The fear you feel right now, the unease that tightens your chest, clenches your jaw and disturbs your sleep is not simply worry about your income, productivity or health.
It is the creeping realization we are dependent beings, knit into a garment of mutuality and shared suffering.
The pandemic we now face has forced all of us to confront the lie of self-reliance, as I discussed in yesterday’s article.
The truth we have rediscovered in this moment is that we are finite. We are vulnerable. We depend on each other for everything we have.
And this revelation is so haunting because we do everything we can to hide it and elide it every day we live. The pandemic has us so profoundly worried because it has attacked the very illusions we live by.
In short, we need one another. Not simply when we are faced with viral contagion. Not simply because we are isolated or quarantined. This is simply who we are. We are created for one another, to flourish together or not at all.
The goods we have we hold in common and our need to possess and hoard them is what destroys them. We enter the world as beings profoundly in need of care. We depart from it the same way.
As Baptists, we should know better. We already knew this truth about ourselves through the gift of being the church.
We know we are not simply gathered individuals, but a community, a single body bound by more than simply preference, habits of association and patterns of worship practice. We are knit together, in the Spirit, to be one flesh, the body of Christ.
Our identities are not forged in isolation, then brought together on certain Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. We draw our identity from the shared body, as the shared body – all individual members of one corporate and corporeal whole.
Now, amid Holy Week, we continue our task of keeping holy time as we remember the travails of Christ’s human body. We contemplate his body in all our reading, study, preaching and worship.
We walk with that body through the tunic-strewn, donkey-trod, palm-waving roads of Jerusalem. We accompany it into the upper room and into the garden. We retrace its steps through betrayal and trial, through torture and anguish.
We witness its death, desolation and burial. And while we anticipate the resurrection of Christ’s body and our awaiting “Hallelujahs!” let us also mark the status of our own church body.
This Holy Week, let us ask ourselves, “Do we really believe we are one body?” If we do, I have to ask, “Do we live as if we are?”
COVID-19 has exposed many things, including our fundamental dependence on one another. It has also exposed all the faults and fissures where we are not yet one body. We are seeing the weight of this pandemic borne by rural Americans, black Americans and not-yet Americans.
Right now, we tend our ailing body.
But after the sacred timekeeping of Lent and the ordinary timekeeping of quarantine, will we continue our practices of common life and shared existence? Will we seek out those hurting places where we are not yet one, whole, healthy body?
That is my Holy Week prayer for us all.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part one is available here.