In these times, travel isn’t what it once was, yet new experiences, milestones, and transitions continue to be facts of life. We are transported by web conference or YouTube or fiction to other times and places. We may be traveling to different identities or states of being: graduating, retiring, grieving, welcoming children into the world, re-naming ourselves, or making other journeys of discovery. There are some people who must move in body, perhaps to start a new job, to care for a loved one, to downsize due to economic necessity, or back and forth to essential work. Our prayers go with all of these travelers crossing thresholds into different places and/or new phases of life. During this service, we’ll celebrate a Bridging Ceremony for those who are graduating from YRUU and becoming part of the adult community.
John O’Donohue writes that a phase of life that is passing away “intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up.” I hope that is true. I hope it is true that the intensity we are now feeling — the anger at police violence and other forms of white supremacy, the deep grief over lives lost, the disgust at blatant appeals toward fascism — I hope that intensity means we are heading into a mass awakening of the mind, heart, and soul that will settle for nothing less that collective liberation.
We are, indeed, surrounded by and filled with complex and overwhelming emotion. I don’t know about you, but I can barely contain my rage and sadness. I have a hard time concentrating. And I can only imagine what my beloveds who are Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color are feeling, how being both used to the persistence of white supremacy and yet being traumatized anew by recent events weigh on these friends and family. I am praying with and for you, for your safety, for your families, for you to be held in love. As I said in my pastoral letter last Sunday, A white supremacist system is working through humans to rob our beloveds of the breath of life. It is our moral and spiritual responsibility to respond to the deadly evil of racism.
In the midst of this violence, in the midst of racist rhetoric, in the midst of peaceful medics and clergy being driven away from a church so that the occupant of the White House can pose for a photo that makes a mockery of faith, in the midst of militarized response to people exercising their right to protest, in the midst of our own Governor sending National Guard troops to DC to attack their fellow citizens, we keep moving across other thresholds.
This year’s graduates from high schools, colleges, and other institutions find themselves marking the occasion like no other class in history, and they face challenges that echo but are not quite like any other class in history. I wish those of us who graduated some time ago could have prepared a more hospitable world by now, but I am glad this year’s class is here, ready for the world as it is and will be, already involved in the struggle for a just and sustainable society.
So many among us and around us keep adapting to changes in our calling, our vocation, our ways of paying the bills and getting by. I am thinking of hospital workers – nurses, doctors, techs, custodians, everyone who creates an environment for healing – and how they have patched together personal protective equipment from wherever they can find it, workers who know that they won’t get a raise or a bonus for their heroic work and may even be laid off thanks to our for-profit healthcare system. And then we look at the tax money being fired out of tear gas canisters and rubber bullet launchers, a seemingly endless supply of resources when the purpose is repression rather than health and well-being. The way medical staff go to work has changed. They are on the brink of something new, too. The way we do our jobs has changed for so many people, and has not changed enough for some of the most vulnerable workers. And who has a job has changed a lot in the last five months. These passages deserve noticing. Major thresholds should involve some ritual.
People keep moving, some people many miles away. Veronika spoke about her upcoming move to Florida, and how she will need to find new ways of saying goodbye, new ways of staying connected, new ways of creating a life for herself. She reminds us to keep an eye out for people who might need a friend, to ask “when can I drop off these groceries” instead of “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Worship services may be online for some time; it is important to consider as a community what it means to welcome the stranger, what it would mean to harbor someone, how to be a place of hope and healing when a new person enters in a new way during this time of doing everything differently. As you prepare to welcome Rev. Kristin in August, the beginning of that relationship is another one that will require new rituals, new ways of marking thresholds.
Through all of this, loved ones are dying. Tanya spoke about the loss of her uncle, a revered elder in her family and in her community. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, we have lost over 100,000 Americans to the virus. That is 100,000 uncles, aunts, parents, children, spouses, people who were loved and valued, people who probably did not get a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones in person before they crossed the threshold. Families are finding ways to mark the passage, finding ways to connect with loved ones around the globe in their grief and to honor the life that has passed. We need these rituals, and we also need national rituals of mourning. We need to commit to each other’s well-being in solidarity with the families who grieve, and to prevent as many future deaths as possible.
Many of us are not covering a lot of distance these days in terms of miles (some of us are), but all of us are travelers. Some of us have rougher terrain than others, especially in this time of blatantly violent white supremacy, this time of undisguised ableism, this time when property gets more respect than people. Our journeys are not equal, yet they have in common the need for our attention.
We are gathered on a threshold. The voice that calls to us will ask something different of each person. We may not have chosen to be at a turning point. We do have some choices about how to understand and act on our response. The voice that is calling us forward asks us to live by our values. Let us engage and awaken our passionate hearts. The time has come to cross.
So be it. Blessed be. Amen.