OPINION

Love God above all else as we resume activities

The Rev. Nicole Schwartz-Eck
Pratt Tribune

This summer seems to be shaping up to be a summer like none other. That’s saying a lot as we have just finished 2020 (another summer like none other). With the development of COVID-19 vaccines and the knowledge we have gained around dealing with it, many of us are able to do many of the things that we have been unable to do for the last year. Many are able to reunite with family and friends, some whom we have not seen for over a year. Many are able to travel more freely around the area and even around the country. Many are able to participate in community activities and youth sports that had been put on hold or cancelled last year. I am thankful that this year will be different. But, I also encourage us to approach it with caution. 

The first reason for caution is this: as I listed many of the things that have become possibilities once again, notice I used the words “many of us.” Many of us are able to do many of these things. However, not all of us can. There are many who are still unable to participate fully in these activities. There are many reasons for that. Some have underlying conditions that make them unable to get vaccinated, others have lasting effects from illnesses including COVID-19. This makes it necessary for some to continue to be cautious and avoid these things which have become a possibility. Some cannot be reunited with loved ones because their loved ones died during the pandemic, from COVID-19 or from other causes. Many have encountered financial difficulty during the pandemic or had existing financial difficulties exacerbated during the pandemic and cannot afford to participate in many of these things. 

The second reason for caution is time. It can be incredible to be able to do the things we have been missing. This can make us want to do it all. Everything we have missed as soon as possible. For many people whose jobs didn’t become more complicated during the pandemic, after a season of paring down our activities and finding joy in family time and simplicity because our options were limited, it may be easy to lose sight of that as our schedules get fuller and fuller. As we get busier, some of the important activities such as solitude, prayer, devotional lives, and worship fall aside. Important things like family dinners and rest get less frequent. 

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in all the law was, he replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). As we approach this new season in our lives with caution, I invite us to hold onto this scripture. 

Remembering that we are still called first to love God. This means to make time for prayer, study, devotion, worship and service. With increasing activities and travel, this may mean participating in worship in-person as often as possible and participating online when in-person isn’t possible. Many churches, even in our community, have worship services online, and most can be accessed after the service (i.e. Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, Monday evening as family eats dinner, etc.). I will say that worship online is just not the same as in person, but it will help us keep connected to God and our faith communities. 

Second, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means recognizing that there are those for whom this is not a new season. Checking on our neighbors who are still unable to get out. Caring for those who are struggling. Offering opportunities to those who don’t have them. Getting vaccinated to protect those who are unable to. Wearing masks when asked and when around vulnerable folks. These are all pretty easily attainable ways of loving our neighbor in this season. 

I encourage us to enter this season with joy and thanksgiving, but also caution, remembering to love God and love neighbor! 

Stock photo.