Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg. I’m one of the pastors at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my erstwhile assistant. You know, there’s an old legend about that story from Genesis where God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden because Adam and Eve violated the single restriction that God placed on the human family way back at the beginning. They made their huge mistake, so God banishes them from paradise. And of course, all the animals get to stay in paradise, but there’s that old legend that says that there was that one animal who insisted on going with Adam and Eve as they made their way on this scary journey through the barren wilderness east of Eden. And that single animal, of course, was the dog, and that’s why ever since the dog has been man’s best friend, and woman’s too.
So I’ve been occupying my mind during these odd days by thinking about all of the corners of American life that are thriving while the rest of us are being challenged by this sheltering-in-place thing. There are actually some Americans who are flourishing during this time. For instance, Campbell’s soup is doing great. And also the guys who make the cans for canned soup. And DoorDash, and Domino’s, Jewel and Mariano’s and the Grand. Jigsaw puzzle makers. Crossword puzzle makers. Bread machine makers. Netflix. Blue Apron. Binny’s. Oreos. And Doritos. All of those guys are crushing it. Sales are through the roof.
But of course, as for the rest of us, we’ve had to give up a lot during these strange times, right? We’re missing a lot of things. Someone asked me last week what I miss most about ordinary life, and what I’m going to be quickest to return to when ordinariness returns. And I thought about that for a minute, and I thought of opening day at Wrigley, and the Ring Cycle at the Lyric Opera, and Glory, my haircutter, whom I haven’t seen in six weeks, and that’s why I wear a hat all the time, to cover up the chaos. The Art Institute. The Botanic Garden. Two great new restaurants that opened up around here weeks before quarantine came down on us. Spirit Elephant in Hubbard Woods, and Great Coast Commons in Kenilworth, just a short walk from the church. I miss Prairie Wolf Dog Park in Lake Forest. Doogie misses his 120 best friends at the nursery school. He hasn’t seen them since he was a tiny puppy, and now he’s this monstrous beast. Kathy misses paddle tennis. Our seniors in high school are missing their proms and their graduations and their senior baseball seasons and their senior lacrosse seasons. Baseball was so important to me when I was 18. I don’t if I would have survived high school without baseball.
But as soon as I got finished with my list of the things I miss most, I realized that I have given up so much less than so many other people. It’s almost not worth talking about, right? I thought about how blessed I am to be able to shelter in place in a comfortable home with the woman and the dog that I love, and I have a job that I can do mostly from home. I have a job at all. And I thought of all those people who have lost so much more than that. 80,000 Americans have lost their lives. God, receive them into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace and into the glorious company of the saints in light. 80,000 people. And all of the survivors they left behind I’ve been thinking about and crying for the grief-stricken whose hearts are broken because they’ve lost long loves.
30 million Americans have lost their jobs. 4 in 10 Americans say that they have lost wages or jobs in the last 8 weeks. I’m thinking of doctors and nurses and EMTs who are not only under quarantine like the rest of us, but also separated from their families, so as not to put them at risk during these times. And I’m thinking of all those who are in danger of losing their homes because they can’t pay their rent or their mortgages. I’m thinking of hungry children who don’t have enough to eat.
And as I thought of all those people, it occurred to me that we have two important prayers during times like these. We say a prayer for mercy on behalf of those who have lost so much, and we also have a prayer of gratitude, of thank-you, for all the things we’ve been able to keep. As much as we’ve lost, we have so much.
And so what have we lost? Maybe the cherry on top of the sundae, or the gravy on top of the mashed potatoes, or the swag bag that we take home from the fancy party, or the extra point after the touchdown. But we have so much more. For all we’ve lost, we have so much. Frederick Buechner says, “What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup. We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. I know no more about the far side of death than I ever knew, but I begin to know that I do not need to know. God knows, and that’s all that matters.”
And so during strange days like these, or maybe at any time, there are always two great prayers. Just two great prayers at any time. Help us, help us, help us, and thank you, thank you, thank you. May the lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you. Amen.