As we are moving toward reopening many parts of our communities and churches, I am troubled by the speed of all of this. The rush to reopen is misguided, and if you combine this with the mass protests following the death of George Floyd, it is the perfect storm for a second wave of COVID-19 emerging. I am very aware of the need to protest right now, but at one event I was uncomfortable because there was absolutely no caution to remain 6 feet in distance with each other. Most of us had masks, but not all, and of course, the urgency of the protest outweighed the need for caution.

My deeper level of concern in reopening everything so quickly is that we will rush back to the pace and intensity of our lives pre-COVID-19. The safer-at-home protocols forced us to slow down, dial back the pressures, and reflect more. I am reminded here, of the Chinese poet, Han Shan, who over 1,000 years ago wrote this somewhat whacky poem:

Bugs in a Bowl

We’re just like bugs in a bowl.
All day going around never leaving their bowl.
I say, That’s right! Every day climbing up
the steep sides, sliding back.
Over and over again. Around and around.
Up and back down.
Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.
Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.
Walk around.
Say, Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice Bowl!

Han Shan might be capturing our lives during stay-a-home, but I believe he is describing our lives before the virus hit, as every day we work and labor, “climbing up the steep sides, sliding back…Over and over again…Around and around.” The question haunts me: Should we return to that type of life?

Jesus himself addresses this in Matthew 6:31:

“31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Notice Jesus’ specific instructions: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

We are not to do nothing, but in striving for the kin-dom and righteousness of God, we will receive everything we need to live well.

I was struck by some of the comments of Carey Nieuwhof on why our on-line attendance is dropping, and take note especially at numbers 2, 4 and 5. It may just help us refocus our efforts.

Our inspiration this week comes from none other than the late James Baldwin:

“I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others.”

–James Baldwin: “In Search of a Majority” address delivered at Kalamazoo College (February 1960); republished in Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (1961)

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop