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Last week I got my first vaccine shot.  Although I am relatively young and healthy, our commonwealth updated the 1B category to include clergy.  So, when my email came to setup an appointment, I was giddy with excitement.  A flurry of joyful texts went out to friends, I had a permanent smile for the day, and there might have been some dancing.  The day of the vaccine was not much different.  Long lines usually bother me, but I have never smiled so much while just waiting.  Had we not still been in a pandemic, I might have hugged every volunteer and staffer who processed me through the various stages.  And though I have had hundreds of shots in my lifetime, I have never so eagerly proffered my arm for a shot. 

But it was not until I got in my car that I lost it.  Tears burst out of me as the emotions from a year of pandemic spilled out.  Not until that moment did I realize how much I had been holding in – trying to be strong for my family, my church, and even myself.  I still have over a month to go before I get my second shot and work my way through the waiting period, but that one little prick of a needle was the first real sign of hope for me.  I may finally get to see my family, after a year and a half of their absence.  I may finally be able to offer hospitality in my home to others without a sense of panic about safety.  I may finally feel a sense of freedom that has been absent for so long and whose value I never fully appreciated.  The tears that were streaming were the release of a year’s worth of weight on my shoulders.

Of course, even with the overwhelming joy of that day, I know our work is still not yet done.  But somehow the gift of that vaccine shifted the weight of that continued work.  Now my mask-wearing and social distancing is not so much out of fear or self-preservation.  Now my mask-wearing and social distancing can be a witness of Christ’s love for others.  From the beginning, I have said our safe practices were an act of loving our neighbor as ourselves and respecting the dignity of every human being.  But now those acts will not just be an added bonus to self-protection – they will be an act of agency, of choosing to care for others when the selfish thing to do might be to value newly regained freedom over all else. 

As we prepare for Holy Week, I am aware of the symbol we will be turning toward next week.  We will be walking toward the cross until the day of resurrection on Easter.  We will watch, and pray, and sing, and grieve as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ witnesses the ultimate form of sacrificial love.  In this season of COVID, the cross is our invitation to love like Jesus taught us.  I look forward to making that walk with you this year in new and profound ways.