Out of the depths I cry to you, O YHWH.
God, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice, my cries for mercy!
If you kept track of our sins, YHWH,
who could stand before you?
But with you there is forgiveness,
And for this we revere you.
So I wait for you, YHWH–
my soul waits,
and in your word I place my trust;
my soul longs for you, YHWH,
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
This Holy Week, the traditional celebration of the week leading up to Easter, is undoubtedly going to feel different for many of us. Maybe you’ve previously donned your Easter best, maybe you’ve washed feet or lit candles in the midweek services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Maybe you’ve sat in the incredible range of story and emotion we’re given between Palm Sunday and Easter. But this year, with many faith communities shut down and not even the opportunity to connect with family or friends, it’s feeling very different to be coming nearer to Easter.
But it’s also feeling richer. Every day I’ve watched the tree outside my window blossom just a little bit more. Every chance of sunshine, I’m drinking it in. I hear the birds a lot more than I usually would in my day to day. I’m taking walks and seeing the evidence of Spring, of new life, all around me.
What the world is going through, what more and more people we know are going through with Covid-19, is a tragedy. How can we hold the tension of something so grim with the incredible gift we’ve been given to slow down and take stock of life, of relationships, of the natural world teeming outside our windows?
I work as a chaplain in hospice care which means the patients I see have been given six months or less to live. What we do in hospice isn’t quite like a hospital. We have doctors and nurses, social workers and chaplains, but the goal is not to get anyone cured. Instead, when the diagnosis is incurable, or when someone refuses what would be a difficult treatment, they come on to hospice so we can get them as comfortable as we can in their home with the time they have left. It reminds me a bit of the shift we’ve made in our culture today. Things look differently in the world to the patients and families I see. Their world is slower, they make time for relationships, for taking stock of all that life has given them and all that they have loved through their life. It is an incredible privilege to sit with folks who make meaning in this way. But it is also their choice to do so. Even in hospice, when medically there’s no more that can be done to cure someone, there is grief, denial, fear, high emotions and frustrations. Oftentimes there’s every range of emotion for these folks and their families facing the reality of their death. But there’s nearly always, at some point, a calm too.
Psalm 130, a psalm of ascent, reminds me of the beauty I get to witness, even through an incredibly difficult time. There’s a waiting, a keeping watch that is done for those of us who sit with those who are dying. There’s a way a soul cries out to God to be brought home when, for them, this world is through. They are holy moments. Moments of longing. Moments of prayer. Moments to watch the story of Holy Week play out right before our eyes.
I pray you have no reason to traverse this path anytime soon. And I pray that when you do, you find ways to watch for the morning. The watch for the breadth of God’s presence and love showing up in newness, like that first Easter morning long ago.