A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?” (Isaiah 40:6)
After a sleepless night, I was at a loss for words as I walked along the Delaware-Raritan Canal on that chilly March morning, contemplating what it meant to finish my seminary studies as COVID-19 shut down the country. The pandemic is truly here, I thought. My classes are going to be entirely virtual. There will be no graduation ceremony. I’m going back to Chicago. I have three days to pack up my apartment, arrange for a moving truck, and drive to my parents’ house. And I don’t know what comes next after all that. I don’t know where God is calling me.
I tried to pray, but the words just wouldn’t come. So I internally recited this litany of facts instead, lifting them to God as I put one foot down in front of the other.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of us this year. It has changed how and where we live, how we work, how we shop, how we eat, how we spend our time, how we worship, how we gather together. Uncertainty, impermanence, fear, loneliness – for many of us, these have become our bread and butter as we realize how much we have taken for granted.
And yet, God’s call continues. “A voice says, ‘Cry out!’”
In these days when so much is up in the air, I’m sure many of us can hear ourselves in the overwhelmed desperation of the prophet Isaiah, joining in his bold and discerning response: “What shall I cry?”
Even in the face of the hopelessness and helplessness so many of us feel, God is still present, active, and calling us forward. God hears Isaiah’s question, after all – and God responds. In the midst of an unstable, uncertain, and even fickle world, God is constant, eternal, and reliable. As Isaiah proclaims, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.”
As we look to the year ahead and discern our next steps great and small during this Advent season, may we have the courage to join Isaiah in asking, “What shall I cry?” And following God’s call, may we join in the joyful proclamation of Isaiah and of all God’s people: “Here is your God!”
Vicar Hannah Hawkinson
Pastoral Care Ministries