Excerpted from Enough for All, a Lenten Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
Amanda Gorman in her inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb” begins with the lines:
When day comes we ask ourselves
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast,
These words struck me because they describe what I am feeling: a sense of exhaustion and frustration in this time of Covid. The poem feels timely for the collective moment we are living, but also for the season of Lent. We are in a time of multiple conflicting emotions and as we gaze on the liturgical calendar we find ourselves in a time of reflection and preparation.
We have hope that this dark period is coming to an end as the vaccine rollout continues, but there is still much to reckon with about this past year. I wonder if Jesus, fasting and praying in the wilderness, would relate to Amanda’s words the same way we do. When the spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness for those 40 days and 40 nights, it was a time of trial for him and also a time of self-reflection.
Last Lent, my friend Damien preached at my church that our experience of Covid could be compared to Jesus’ time in the desert. I could certainly relate to that message a year ago, but now almost a year later his words resonate even deeper. Our lives during Covid have been full of struggles and hard questions. Many of us have been separated from our families and friends. We have been challenged to rethink the way we worship, stay in touch, and work.
For me, this has also been a time of self-reflection. I have learned how to be resilient in times of crises, but I have also learned about my personal limitations and the importance of rest. Our time in the desert is coming to a close, but we cannot walk out of the desert without reflecting on what we have learned.
In the words of Amanda Gorman:
When day comes, we step out of the shade
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.