What’s Next?

“Hope is holding a creative tension between what is and what could and should be, each day doing something to narrow the distance between the two.” —Parker J. Palmer


“I am the vine. Love is the vinedresser. You are in me as I am in you”– Jesus


There is an inescapable sense of anxiety right now. What are we in…Day 33 of Social Distancing? Over 21 days of “Shelter in place.” And we have how many more weeks of this? Maybe months?!!

 Of course, so many of us are making the best of it. Discovering new ways of communicating online, taking care of overdue household projects, discovering new interests (“I found an accordion in the attic!”), making new friends in the neighborhood (“I wonder if they’ll like me when they see me up close!”) Celebrities are finding their way from their living rooms into ours with generosity and humor. I suspect a lot of us are getting a bit healthier with all the walking, jogging, and cycling, too!

Even the LA skies are a beautiful blue!

But worries are mounting. How long is this gonna go on? Retirement funds are tanking. Friends are losing their jobs. My neighbor’s child is chronically ill and so vulnerable. My favorite restaurant –can it survive? We’re seeing a lot of change.

And for some of us, there’s even something called anticipatory grief – the change we fear may be coming. The grief over “what’s next?”

 Yesterday, I was sitting on my front steps and a young woman pushing a stroller walked by and stopped on the sidewalk. I didn’t recognize her from our neighborhood, but I waved and she said, “Hi!  How are you?” 

Standard answer, “Pretty good, thanks! You doing okay?”

“Well, with a two-year-old and a two-month-old and my husband working from home, it gets a little crazy sometimes! Hard sometimes.” She smiled. “But we’re good. And we’re finding ways to manage. But really,” she paused with some seriousness, “How are you doing?”

Her interest in my well-being caught me off guard to be honest. I gave a quick answer, “Enjoying the neighborhood and meeting new people. Looks like we’re gonna be at this awhile. I hope we all get to know each other better.”   

So we introduced ourselves, and her two-year-old made a few comments about our quilted teddy bear (The neighborhood’s keeping up with the bear hunt theme for families on walks). And then she continued her walk.

But the question caught me off guard for some reason, and I continued to think about it after she left. “How AM I doing in all of this?” How are YOU doing in all this? 

How are we making our way in all of this? Because it does feel with all the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” daily news of COVID-19 curves and peaks and daily counts, there does seem to be this inescapable sense of anxiety.

I was in a Zoom meeting this week and someone casually threw out the comment, “It’s the APOCALYPSE!” She wasn’t the only one, though – I’ve seen that word tossed around casually a lot these days — taking its cue from the evangelical Christian notion of “end times,” “total destruction.” This is it – the Apocalypse!

This doom and gloom image is certainly what we think of as apocalypse, but the original Greek word doesn’t mean the end of time, or the destruction of anything. In fact, the word means, “to reveal,” “insight.” An apocalyptic experience or moment is about an opportunity for us to see something that was previously hidden.

It’s essentially the kind of moment Jesus’ disciples were presented as he entered Jerusalem on what we traditionally call Palm Sunday. Jesus enters via the Sheep Gate (essentially “coming through the back door,” on a donkey with a lot of palm waving peasants shouting “Hosanna!”), while Herod is parading with thousands of soldiers and nobility in the front gate shouting “Pax Romana!” (peace by way of Roman conquer).

It was a watershed moment. An apocalyptic moment. But what was everyone missing?

Rather than any “end of times” calamity that some seem to feel we’re approaching, what if we focused more intently on what we are beginning to see that was previously hidden in our lives, in our nation, and in our world?

This Sunday is Palm Sunday.

We’re definitely in a watershed, apocalyptic, moment. It’s clearly not Holy Week church as usual. Join me online as we look at “what’s next?”


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven



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