Covid finally found its way into my household a couple of weeks ago. I’m grateful that symptoms were mild and we are all vaccinated. Our daughter woke up on a Wednesday with symptoms and tested positive right away. I started to exhibit symptoms Thursday, which continued through Sunday, but never tested positive. Maybe it was a cold; maybe it was allergies; maybe it came and went before a test could catch it. I said to a friend on Sunday, “I feel badly resting if I don’t really have it.” She gave me one of those looks only a good friend can get away with and said, “if your body needs to rest it needs to rest. Listen to your body.”
We are not very good at listening to our bodies, these holy temples of God’s own making, are we? It’s almost a badge of honor in our culture to “work through the pain,” and we Christians are not immune. Before Covid, pastors led worship with the flu; deacons prepared communion with migraines; Council members sat through meetings with excruciating back pain; chaplains sat with the grieving and ill while their chronic illnesses flared up.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made us much more aware of our bodies and our health. That has brought anxiety and frustration. It’s also brought blessing, because it’s forced us to acknowledge what our biblical tradition proclaims again and again: our bodies matter! Not because of their functionality and productivity, but because they are divinely created.
I have a good friend who is an ecological educator and activist. She also takes her Jewish faith seriously. When she ran for city council, she declined to be at significant community events on Friday nights because they disrupted her Shabbat. This year, she is observing Schmita, the year of sabbath rest for the earth, and it has been fascinating to hear her reflect on what she is learning, spiritually and intellectually, especially as it pertains to her own body and the earth.
What does the Body of Christ need right now? I hear so many of you express deep weariness (in a workshop recently, I was reminded that this is a symptom of grief, which these pandemics have created plenty of). Does the Body of Christ need to rest? Then let us truly observe the Sabbath (and if our Sunday practices don’t offer that, let’s change them). Does the Body of Christ need to weep, to mourn? Then let us chant psalms of lament, ancient and new. Does the Body of Christ need to rejoice like Miriam and the Israelites across the Red Sea? Then let us grab our tambourines and raise our voices in praise. Is the Body of Christ hungry? Then let us break bread together, and be nourished by each other’s presence. What does the Body of Christ need? Listen!
Rev. Garrigan-Byerly accompanies congregations, clergy and committees on ministry in the North Central Region as they continually discern how to live the love and justice of Jesus in their context. She provides resources, support and holy provocation...