I’m Beth Sutter. If you’ve come to GMC within the last 15 years, you probably haven’t met me in person but I’ve been around for a while. I started coming to GMC in 1986 after moving here from Chicago. I taught Sunday School to the adorable 2-year old, Jordan and Zack Burkholder and worked as an Occupational Therapist at the same hospital that George Hatzfeld worked at.
As my disabilities became more pronounced, forcing me to remain in my bed at all times, I’ve been able to continue my work on the Peace and Social Concerns Committee and feel the support of the congregation through deep friendships and spiritual, emotional, and financial support.
When I saw again those of you I know at our first Zoom service, I remarked to Ruth about how old every-one looked. This, now, is your chance to say the same thing about me.
While the pandemic has caused great limitations in the lives of many, it has provided new opportunities for me. For example, I’ve been able to worship with you for the first time in over a decade. I’m, of course, not saying that I’m grateful for the pandemic but I am struck with how this time of restraint for so many brings a time of greater freedom for me. “The last shall be first, and the first last?”
Just as the structure and form of haiku puts limitations on one’s prattling on and on, it also provides a great freedom to create within the structure of haiku. I encourage us to think of this as a time of opportunity rather than a time of denial. As a time for creativity and purpose.
As the expectations of daily living and celebrations are lowered, we are able to express the meaning of life and what’s important to us in more poignant ways. I think of the 90th birthday party for Lois Miller, who many of you know from the years she and Elmer spent with GMC. Instead of a big blowout party, she received different groups of friends and family via a Zoom party. Instead of me hearing about it later from Ruth and Lois, I was able to be there myself and join with others in expressing our love for Lois.
This is not to say that my life or anyone’s life is easy, living in these times, but as someone who has effectively been quarantined in my bed, flat on my back, not getting out of bed at all for 12 years, only seeing 12 people a year, over half of them medical personnel, I’ve learned to draw on God’s sustaining power to get me through and I don’t have so much patience for those, who healthy and without experiencing the death of loved ones due to COVID 19, mope and cry about how difficult their lives have been made due to the pandemic.
The British essayist, Pico Iyer (uh-yer) reminds us, “The best antidote to anxiety, says my monk friend, is thinking of others.”
I think about the fact that the restrictions we face, and the difficulties they cause, are not caused by war. Can we now more realistically enter into the lives of those unable soldiers’ bullets and bombs falling? Of those who have no options for their children’s disrupted education?
When I was growing up, our parents served us two pieces of toast for one supper a week so that we could more fully understand what it felt like to be hungry. This was part of a Mennonite Central Committee program, “Try Hunger” which encouraged people to have a small meal and then give the money saved from the meal to relief. Is now a time to “Try War?”
As pain wracks my body, I’ve often found it helpful to think of political prisoners and people of conscience being tortured, and I join them in solidarity, I realize, and am grateful, that my pain is not caused by the cruelty of others.
It is by looking beyond myself that I’ve been able to endure and thrive and continue to empathize with the rest of humanity, as we all seek to live lives of service and benefit to others.
It is by looking beyond myself and accepting God’s strength that I find “the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”