The poem Pandemic has been shared with me several times during this Apocalypse, and because of it, I found the poet Lynn Ungar.
She is a Unitarian Universalist minister who lives in California, and not shockingly, has written many more gorgeous theological poems (my term, not hers). If you want to read another one that is about the theology of “doing nothing,” I highly recommend Camas Lilies.
Today I read about Sabbath, and about the year of Jubilee. Because I’m an Ennegram 7, when I think about a year of Jubilee I think about Travel! Parties! Banquets! Fancy clothes and fruity drinks! JUBILEE!
Jubilee in Hebrew does not mean party, but “ram’s horn,” the shofar from which the year would be proclaimed. Listen below. It’s a call to repentence, not to party.
And biblically, the year of Jubilee sounds more like…um…what’s happening now. The Hebrew people were not supposed to buy, sell, or work in their fields. They were supposed to only eat what they had, simply because God would provide for them. They were supposed to free any enslaved people or indentured servants, and also to let their land revert back to its original owner. And debts would be forgiven, thus releasing people from a cycle of generational poverty.
This does not sound like a party to me, but it does sound like liberation for the most vulnerable and oppressed. Also, there are guidelines about how to store up food for this jubilee year and they do not include hoarding.
(See also Lynn Unger’s Toilet Paper)
As my family of four (plus a dog and two cats) have cleared out our fridge by eating what we have, by limiting shopping trips and being creative with cooking, I think of the year of Jubilee. It’s less like a party, and more like a determination; a feeling of satisfaction in producing a meal out of nearly nothing…some limp celery, a few freezer burned chicken breasts, canned tomatoes, the spices that live in your cupboard forever can equal soup that even your teenage children (!) compliment.
I am not saying that this current plague is God’s judgment upon us. I am saying that there is a rhythm to things, and we have not been following that rhythm on the earth for quite a long time. Maybe ever.
I am saying that it is not a bad time to look around. To consider the lilies. To try out thinking of it as a Sabbath, a Jubilee, not a party, but ram’s horn, a call to action, a time to use just what you have on hand for the good of the community and the earth.
Covid 19 Pandemic
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love is
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20