The work of transformation continues to challenge all that we do as churches. This involves the work of seeking justice and working for abundant life for all.
The Cambridge online dictionary defines transformation as ‘a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved’. There are many nuances to the term transformation. These range from biological, linguistics, mathematical to physics. It is not the purpose of this short reflection to dive into all those nuances.
I would like to stick to a simple definition of improving something for the better. In this case, transformation that will ensure dignity for all the created and that includes the environment or nature.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says, ‘The world is undergoing important social transformations driven by the impact of globalization, global environmental change and economic and financial crises, resulting in growing inequalities, extreme poverty, exclusion and the denial of basic human rights. These transformations demonstrate the urge for innovative solutions conducive to universal values of peace, human dignity, gender equality and non-violence and non-discrimination’. Solutions that also call for environmental protection or climate justice.
Jesus Christ announced his mission statement as having come to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery to the blind and set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). This in short is what he termed as having come so that ‘they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). Just before the ascension, Jesus commissioned his followers to continue this mission of spreading goods news and setting the captives free.
The Church of Jesus Christ has therefore existed in different expressions to continue the mission of Jesus. The mission however has not been easy. The past has been blurred with histories of the unholy marriage between slavery, colonialism and other vices. For example, one would not understand how the Church in Canada was found complicit in a genocide of Indigenous people. Here genocide is the intentional destruction of a particular group through killing, serious physical or mental harm, preventing births and/or forcibly transferring children to another group. The term has been applied to the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada, particularly in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Children were forcibly taken to church-run residential schools in order to kill the Indian out of the child. Furthermore, there are sad stories of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The situation is made even more complex with recent discoveries in Canada of unmarked graves of children near the sites where residential schools were operated by church institutions.
Several injustices continue in this world and the church cannot afford to be silent or inactive. The Church should be in dialogue with affected communities to seek ways and means of working towards transformation. These will include issues like racism, not being able to seek refuge, gender discrimination, poverty, war, basic access to education, human rights abuses, police brutality and other aspects of neocolonialism and imperialism.
Working for transformation towards peace, justice, reconciliation, dignity and abundant life for all is very much the call of the Church. If the Church has to live up to its saltiness, it has no choice but to participate in God’s mission of justice, peace and transformation in the world, through its various ministries and partners in their contextual response to God’s invitation of partnership. “It is not that the Church of God has a mission in the world, but that the God of mission has a church, and people’s movements, non-governmental organizations and temples that can facilitate appropriate transformation. How is your Church community living out this call?
—Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu
Executive Minister for the Church in Mission Unit
United Church of Canada
Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu got his Phd in Practical Theology from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
I’ve thought about change quite a bit recently. In March, my spouse and I welcomed the arrival of our first child. As such, sleep patterns have been upended; the realities of travel have taken on a new light; and our schedules, in particular, have seen seismic shifts. On the days it is just my daughter and I at home, for example, it is a good day if I found the time to have brushed my teeth by noon. Everything has changed.
Most of the time, when we can choose change in our lives, we resist it. But sometimes change is thrust upon us, and we have no choice but to accept it. Rather than lamenting in that moment, I wonder, what might we learn if we pause and look around? As my life has changed with the addition of parenthood to my list of responsibilities and privileges, I have come to see that my capacity to love has grown. I did not know my heart could be permanently melted by someone so small. I have a different view of what is most important in my life and what is the best use of my time. I understand much better the joys of life and joy’s difference from happiness; I might not be happy when my daughter is wailing, but it is still joyful to hold that crying child in my arms before she outgrows them.
If I had resisted these changes to my personality, my schedule, and my very heart, I would have missed so much of this. But in opening myself to these changes and allowing myself to be molded by a new and unfolding world, I am able to be transformed into someone who is more loving, more compassionate, and even more joyful. Perhaps the past year has taught us something similar.
I find the lessons of change I am learning are also helpful in faith. Throughout the story of the Bible, God is constantly moving in different ways so that the people of God might grow in their capacity to share and to be God’s unchanging love, justice, and mercy in this world. When rigid and closed to the ever-unfolding Spirit of God, the people miss this. When open to change, the people grow and the world is better off.
Each day, be it with faith or as a parent, I have learned that I should be open to change. I should be flexible. I should wonder greatly and let God surprise me. I would encourage you to do the same. We all have many ways we might need some transformation. We all have much to learn. We also each have a lot of God’s love to give. Sometimes, however, it takes a little change to break our hearts open to that love and to the ability to share it with others. But I have found that is a change well worth embracing.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Member of CANAAC Steering Committee
On July 1st every year communities across Canada celebrate Canada Day. We mark the 1867 Confederation of former British colonies into the new nation of Canada. People celebrate with backyard barbecues, parades, concerts, and lots of fireworks. Canadian flags are proudly displayed on houses and cars; we even paint our kid’s faces with the Maple Leaf. There’s much to celebrate about our nation.
