Rector's Blog: This Blog is Not About You
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This blog is not about you. It's about your neighbor.
Your neighbor belongs utterly to God. Your neighbor carries Christ within them and is as much a sign of God’s presence in the world as anything you can imagine. And your neighbor, who is sacred and beloved, has specific burdens and needs. Jesus says loving your neighbor is one of the two Great Commandments. St. Paul tells us that the Christian life is lived out most fully in how we love our neighbor and bear one another’s burdens. In our baptismal covenant we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
You see what I'm getting at, right?
Your neighbor matters to God, and your neighbor matters to you. It’s important, then, to understand what’s going on with your neighbor. So, yes, on some level, this is about you – in the sense that you have a part to play in your neighbor’s life. You are not alone in this world and neither are they. Our Scriptures tell us that we were made for one another, that we belong to each other, and that through our shared life we begin to understand how we belong to God.
The emergence of COVID-19 in our lives has been revelatory. We have learned a lot about our priorities, both individually and as a people. We’ve learned a lot about how important connection and intimacy is, about just how much we yearn for in-person relationships and interactions. We’ve also learned how selfish we can be. We’ve learned what compromises we’re willing to make and what we think it’s worth “trying to get away with.” We’ve seen this virus affect groups differently based on race and wealth – forcing us to ask some tough questions about what we really believe in regard to health care. We have been forced to work in totally different ways – and have been confronted by how much of our self-worth is tied up in our supposed usefulness.
As a Christian, one of the most revelatory things for me has been the conversation around masking. We have all heard, and maybe some of us have even said at different times, “I don’t need to wear a mask because I feel fine,” or “I don’t need to wear a mask because I’m not worried about getting sick.” And I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here, but, the mask isn’t for you. It’s for your neighbor. It’s not about how you feel or if you’re worried, and it’s certainly not about your freedom, by the way. In our Scriptures, Paul says that real Christian freedom is liberation from Sin so that we can be servants to one another. Christian freedom is being freed from the things that keep us from realizing our interdependence and common life. So the mask conversation fascinates me: Because it reveals to us what we’re willing to do or not do in order to take care of our neighbor.
We are in the midst of a new moment of revelation, right now. It too is about how we love our neighbor. it’s how we handle vaccines and vaccinations. I have to tell you that this is something I still have to learn how to grasp. I have always thought about vaccines in terms of how they inoculate me, about how they help me. I have wanted the vaccine for COVID-19 from the moment I heard it was being made public – and I wasn’t thinking about how great it would be for me to help others. I was thinking about how I didn’t want to die from COVID-19. I cried tears of relief upon receiving my first shot. They were not tears of relief for my neighbor. Those tears were for me.
We’ve heard a lot about herd immunity, but we don’t necessarily pay attention to the finer points. The main idea behind herd immunity is that if enough people are not passing along a virus, the transmission rates get really low and the disease all but disappears from the community – the herd. Herd immunity doesn’t actually mean that every single person is immune to a sickness. It does not mean that the virus is less contagious or less dangerous to those who get it. It simply means that enough people are immune that those who are not immune have some level of safety in the herd, in the community. Herd immunity then - that thing we want so we can get back to so many of the things we miss – is about actions I take on behalf of my neighbor, and actions my neighbor takes on my behalf.
You getting the vaccine isn’t the end of your responsibility. You getting the vaccine isn’t actually just about your health and safety. Let me say that again, because I’m still learning how this affects me, and I’m probably not alone: You getting the vaccine isn’t just about you. You getting the vaccine is about your neighbor. I want everyone who is able to be able to get vaccinated, and I want every one of us to feel great about it. Tears are good. And we should not feel guilty about breathing a sigh of relief for ourselves. It makes sense. And also, the pandemic isn’t over for you once it happens. You are still part of the holy communion of humanity. Your siblings are still suffering and they need your help.
God’s church exists for a purpose. We are here to work alongside God in the healing and reconciliation of the world. That means our goal as Church of the Redeemer isn’t simply to figure out how we can get back into our sanctuary for worship: Our goal is to help end this pandemic. You have a part to play. And so do I. Our getting vaccinated is a part of that. But we’re not done. We have the capacity to help other people get vaccinated as well. We have the capacity to help educate others about the benefits of vaccination, and we have the capacity to help get people access to being vaccinated. This is holy work. Make no mistake of that. Holy work, saving lives and spreading God’s love in practical ways that transform our world and bring this horrible pandemic to an end.
The Gospel is that Jesus Christ has made us One. Not that we should try to become One, or that, with enough hard work, we could maybe become One someday: No – we are One. That has happened. This fundamental unity, this holy interdependence is foundational to understanding Christianity. When we shift our understanding away from thinking Christianity is about what happens to my soul when I die, and towards an understanding of Christianity about our shared eternal life that is already happening here and now – we are turned outside of ourselves and we are made to recognize that participating in our own salvation is a group project.
To that end, I encourage you to visit our Vaccine Resources page on Church of the Redeemer’s website. Please check it out. Please share it. And please reach out if you have any questions about vaccination – either in general or for this virus in particular. Our community is blessed by the presence of several medical experts who are here to talk it through with you. In the coming weeks, I look forward to writing more about this and highlighting opportunities for you to help end this pandemic. In the meantime, please stay safe, stay masked and distanced, get vaccinated if you haven’t yet, and know that you are loved beyond measure.