of transmission for the virus remains among the highest in the nation. “Our community spread of the virus remains high. We have a lot of work to do.”
At the same time, we are discovering that in the midst of COVID-19, where so much travel and movement has come to a halt, the earth itself has begun to flourish. Our planet and its creature are beginning to heal, just as everyday life comes to a virtual standstill. Our “energy-friendly” quarantine lifestyle has resulted in less pollution, less waste, cleaner air, and a reduction of greenhouse gases. The earth it literally coming alive.
Fred Kaan based his hymn on Revelation 21. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring.
How will earth find its destiny? I suspect it will happen when we recognize that the God who dwells with us has written God’s name on humankind, upon each heart. When you and I grow into the likeness of Christ and respond by our stewardship of the earth and our love for one another, then our world will become whole again. To a life of love in action, help us rise and pledge our word.