“I hate, I despise your festivals…
Take away from me the noise of your songs;…
But let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” —Amos 5:21-24
This spring, 215 unmarked graves of children were discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia and 751 unmarked graves at Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan. These unmarked mass graves are part of the painful legacy of Indian Residential Schools in Canada. These and many more were operated by churches at the request of the Canadian government for more than 100 years. You can read more about our church’s journey at presbyterian.ca/healing
We expect more similar discoveries as traditional knowledge keepers share stories of similar sites across Canada. Or rather, as more non-Indigenous people truly listen to and hear these stories.
Some communities have decided to not celebrate Canada Day this year as a visible sign of honour and lament. One network of radio stations aired recordings of survivors personal accounts of tragedy and trauma.
As Christians, as followers of the crucified, suffering, and risen Christ we hold celebration and lament together in tension—celebration at what our life-giving and liberating God is doing in the world, and lament over our own and our ancestors sins no matter when we settled in this land. With thanksgiving and humility we join in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.
— Rev. Matthew Sams
Minister at Willowdale Presbyterian Church
 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.
 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?
 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
 Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."
 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
 He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
Mark 6:1-6 [NIV]
This last year has been painful and frustrating, and as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger, inequality, despair, and death have increased. It is very difficult to keep good spirits, smiles, and dreams in the middle of such an exhausting experience, due to its negative impact and duration. Everything that was normal for us has changed irreversibly, preventing us from seeing the way out or the possibility or alternatives. All of us have experienced and suffered the effects in different areas of our lives.
Personally, I must confess that I depend on hugs, kisses, and smiles not only because of my Latin culture, but because I like to express affection in a physical way. For me, the community of faith is one of the places where we can share affection, feed those who are hungry in body and spirit with food, hugs, and words. At the same time that we are fed with their affection and life experiences. I suffer from distancing and the absence of hugs.
Serving as a pastor, supporting social projects in celebratory and educational spaces, visiting homes and lives, has been until now a Pentecost experience where my voice joins that of the People of God who are hungry, sick, grateful,and celebrant. I miss all that, as well as the spaces of CANAAC, where we meet brothers and sisters from different churches and countries to get to know each other, dream together, and celebrate the same God.
In times like these, we can be one with Jesus in the frustration of seeing ourselves without enough solutions, and in the pain of not being able to share his teachings and healing as part of our journey as Christian believers. However, Jesus accepted his frailty and humbly found new ways to help as he continued on his way despite his amazement.
Let's think of this time period of pandemic as a spiritual journey, where we can hear new and familiar voices, speaking unexpected words. Let’s listen to the hope-filled voice of God for his people in the midst of pain. Let’s us accept, even with amazement, our frailty as a place for God to reveal new ways of living.
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. —Romans 10:13-17
Romans 10, verse 17, today speaks to all of us — working in whatever part of the world we are in. The WCRC is made up of 232 member churches spanning geographical locations worldwide: Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America, the Pacific. We are a communion working in our varied spaces and places toward the common goal of sharing faith from what is heard — the word of Christ.
Our world today has been plunged into an experience similar to that of Job’s (feel free to read the book of Job) that can easily overwhelm us and cause fear to surround our every movement. Thankfully, we have a gift to share with the world — a gift that surpasses time, age, and event. The Word of God is that gift and is filled with promises, testimonies, and HOPE! Indeed, the world is in need of hearing this word of hope as we grapple with the fluidity of life in this era.
Across the ages, the Church has found itself advocating for many and supporting the good work being done for global unity, sustainability, and justice. As people working for the Lord in whatever sphere, there seems to be a never-ending cycle of grievances to work on. It is imperative then, that we, who work in these capacities, also hear and hold on to the word of hope that the Scriptures contain, so that we do not sink amidst the constant tide of justice issues pervading our societies.
We must saturate our spirits with the Word so that what comes out of us — through our lips or hands — will be filled with goodness allowing for growth and grace. Thing is, when reality sets in, as it sometimes does, giving up becomes more attractive. Truth is, the world needs each of us working diligently in our areas to share hope, light, love, and grace. Our work is vital to sustaining the goodness and good things of this earth.
The Scripture selection today urges us to recognise that our efforts are never in vain. So we continue to toil and labour, work and give — so that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved!
