Love will Guide Us...Through this Hard Night
I have spent the last few months talking to pastors and rabbis about how they have led their churches and synagogues through this pandemic. In the spring of 2020 church leaders all had long-standing plans to preside at weddings, baptize babies, lead bar mitzvahs, preach sermons and pray at potlucks – all in crowded rooms. Then, suddenly, all these rituals and gatherings were forbidden when COVID made it dangerous to gather in community spaces.
Yet, most church leaders turned on a dime and pivoted within days or hours. They learned to lead groups on Zoom. They set up drive-through food distribution sites. They sent care packages. They visited people on their porches. They scaled the steep learning curves of online worship and re-wired their sanctuaries. They re-invented themselves and re-packaged church life for COVID times. They quietly took these timeless faith communities and re-purposed them.
Now, I would be the first to admit that many churches were showing their age; they needed to step into the 21st century. But pastors and rabbis have worked without respite or vacations, often, to step up in this moment in history. Why? Because they cared. They worried about the lonely confined to a hospital or nursing home room. They feared the elderly would feel isolated. They wondered how hungry families would get enough to eat. Then, guided by compassion, they rose to this occasion.
They loved their own people enough to re-envision everything they knew about how to do their jobs. They loved strangers who needed help enough to reach out in myriad ways. The Greeks have six words for love and the type of love they valued the most was “philia” the love between friends and people who believe in a cause. This Greek word is at the root of philanthropy and long ago philia was thought to be much more satisfying than any other kind of love including erotic love. The truth is, lately, most of us have been motivated by compassion for one another and the widespread impulse to become more loving is evident in lots of places if you look for it.
Love for others can bring out our best. That’s why Jesus said, Love your neighbor as yourself, because its good for your neighbor and for you. The clergy I spoke to, almost 50 of them, found courage and strength they didn’t know they had because they were needed. Though many are exhausted, they are also legitimately proud of the difference they have made. Concern for others brought out the best in them. It made them resilient.
The Unitarian Universalist's hymn says…
Love will guide us; peace has tried us,
hope inside us will lead the way on the road from greed to giving
Love will guide us through the hard night.
If you cannot sing like angels, if you cannot speak before thousands
you can give from deep within you.
You can change the world with your love.