In this "corona-time", so much has been written about grief. The grief of losing the normal. The grief of missing our families and friends because we are told they are too dangerous to be with right now. The grief of losing our jobs. The grief of losing loved ones and not being able to say goodbye because we can't be there for the funeral, or the funeral has to be put-off until a crowd larger than ten people can join in the memorial. The grief of lost vacation time. The grief of the over-worked hospital worker. The grief of trusting the government to care for us and then fail.
There has even been articles written about the grief pastors are going through as much of our work has been removed from us. Unable to do visits the way we wish. Unable to have time for teaching in groups. Unable to stand in the pulpit and see the faces of those to whom we are preaching. Unable to pray with groups and share our joys and pains beyond screen-time over Zoom or Facetime.
Many of us as pastors find ourselves exhausted. Having to learn new skills in order to provide worship for our people. To organize regular times for teaching and prayer over mediums that seem less conducive because we are talking to screens. Plus, add in the inability to make hospital visits apart from phone calls unless death is immediate, and we as pastors are left grieving even more, because we are tired and each week seems more intense.
Going even deeper, many of us now find ourselves comparing our ministries to others because we have the time to see what the "big" churches are doing. What our more creative colleagues are doing. What our denominations or synods are expecting, and we find ourselves weighed, measured, and found wanting.
I hit that point two days ago and fell asleep on the couch for three hours. Worrying about whether I was doing enough to care for my people. Whether my teaching and preaching was at all meaningful. Whether I had missed something or failed.
But this morning I realized something. The true grief I am feeling is the loss of my liturgical responsibilities as they connect to flesh and blood. The loss of the opportunities to lead my people through Holy Week. Not being able to have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday together in one place. Not to have the physical movements we often share as the gathered people of God. Not to have the time of preparation with my volunteers, or to be at the church and hear the sounds of my people in response to the liturgy and the singing. The washing of feet, the distribution of communion, the "binding" of sins, the smell of the flowers, and the laughter. O, the laughter! Each Sunday has seemed harder, but this has been the hardest. I am used to being tired by the end of all the services of Holy Week, but this week seems extra exhausting. More tiring because my schedule and time have been stolen from these days this year, and I find myself needing a resurrection even more than in the past.
God be praised that Christ lives without my work. Without the liturgy or the services, Christ still sits at the right hand of God the Father. It was my pride and fear that sent Christ to the cross, but it wasn't some magic trick on my part that brought Jesus up from the grave. He was raised despite my best intentions to leave him silent amongst the dead. No amount of my exhaustion or mental exertion will change that. No amount of grief or loss will negate that. No amount of human effort will transform the reality of the empty tomb. Praise be to him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. Now more than ever.