As the Secretary for CANAAC, working out of a small country in the Caribbean called Trinidad and Tobago, I value the amazing work that is done by each and every individual across the CANAAC region and across the WCRC. This is living with purpose and fulfilling that commission of Jesus — reaching out and drawing persons in to the embrace of God so that they too, will find solace, peace, joy and hope in the midst of a strange world. Let us all work for the Lord gladly, knowing that we serve alongside so many others for a better world, a just society and a people of hope!
National Youth Coordinator
Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enable them…Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?” (Acts 2:4, 12).
In Acts 2 God gathers a scattered people by fulfilling the promise God made in Joel 2: “In the last days, I will pour out my spirit…” In a bookend to what happened at the Tower of Babel, when people were scattered and their languages became incomprehensible to one another, God now draws people of all languages together and reasserts God’s promise of salvation.
Did you know that there are 7,139 known languages spoken today? As a Vice President of the WCRC, I have become accustomed to hearing many languages when the communion gathers. We employ interpreters who translate so we can do the work of communion and justice in a way that engages all of our voices. It feels like a type of Pentecost, when we speak clearly and listen carefully so that we can understand one another.
We speak different languages--and sometimes even when we speak the same language. We misunderstand one another and find it difficult to listen in order to understand. This happens in the political arena, on social media, and even in the church. As many are impatient to return to “normal” after Covid, we recognize significant injustices that Covid has accentuated. WCRC has engaged “Covid-19 and Beyond”, a process in which we are asking, “What does the Lord require of us?” (Micah 6:8). It is a similar question to the one asked in Acts 2: “What does this mean?”
Pentecost affords the opportunity to learn, or re-learn, the language of the Spirit. First, it is the language of new life. Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly,” are significant for the WCRC. We seek to serve a God of life in all aspects of the communion. In the gift of the Spirit, we relearn and reassert the language of new life for all.
Second, the language of the Spirit is the language of love. When Jesus promised the coming of the Spirit, he said that the Advocate would remind the disciples of all that Jesus had taught them. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gave a new mandate: that they love one another. Although they didn’t fully understand what lay ahead any more than we do at this moment, the Spirit would teach them to love, which begins with listening.
Third, the language of the Spirit is the language of new confession. After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples responded by hiding out of fear of the Jews. It was then that Jesus appeared and said, “‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22). On Pentecost, Peter boldly confesses Jesus as Lord. “Covid & Beyond” emphasizes that we must not only be the church which has confessions, but which seeks to boldly confess the God of life in a world fallen among thieves (John 10:10).
Friends, let us seek to relearn the language of the Spirit: a language of new life, new love, and new confession of the God of life as we are called to communion and committed to justice. May we discern together just how God is calling us to live and work together at such a time as this.
—Rev. Lisa Vander Wal
Reformed Church in America
WCRC Vice President
As a denominational executive, and as a member of the steering committee of CANAAC—the Caribbean and North American Area Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC)—I’ve been reflecting lately on the state of our world, our nations—especially in North America—and the multiple divisions that we see in our society. As events develop, it seems that all of our institutions—governmental, societal, and even our religious institutions and churches—seem to be reacting to the world’s events as they occur. And with all of this reacting, it makes me wonder, who is leading?
As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, I believe that our Lord has something to say about this condition in which we find ourselves. Amidst all of the splintering, arguing, disagreement, and discord, what if there were institutions that modeled a different path? What if there were institutions that epitomized a different way—a way of respect for each other, a way that demonstrates care and concern for each other, and yes, a way that demonstrates the possibility that we can care for each other and love each other even as we love ourselves?
As it turns out, such institutions do (or should) exist, though I must admit, amidst the cacophony of voices and situations competing for our attention, these institutions seem to have lost their way. Such institutions—the physical manifestation of the Church, in its many forms—was built to represent a new way of being—a new way of living—a new way of loving. As members of Christ‘s Church, we are called to be a people of this different way. We are called to be people of the vine, as Christ himself described to us in the writings of John 15:
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus is calling us to holiness—to maintain a spiritual connection with him—and through this connection, a living connection signified by a living vine, he is calling us to a spiritual connection with each other. I would note that in any vine, no two branches are identical, the degree of development may be different, the sizes and positioning may be different, and the health and growth may be different, but as long as the branches are connected through the stem to the root, it remains one vine nourished at the source.
Jesus goes on to say,
6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This is an exciting promise—if we remain connected to the source of life—Jesus Christ, he will provide for all of our spiritual needs, which I believe includes the need for belonging, the need for unity, the need for family. I would further note here that unity does not mean uniformity. As every branch of the vine is different, so can we all continue to be different—different congregations, different denominations, different contextualized expressions of the vine in different nations—but through it all, connected at the root to the power source that is Christ.
