Gathering Gloom and Fickle Folks

Today the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles met together by Zoom with our bishops.  Bishop John has requested that we not distribute palm crosses, as our usual custom for Palm Sunday.  Furthermore, we will not even be gathering as a worshipping community this Palm Sunday!  Folks, we are in ecclesiastical lockdown.  Need I remind you of the church that recently met for worship in Florida against all common sense.  I guess they thought they could “pray away” the virus.  The upshot was disastrous – a new cluster of COVID-19 cases.

We will be missing the Renewal of Vows service at St. John’s Cathedral, Easter music, our floral cross Alicia and her helpers always prepare.  I’ll miss the Stations of the Cross lead by Deacon Pat.  I miss it all, and it sucks!  Gathering gloom.

More than that, what really sucks is the growing number of cases and attendant deaths now consuming our nation and the world.  It is scenes of exhausted nurses and doctors who’ve done all they could to save a COVID victim, only to helplessly witness another tragic death as the result of their frantic efforts. 

Governor Cuomo of New York was pained to inform his citizens that that state only has enough ventilators for six more days until their stockpile is exhausted.  No governor should ever have to deliver this sort of news to his or her people.  Hearts across America are breaking. Gathering gloom to be sure.

And yet, in some places we frolic about as if it’s eat-drink-and-be-merry time.  Let’s have a drink, go to the beach.  Many are behaving like the ill-fated passengers aboard that ocean liner in Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools.[1] 

With no national procurement policy, states are bidding up the price of priceless medical equipment, sometimes to over fifteen times the usual.  Price gouging in times of emergency used to be punished with heavy fines.  Even jail time.  I dare not even mention what President Lincoln did to war profiteers.  Now, it’s let the good times roll in our sacred free market. There’s a buck to be made.  Yes, gathering gloom.

Many who danced about and waved palm branches at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem would shortly be shouting, “Crucify.  Crucify.  Crucify,” at his trial later that week.  The sky would darken and rain beat down on the sodden stragglers.  Gathering gloom, indeed.

And as Bishop John reminded those of us “zoomed in,” God’s resurrecting work is not contingent on our diminished hopes.  God’s resurrecting promise may for a time seclude itself in a tomb of our ephemeral emotions and fears.  Neither life, nor death, height nor depth, coronavirus nor transient despair shall separate us from the love of God and our faith in the Christ Jesus.

There will be an Easter.  Count on it!  When Governor Cuomo put out the call for volunteer doctors and nurses this week, an entire relief battalion, 20,000 strong, answered from all corners of America.  Easter People, indeed!

Though we not be together for joyous Alleluias, yet an Easter will rise up in our hearts.  A spiritual and efficacious Eucharist awaits, though we gaze not upon the elements.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.  We will persevere as the Holy Feast itself.  We are God’s Easter.

May the Lord richly bless you as we move through Holy Week.  We long to hear each other’s voices and clasp familiar hands.  Peace, my sisters and brothers.

With love and affection,

Fr. John 

[1] Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1966)

Dear friends in Christ
April 5, 2020, Palm/Passion Sunday

The Rev. John C. Forney
Matthew 21:1-11, 26:36-27:66

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