Today is Good Friday. It was a surreal day - another in this surreal week - and it sure didn't have the aura of holy exhaustion that Holy Week usually brings. With no liturgical responsibilities today, I had time to run errands - carefully, of course. I wore the mask given to me by a coworker, and I only went where I absolutely needed to go.
One of my stops was to pick up an online order at a home improvement store. After waiting for the non-masked employee to summon me over, I gave her my order number. She asked for a picture ID and I made a bad joke about her checking my picture ID against my eyes - all that's visible when I have the mask on. I told her it felt comical. Her response: "Well, you sound like a Kathi..." Ah...ok.
One of my stops was the grocery store. I went to the small store near our home, mask on, happy to see that they weren't overrun by people trying to buy eggs. I worked my way through my list, pleased that I found asparagus and my favorite dinner rolls for Easter dinner; amazed that people aren't hoarding ice cream. I saw a lot of people wearing masks. Everyone seemed to be keeping careful space; one lady in the Easter candy aisle waited for another person to make her selection before moving to the same area.
I finished my shopping and went to the register. The cashiers and baggers now stand behind hastily-erected plexiglass shields. Between the masks we were all wearing and the plexiglass, communication was ridiculous. I kept thinking, "Even with all the masks (and others wearing gloves), and these shields, there's so much touching of stuff. I've handled products touched by how many people? They're now handling products touched by me and how many people?"
I left through the designated exit - the door furthest from my car, of course. As I headed across the parking lot, I thought I saw some parishioners loading groceries into their car. I almost wept for joy.
Then, I realized - Nope. Not who I thought it was. These people were strangers.
I went to my car, and as I was putting the bags into my car, I began to weep. I finished loading, began my drive home, and allowed my tears to flow freely. My heart hurt - in a different way than it's been hurting all week - all Holy Week - in which I've been missing our gathering for ritual, prayer, Sacrament, and song. Today, my heart hurt because I miss my people.
The last time I saw some of them was March 15. That was the last Sunday we carefully held worship at Zion, and our attendance that day was way down (appropriately so). So, it's fully been a month since I've seen most of them.
And it's been a month in which I've been slammed with ministry of a different sort - digital ministry. Now, I've been involved in digital ministry for quite a while now. But the last month has meant learning new software, having some things fail, having many things work (hooray!), and working with a small team selected just for our current work of live-streaming worship. It has been exhausting. It has been occasionally joyous. But mostly it's been stretching every single part of me beyond where I ever thought my limits were.
Turns out, there's always room to stretch.
I drove home, weeping for the short drive. I got home and wanted to linger in my car and cry. But the reality of melting ice cream in the car got me going. I unloaded the car. I ended up sitting in the front room, watching the fading Good Friday sunlight through the trees. My heart was so very heavy.
Yes, Easter is coming. And hallelujah for that because this Holy Week is sitting differently than any other has, differently than any ever will. I am claiming moments of joy when they come. I scrubbed our front door this morning - the site of so many deliveries now, and no guests. I cleaned the whole area, made it extra pretty, and then I put out a cute bunny. Because...why not?
I'm weary. My colleagues are weary. The world is weary, it seems, too. So - find joy where you can. It might be hard to find, and that's OK, too. As Psalm 30 says: "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Maybe not tomorrow morning, or even the morning after that - but joy will come some morning.
Pr. Kathi Johnson
Associate Pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Founder and Curator of Digital Gathering