I don’t want to minimize the reality of the difficulties we face in our nations or the reality of significant sinfulness that continues to reign in our world. Jesus also recognizes this in John 15 when he says,
6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned.
This is the judgment of Christ for those who intentionally walk away from the vine. May it not be so for us. May we, as Christians, in spite of our different perspectives, different experiences, different hurts, different histories, may we continue to look to Christ as our source of life, and through him, may we see each other as fellow branches of the same vine, nourished by the same source. And may we leave the pruning up to the master gardener who is our head.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
We have much work to do, and before we do that work, may we simply – be – resting in the knowledge that we are one with the creator of the universe. May we rest in the knowledge that the heavy lifting is up to Christ, and as we lean into his vision, his being, his vine, may we be found faithful as co-laborers doing the work that leads to a new vision of unity for Christ’s church—a unity that will be seen by those not of the vine as an example of what could be—an example for our nations to follow.
—Colin P Watson Sr.
Christian Reformed Church in North America
CANAAC Steering Committee Deputy Convenor
Q: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong--body and soul, in life and in death-- to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
--Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 1
Serving as a nondenominational hospice chaplain, I spend my days providing spiritual support and companionship to people who have received a terminal diagnosis as well as their loved ones. I meet people from a wide range of religious beliefs and spiritual orientations, from extremely devout to completely non-religious. Regardless of particular faith journeys, most of the time what people seek as they approach the end of life is reassurance that they are loved, that they matter, and that they are not alone.
These are completely natural requests and vital messages to receive, particularly as people are faced with mortality and the opportunity to more closely reflect on what life means. As a clergy person invited into sacred times of transition, it’s an honor and privilege to bless human souls with those messages that always bear repeating: You are loved. You matter. You are not alone.
And while my work calls me into spaces with an acute awareness of death, hospice is far from the only window into the truth that life on this planet is temporary. At the time of this writing, the world is in its 14th month of a global pandemic and 3,352,109 people have died from COVID-19. Racially or ethnically-motivated violence and murder is increasingly publicized, oftentimes sanctioned and perpetuated by the systems and powers expected to serve and protect human life. People who express their gender or sexuality in ways that are misunderstood within a binary framework are disproportionately targeted and killed. Rampant consumption and pollution are destroying plant and animal lives at exponential rates.
The circumstance of death can be horrific, yet death itself is not the enemy. “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8 NRSV).
Therefore the key is in knowing, whether in life or in death, that we are loved, we matter, and we are not alone. Can you imagine the flourishing that could be possible if all creation truly believed and experienced these messages to be true every moment of every day?
The Protestant Reformation affirmed the immediacy of God’s presence and eliminated barriers for laypersons to know and experience God through increasingly accessible worship and Scripture. Yet worship and Scripture are not our only access points for God. In my denomination, we like to say that “God is still speaking.” Within this claim is the affirmation that God certainly speaks through Scripture, yet this was neither the beginning nor the ending of God’s revelation of truth and love to humankind. The Church’s calling, then, is always to cultivate imagination and attentiveness to the myriad ways God reaches out to let us know that we matter, that we are loved, that we are not alone.
Can you notice God’s love for you in a dandelion, a vaccine, or a drink of clean water? Can you feel God showing you your worth through a loving relationship in your life, the strength of your emotions, or a piece of music? Can you sense that you are not alone when you feel the earth beneath you, when a stranger nods or smiles at you and says “have a nice day,” or when another breath of oxygen enters your body, yet one more moment?
No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, as you consider your own mortality—however near or far it may be in the future—may you find comfort in knowing that you fully belong to God.
—Rev. Bethany Joy Winn
United Church of Christ, USA
Bethany is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC). She currently serves as chaplain with Spectrum Health Hospice and Palliative Care in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. In 2017 she was a member of the UCC delegation to the General Council of the WCRC (World Communion of Reformed Churches) in Liepzig, Germany
As the fledgling Christian church set about preparing itself for its role and mission, the power of Pentecost burst into the lives of those early believers, with a mighty rushing wind and tongues as of fire…
It happened that before the church even knew itself to be a church, the members had received specific instructions from the risen Lord. That motley band of believers, comprised of “the eleven” and other believers—possibly their friends and relatives, and friends and relatives of Jesus, including his mother, Mary—had received, and were awaiting, further instructions given by Jesus, prior to his Ascension. All four gospel accounts record these instructions in differing levels of detail: Matthew 28: 16-20, Mark 16:15-20, Luke 24:47-53, and John 21: 15-22. Verses 2 to 10 of Chapter 1 of the Acts of the Apostles also corroborate these accounts.
