By Pastor Chet Jechura
It has been one year since the COVID-19 pandemic began its sweep across the United States. Now, more than 500,000 Americans have lost their lives, leaving millions of families, friends, and colleagues throughout the country and around the world with a gaping hole of loss that will never be filled.
It is important we set aside time and space to lament the many losses imposed by the pandemic over the past year.
More than 1,000 Americans continue to die daily from COVID-19. For these families, the increased distribution of vaccines is bittersweet news. We grieve these lives now lost and the lives that will be lost in the time to come and pray for vaccine distribution to hasten in an equitable way so more lives can be saved, anxieties can be eased, and disparities can be eliminated.
In this past year, many have made significant sacrifices to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy and safe. We affirm these sacrifices made and name that we are still in this together.
For those essential workers—especially medical professionals; teachers; and others on the front lines working in grocery stores, repair shops, public transportation, and other retail spaces—we honor the fortitude it takes to be in the public every single day to ensure essential services continue for those whose survival and well-being depend on them, often while not earning a living wage.
For our neighbors around the world who face uncertainty as to when they will receive effective vaccines, we commit to advocating for a globally equitable distribution of the vaccine, no matter the resources required or financial cost. In our collective striving to end hunger and poverty, the sacred dignity of human life, racial equity, and our global interconnectedness must always be centered, with a focus on those that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemics of COVID-19 and racism.
The journey of this past year has been long and full of loss at every turn. We go on the journey together, even as those among us have lost loved ones along the way. The weight can be difficult to carry, so we carry the weight for each other as well.
In recent days, these encouraging words from the gospel hymn are resounding in my spirit like a healing balm: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.” As we continue to journey through the season of Lent toward the cross, the old, old story imparted to us through Scripture reminds us that God is with us on the journey. And even as Christ cried out in agony through the pain and humiliation he suffered on the cross, we know by faith that God was at work to prepare a way for the miracle that was soon to come in the garden at the empty tomb.
God’s love is a miracle. And the good news is that saving, healing miracle is available to us all. So, as we mark one year of enduring a global pandemic and its many losses and sacrifices, may we prepare ourselves to be amazed by what God’s love is already at work doing, even as we set aside time and space to lament.
Pastor Chet Jechura is audience engagement manager at Bread for the World and a seminarian specializing in public theology at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He will soon be commissioned a provisional elder in The United Methodist Church.