I’ll never forget the view of my three-year-old daughter connected to an oscillator. It’s the machine the critical care team brought in when the ventilator wasn’t doing enough for her sick lungs. I can still hear the whir of the machines breathing for her, the shake of the equipment keeping her alive. The memory is there, nestled into my soul, not far enough away to be hazy yet. The tubes, the drips, the doctor saying, “I don’t know.” A respiratory virus attacked her lungs and turned into life-threatening pneumonia and sepsis.
I’ve seen first-hand the trauma that comes with a critically-ill loved one. I have seen the compassion of nurses, the dedication of doctors. A community of loved ones rallied around our family, and after a month, my daughter returned to health.
I know not every story is the same.
As I continue to watch Coronavirus headlines unfurl, I take it seriously. I’m parenting two immunocompromised children. But I also see othering, fearmongering, and politicking bubbling up. You take care of yours, I’ll take care of mine. In moments of true worry, it’s easy to lean into our privilege in our preparation and in doing so, forget the poor and the vulnerable. We may not say it, but we whisper it in our actions: Everyone for themselves.
We may have to turn to physical isolation, but what’s more concerning is allowing fear to barricade our hearts, allowing us to fall into a rhythm of us vs. them.
READ: “Common Prayer: Making Liturgy Dance”
How do we respond as followers of Jesus?
It’s a question we must breathe into every headline, pandemic or not. How do we love with intention, in our communities and neighborhoods, in our families and social circles? How do we see beyond ourselves, live with compassion, and care for ourselves and all God’s creation?
I don’t know. But I do know that with every headline and update, we are welcomed to cast our very real anxieties onto God, the creator of all good things and the sustainer of every breath. May this liturgy act as a door to enter into conversation with the one who was, and is, and is to come. It may be read alone or in community. If with people, have the community read the bold words together.
As we have feared others,
And in doing so
Have contaminated our hearts.
As we have hoarded our resources,
And in doing so
Have abandoned our witness.
As we have desired control,
And in doing so
Have not loved our neighbor.
Comfort the afflicted among us.
In their loneliness, provide care.
In their sickness, provide health.
In their weariness, provide rest.
We grieve the contagious fear that we consume and spread.
Soothe our anxious minds as we read viral headlines.
And protect those who have been victims of racism and fear-mongering
Because of our dread of the unknown.
Protect us from the evil one
Who aims to use each update, not to inform or guide,
But to stoke the flames of chaos and confusion.
We thank you for health care workers
Who care for the sick and tend to bodies and souls
With great compassion and commitment.
Give them stamina.
Give them wisdom.
Give them grace.
We pray for those who lack access to health care,
Or safe places to rest their heads.
We pray for the vulnerable:
For the Kingdom is theirs.
We pray for the mother working paycheck to paycheck,
Who worries about her children and the job she can’t afford
To take time off from.
For she reflects Your image.
We pray for the chronically ill fighting invisible battles,
Hour by hour, day by day.
Nourish their bodies;
Protect their souls.
For they are never out of your sight.
We lament our roles in an empire
That values profit over human life
And takes advantage of our anxious spirits.
We acknowledge that we are not immune to the human condition,
And we repent from ways we have benefited
From dehumanizing systems and structures.
We ask for your Holy guidance
As we journey into the unknown.
Ignite in us a spirit of generosity;
Of hope and mercy;
Of grace and truth;
Of gentleness and self-control.
Cleanse our spirits,
Comfort our minds,
Care for our bodies,
And make us new.
We give thanks that you lavish your grace onto us,
Not pushing us into shame, but providing a steadfast comfort.
When all else falls away, we turn to You and You alone.
We pray this in the name of Jesus
Who healed the sick
And sat with the poor.