This week and next, the Ethics and Religion Talk panel shares some words of encouragement and hope to address the uncertainties and fears of living under the shadow of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In the Jewish community, some of the anxiety stems from concern over how to celebrate the upcoming Passover holiday, a holiday typically celebrating in large gatherings of congregations, family groups, and friends. Here are some thoughts that I have shared:
Think back to the first Passover. The meal was eaten after a series of plagues destroyed the countryside, leaving devestation in its wake, and in the midst of a final plague, resulting in the death of the firstborn all around them. And the next morning, they left Egypt with Pharaoh’s army on their heels. But in the midst of this chaos, they celebrated coming together as a people in relationship with God, who brought them from subjugation to redemption.
So we too are celebrating Passover at a time of plague, a time of fear and darkness and isolation. And we, too, have found ways of connecting with each other and coming together as a community, albeit electronically, to continue to sing and pray together and support each other. May your Passover be a moment of calm and reflection within the chaos. When we cross the Reed Sea together and begin to emerge from our social isolation, may you free yourself from the things that keep your spirit yet imprisoned. And when we enter the promised land together, may we put aside the electronic devices and revel once again in face to face contact with our community!
Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:
“The most important thing we can do in a crisis as we are in is to cultivate optimism. To be clear, optimism is not escapism or a false sense of security. It is simply the healthiest mindset to have, both psychologically and physically. There is in Hinduism the allegory of the Paramhansa (literally, “Great Swan”). This swan could dip its beak into a glass of milk mixed with water, and consume all the milk and leave the water. We are encouraged to do the same. Within this challenge there are great opportunities for community support, charity, introspection, physical exercise. Take every chance to enjoy what is offered. And in navigating the very serious issues of health (should you be or become sick with COVID-19), finances, work, etc., do so with vigorous will and hope.”
The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:
“Dear Beloveds, I want to show you my tenderness,
Because you, like me, we have never been here before and the unknown is hard.
“Dear Tender Hearts, I want to offer you my grace and forgiveness
Because you, like me, we are learning, and we will make mistakes.
“Dear Precious Lambs, I want to give you my Love and compassion
Because, you like me, we need both right now more than ever.
“Dear Gentle Souls, I want to expose to you my vulnerabilities
Because you, like me, we often forget that this is where our power lives
“Dear Spiritual Companions, I want to bear to you my witness
Because you, like me, we need understanding and kindness for this is true Empathy.
“To My Loves, I want to express to you my JOY
Because you, like me, we have each other.”
The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:
“In these days when people are seeking for relief from their fears and anxiety, more than ever before, we need to realize that, true peace does not come from the circumstances. Realizing this, the apostle Paul encouraged his people with these words: ‘The God of peace be with you all.’ (Rom.15:33). Then, a few verses later, he reminds them that the God of peace will also do this: ‘soon Crush Satan under your feet.’ (Rom.16:20).
“What we take away from this is that, peace is embedded in who God is. Therefore, if we draw near to God, we will find peace even in the midst of this coronavirus crisis. Secondly, Paul’s words also help us realize that this God of peace of whom he speaks, the God that we worship, is in perfect control of the circumstances, so much so, that He will fight this battle for us too. Listen up! God is not only our defender, but also our provider and he will come through for us. So, the best thing we can do in these troubled times, filled with fear and anxiety, is to hang on to every promise he has given us. He will never leave us or abandon us. We are his creation. Draw near to Him! He is reliable! He will come through for us once again!”
This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up ina the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].
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