I lift up my eyes to the hills —from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

-Psalm 121:1-2

One aspect of living where we live is that at any moment, while outside, I can lift my eyes to the hills. Maybe this is why Psalm 121 is a favorite psalm for me. It is comforting to have this mental image of God as an ever-present help, as one who never sleeps on the job.

I’ve thought of this help a lot during the last few weeks. As most of you know, my sister and then my mom contracted the Covid-19 virus in late December. My sister, who works in healthcare, had received the vaccination the day before she became ill. It’s hard sometimes to contemplate how close she came to being safe from this disease. She is thankful for all your prayers as she continues to recover.

My mom was hospitalized on January 6th because she was having difficulty breathing. They had done a Covid-19 test a couple days earlier and while she was in the ER, the positive results were received. Initially she responded well to the treatment…so well that on the weekend they talked of sending her home. My last conversation with her was on Saturday (1/9) and she sounded really good and looked forward to going home. Unfortunately, her health began to deteriorate on Sunday. She died on Wednesday, January 13.

I share this with you to offer a couple of observations. The first is that for many of us the virus seems to be something “out there,” something that is tragic, yet is affecting others. Maybe this is a way we cope with difficult things that are not immediate to us. I have had that relationship with the virus throughout these past months. But then the virus is suddenly here, close, and impactful.

It first arrived in our midst with a beloved member testing positive, then a staff member, then my sister, and my mom. Next on this list was my husband Scott, who unexpectedly tested positive in early January. We both had to quarantine and neither of us became ill. Then, the day before my mom’s funeral, I was exposed to the virus again, necessitating another quarantine and testing. I am happy to report that after 10 days I do not have the virus. But these were very close calls.

I could have easily had the virus, and thus exposed others to it. For instance, I didn’t learn of my exposure the second time until Sunday afternoon on the 24th. I wonder how I would have felt if we’d had church in-person and if I’d exposed anyone. I know I would have felt horrible! Because of this experience I am going to approach having worship in-person with much caution and I hope you all will be patient. Maybe we will be able to gather together in some form in March…but we will have to wait and see.

The other observation is that it is possible for a person to follow the guidelines, in essence to “do everything right” and to still contract the virus. We need to remember this because unfortunately

the politization of the virus has very much poisoned the atmosphere. We have people who are intentional in their disregard of precautions. Some of them get sick and others do not. We have people who are careful and still contract the virus…but this is a much smaller percentage than those who do not take precautions.

This politization has introduced the idea of “fault” or “blame” for contracting Covid-19. Of course, this is not the only illness that often has a sense of blame attached to it. But right now, this is at the top of our minds. I told my sister last April, that if she does everything that she can, if she follows all the guidelines and precautions, and still contracts the virus IT IS NOT HER FAULT. It was not her fault that our mother contracted the virus, rather, the virus is to blame. We see in the news that healthcare workers, in spite of precautions still become sick.

The best thing we can all do is to do our part to slow the spread of the disease so that our health care and other essential workers are able to work more safely. This is a way that we can show active love for our neighbors.

We can also remember that we are not in this struggle alone. We have God who loves us and all we have to do is go outside and look up to the hills to remember this.