By Karen Johns

If I could write a short letter to Jesus, here is what I’d say:

“Dear Jesus, you know I love you in my own imperfect way, but holy moley, would you please SPEAK UP, and be less AMBIGUOUS?” Seriously Lord, help us out here."

This whole Coronavirus thing has worn us all to a frazzle, and gotten on our very last nerve.  Every part of the wonderful life we have all enjoyed so far has been disrupted in one way or another, and because most of us are Americans with a feeling of entitlement a mile long, that makes us pretty darned cranky; I know I am.

For the record, dear friends, I HATE wearing a mask! My nose runs constantly behind it, and I can’t really take a deep breath. Because I have resisted getting the hearing aids that I certainly need, I have trouble making out what others who are wearing a mask are saying to me.  I HATE it.  It makes me feel old, and befuddled. But I will wear a mask.

We can quote scripture until the cows come home, and get as many interpretations as there are people (good well-meaning folks all of them) who are claiming to know exactly what God meant when He said such and such. We have a nice fat book, the Bible, and Jesus’s life as an example, and we still can’t figure out what we’re supposed to do. Can you just hear the deep, cosmic sigh as God scratches the Divine Head? Sometimes when we feel as if we can’t feel God’s presence with us, I’m afraid it is because He has retreated to the Heavenly Closet and is banging his head against the wall. Who can really blame him?

Two commandments we’re given, just two, and we’re told they have the weight and truth of all the others combined. If you can follow these, you’ve got it made in the heavenly shade.

                                          “Love God, and Love Each Other” 

That’s it folks, just two. And while we’re being dense, and wondering what it really means to love someone else, we’re also told: “Love means being willing to lay down your life for the other.” Oh, we stumble on this one, because we’re afraid that it means we actually have to physically die for someone else. Make no mistake, sometimes that is exactly what it does mean.   But let’s be clear. Most often it means laying down the life you’ve come to know and love, laying down your own wants and needs and intellectual beliefs to make sure that someone else’s wants and needs come first; following a law that we may not embrace in its entirety,  because we know that it may just save another person the deep grief of losing a loved one.   The Hindus say “Namaste,” which means “The Divine In Me, Honors The Divine In You.” What could speak love more clearly than that?

Only a few people come into the church building on Sunday these days. To those of you, thank you for being there, it helps the Pastor to see a few real people to preach to, and I know you are wearing masks and being careful. To those of you who choose to stay home, thank you for protecting your life and the lives of those around you. We act as if it is a weakness, or worse yet, a sin, to love the greatest gift we’ve been given – our lives, and the lives of those we hold dear. This great gift from our Creator was given at a steep price, and it has been defended at a steep price over the centuries by brave men and women. Loving this gift and protecting it honors that Creator, and those souls who fought for the freedom we take so much for granted.

I miss your faces, dear ones. I miss being able to talk to you and laugh and give each of you a hug. Please wear your mask or stay home if that is your choice, and be safe so that someday soon we’ll all be able to gather together again. Please stay healthy for your families, for your children and grandchildren who adore you and would be devastated to lose you. For your friends, for this faith community, for Summit County.  Your life is dear to so many, and even more dear to your God.

I’ve said it before and forgive me for saying it again: love is not the mushy, gushy emotion that can be so fleeting. Love is an action and it is often self-sacrificing. To show love for God and love for each other is a living, moving verb. I love God, and I love you by being willing, at whatever cost to myself, to protect you from harm. By being willing to wear my mask even if my nose is running and my face is itchy. And because I would like you to wear your mask, I am finally going to get those hearing aids.