Sunday, May 23, 2021

Hope for Post-Pandemic Times | Pentecost 2021

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place."Acts 2:1 NRSV

People gathered for a common purpose can have great power.     

The past year, being one of pandemic and social isolation, has been a rough one for many people. Sickness, hospitalization, and death have been the experience of families around the world. For those who managed to avoid getting sick and who had no one close suffer with the virus, there was still the daily struggle of adapting to life primarily lived indoors. I feel especially for parents of young children who've had to monitor their children to keep them focused on schoolwork while, also working to continue to support their families. As an introvert, 'homebody,' and father of grown children, the circumstances of the past 12+ months didn't post a huge challenge for me personally. I've been able to work and study remotely, and everything I feel I need, I have. And yet, Pentecost has reminded me of a way in which I do miss some gatherings.

The week prior to my first trip to Brazil in 1997 was one spent at a retreat. About 50 or so young Christian young people had signed up and raised money to go to other countries to get a taste of mission work for two months, and I was one of them. The sending organization rented a retreat center and our days that week were spent together in classes, team bonding activities, meals, and more. It was a profoundly spiritual experience, one that got me out of my head and able to connect a little better with my heart, which was going to be essential for the following several weeks living in a country with different customs, cuisine, and language from what I'd always known.

Experiences like that, bringing a sense of heaven on earth, are few and far between, in my experience, and in recent times they've been practically impossible.

Over the past year the world has experienced the first global pandemic since 1918, and 3,464,312 have died as of this writing. Not so bad when compared to the 20th century pandemic, which took the lives of between 20 and 50 million, until you consider that our recent lower numbers are due almost certainly to better medical science, and further reflect on the fact that each of those more than 3 million people were human beings with thoughts, feelings, hopes, and loved ones. I've been fortunate to have lost few that I know, although I had the shock of finding out a couple of weeks ago that my psychiatrist had died of COVID-19. 

In time we'll learn to feel comfortable again with one another in close quarters. At least, so I hope will be the case. Online gatherings have been a useful outlet for social connection, and has opened up possibilities to attend seminars and conferences that previously would have required travel and significant expense. Still, those just aren't and never will be the same as joining in heart, mind, and hand with others to seek what's highest and best. Perhaps, as this Pentecost comes and goes, we're passing through a gateway into new possibilities and a greater appreciation for being with one another. We could use a fresh wind blowing through the world right now, clearing the confusion, cooling tempers, and renewing our lives.