Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Luke 12:6 ESV
Still in the grip of a pandemic after two years it is time to decide what matters most. We cannot continue as if all will return to normal. We must choose what is valuable enough to live for in spite of a risk that will never go away. Jesus tells us that, while 5 sparrows had almost no value to people, every one mattered to God. In the same way, the spiritual life of those in long term care has been undervalued during the pandemic. While their basic physical needs of food, medicine and clean clothes are filled, their hunger for the presence of family, friends and neighbors has been denied. Spiritual needs of someone to pray with or receiving communion are forgotten, though their room is still mopped and lunch is served. Of course we volunteers should be held to the same standards as those who are paid to care for physical needs of residents, but we must not give up on seeking ways to serve. Remember that when God gives us green pastures and still waters it is not without a cost. Is what we do for others worth giving our lives as well? The love of Jesus at Calvary gave value to our lives far above sparrows. How can we not do the same for our precious brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends in long term care?
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Psalm 85:6 ESV
During the pandemic many of us began to get just a small taste of the loneliness that those living in long term care face daily. During the height of the lockdowns people rarely left home and when forced to go out, there was both social distancing, as well as the wearing of masks making everyone seem anonymous. Some of us dealt with the isolation by watching endless reruns, others rearranged the furniture or put together 1,000-piece puzzles. While these activities distracted us for a while, our problem was that God created us for community. We were created to share life together. Now, after more than a year of social separation many of us have forgotten how to connect. The good news is that God has a restoration plan. Notice that today’s reading focuses on the word “Us”. Just as the Lord’s Prayer begins with, “Our Father”. This Psalm of David begins with the cry, “Revive us!”
His prayer reminds me of a story my father told me of his time in the war. During the invasion of Anzio his landing craft was hit with a bomb. His ship exploded and he along with everyone on aboard were thrown into the sea. Dad only remembered beginning to swim and then losing consciousness. Later he woke up on the beach with a severe head wound. His unit had been separated by death and destruction, and yet his healing took place in a hospital, surrounded by other people. That is what God has for us today as well. He has a plan to revive and restore each one of us. No bombs that have separated us in this battle can destroy God’s plan. If we put our trust in Him, our wounds will heal and by His grace we can rejoice together again!
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall loveyourneighborasyourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31-32 ESV
When I was a young man I worked as a tree surgeon for many years. We tree climbers were a unique breed who loved working outdoors, had an unhealthy desire to risk life and limb (no pun intended) and to a man we all hated tree paint! “Tree paint?” you might ask. “What in the world is that?” Well try to imagine the contents of the La Brea Tarpits where the dinosaurs died and imagine further it being packed into cans with short brushes. Yup – those were our paint pots and we carried them everywhere throughout every tree we pruned. The rule was that every cut we made larger than a quarter must be slathered with that sticky black stuff. We got tree paint in our hair (No fun getting that out at night). It also ruined every shirt, pair of jeans and work boots and even worked its way into some rather private locations! But somewhere in the late 1970’s one wonderful scientist found out something that was the best discovery since chocolate: tree paint didn’t work! Yes! You heard it right. The very stuff we had been carrying out to the furthest limbs of the biggest trees actually didn’t do a thing! The day our boss came in with the news, he phrased it like this, “Even though we know this doesn’t help the trees, our customers are so used to seeing it that we may need to phase it out gradually.” Most of the men laughed, then cheered, and went out back of the shop and gleefully tossed their tar pots into the dumpster!
That scene from years ago reminded me of the news the other day that those of us who are fully vaccinated pretty much aren’t going to need our masks anymore, especially outside. Here in Florida with temperatures climbing into the 90’s that is great news indeed! I am just grateful that we are nearing the end of this terrible pandemic and am not shy about tossing the memories of empty streets and full emergency rooms, along with some of my worn out masks right into the dumpster! But there are a lot of people still very afraid – just like our customers and they will need time to adjust. We do need to be thoughtful as we slowly get back to normal, because following Jesus means being thoughtful and that includes being kind and loving all our neighbors!