If we categorize the events that mark the genesis of the Christian faith, we discover that these unequivocal instructions, together with the actual experience of witnessing the ascension, with the further instructions of the “two men in white” (Acts 1:10) played an important role. These experiences prepared the individual men and women, as well as the group as a whole, the frontline leaders of this new movement, that would itself become the Christian church. In Acts Chapter 1 we find a summary of these instructions:
“(Jesus) commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which said He, you have heard of Me./..you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.../...you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” —Acts 1: 4,5,7,8 (KJV)
The response of the followers to these instructions, grounded as it was in their experience of having witnessed the glory of God in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, was a key contributing factor to their preparedness for the glory of God as it came to be revealed in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: They followed the instructions they had received. They returned to Jerusalem, and waited. They gathered in community, both men and women. They were unified. They surrendered themselves to prayer. They listened to the Word of God proclaimed amongst themselves, and they did what today we call “succession planning,” while acknowledging the leadership and guidance of one of their number, and acting upon that selfsame guidance to the benefit and strengthening of the unit (Acts 1:13-26). What an amazing example for the church of today to emulate!
And so it was that these original founders of our Christian church, were “all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1), when the power of the Holy Spirit came, as a mighty sound from heaven, filling the place where they had gathered, and cloven tongues, as of fire, the actual manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence and gift, rested upon them. Most glorious of all was that these visionary cloven tongues engendered what would be the first miracle of the church: the awesome unprecedented ability of the empowered ones to preach the word to all those in the multitude that had gathered to behold the event.
The stunning truth of that first Pentecost was that the Word proclaimed was received in the listeners' own languages...even without the speakers being intellectually able on their own to speak the dialects of the more than fifteen named groups (Parthians, Medes, Elamites, men of Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Crete, and Arabia) that had assembled in that place! It was an event of literal miraculous proportions. It was, too, a foreshadowing of how the gospel message would come to penetrate “all the world/earth” (Matthew 28:20, Acts 1:8).
Further, in the harmony that reigns within all of Scripture, it was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel: 2:28. And further yet, in a blessed reversal of the dreadful event of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), human beings were no longer separated by language. Instead, as they placed reliance on God, He, himself, in His mercy, through the glory of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit, presided over a newly-born, unified church, empowering God’s witnesses and His people to speak, to listen, and to receive His one true message of love and salvation.
In this we too can rejoice, for even now in these trying times, because of the Holy Spirit’s work at Pentecost, the Christian church continues to receive the promise, the presence, and the power of Pentecost.
Presbyterian Church of Trinidad & Tobago
Jesslyn is an elder and lay preacher of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad & Tobago. She is also the Clerk of Session of her pastoral region, the secretary of her local board, the president of the women’s group, a choir member, and a Sunday School Teacher.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” —Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
Burdens: there is scarcely a person on the planet who hasn’t born some kind of burden during the past year. Some have borne the burden of being an essential worker, caring for people sick with COVID-19 in hospitals and care facilities, or working in grocery stores. Others have carried the burden of loss: loved ones who have died or themselves carrying “long COVID” through continuing health concerns. Others have lost jobs because of an economy fraught with COVID-related issues. And still others have borne the burden of loneliness and despair as the pandemic has continued largely unabated in many regions. It has been a difficult time, and for many places in the world it is still worsening.
This is an appropriate time for us to internalize the words of Paul in Galatians 6, because he properly reminds us that burdens belong to all of us. The image Paul gives is of mutuality, that we recognize that others have difficulties and encumbrances even as we do ourselves. Some are more weighty than others, but it does not mean that they are not difficult to carry.
In some contexts, like the United States, there has been a tendency for people to want to be “done with” COVID, even though COVID clearly isn’t done with us. We want our old freedom of movement and lack of encumbrance back; we want to return to the days before the pandemic began.
But here is where Paul’s words come to us, inviting us to “carry” more concern with helping the other with their burden than to be freed from our own. Places in our world like India, where we have many friends in the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), are experiencing tremendous and heartbreaking loss. How may we carry their burdens through prayer and tangible concern? Many places in the world are lacking vaccines. How may we speak for justice in encouraging the “haves” to share with the “have nots”? How may we reach out to those who have lost loved ones, to help carry their burden of loss? How may we encourage those who are lonely and depressed?
As we have traveled through Lent, the Easter season, and beyond, we are reminded that Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. May we each mirror Christ, that in humility we may value and care for those around us in the same way that he has done this for us.
—Rev. Dr. Lisa Vander Wal
Reformed Church in America
WCRC Vice President