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There are many advantages to being a woman-of-a-certain-age and having friends who share an equivalent number of decades. After the frightening  months of the pandemic, we elders were the first age group to have access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

When Linda and I passed the two-week post-vaccine mark, we had such a sense of liberation, a feeling of being set free from 13 months of self-imposed house arrest. We delighted in accepting an invitation to a dinner party for six at a friend’s home and we continued the celebration by extending an invitation to another set of friends to share a meal at our place.

Both evenings were communal celebrations. Everyone contributed to the food and wine. My spirit was filled by the richness of connection. Throughout time, people of all faiths have celebrated community around the table. As did we.

Browsing the web, I found an article from a magazine called Table Talk. In the piece called “Eating Together,” author Rev. David Camera said:

“Christians have always enjoyed sharing a meal because of the rich biblical symbolism; because it is a tangible expression of service, love, and unity; and because of the opportunity it affords for true fellowship and genuine community. Practically, sharing a meal nourishes our need to know and be known because it facilitates face-to-face conversation.”

Yes, our dinner across town and the one at our own dining table, were all of that. We could also describe them as joy-filled, laughter-producing, tear-in-the-eye happy. And—the hugs! All the stored-up hugs! It was grand to, finally, share the physical feel of friendship.

I know these things to be true. 1) There was euphoria at the dinner parties. 2) We’re still in the grip of this pandemic.

If only our immunity were true for everyone. If only herd immunity had been reached. But we are far from that cone of safety.

The Washington Department of Health has declared a fourth COVID-19 wave is beginning to take hold. While Washington State recently ranked as one of the lowest in counts of new cases around the nation, we have now moved to 22nd in new occurrences.

In reaction, Governor Inslee has announced he’s ramped up the vaccine goals for the state. There is concern the increased number of vaccines administered might have little immediate effect on the rising cases.

Despite that, or along with that, Washington is moving into Phase Three of the recovery plan.

All of us—vaccinated and not-yet vaccinated, are still encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, to continue our mask-wearing, and to stand six feet apart from others.

My task is to keep figuring out how to reconnect, how to pick up my life, all the while keeping myself and others safe. I can’t help but focus beyond the demands of the pandemic to the other critical issues of the country. The fissures tearing our country apart cannot be ignored. Through these past thirteen months, I’ve been an arm-chair overseer of the divide. With a possible end to the pandemic within our imagination, the time is coming to face that which would be easier to ignore.

I admire people who fight for change, and—in my own way—I have been part of some of that struggle. But, through the weeks of Lent, I kept bumping up against a commandment, a directive, that I find so difficult to imagine doing. Jesus says, and I believe, we are called to love one another. “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34. NRSV)

The Holy Bible is profoundly important to me. I don’t take it literally; I do accept that it has messages by which I should lead my life. I acknowledge that the Bible is a product of its time, with some parts that are to no longer applicable and some conditions of today that are not included within the text. But there are lasting truths that I should not ignore. Loving one another is one of those. It is a directive I find so difficult to follow.

For weeks I thought my next blog would be my struggle with that commandment. I was unable, though, to wrestle my thoughts into coherent words. For now, I write of the joy of reuniting with those I love clearly and eagerly. I’ll take on the challenge of the difficult later.

My task is to move towards love for all others. To approach the point where I can see God within each Proud Boy, within each one I can too easily call “other.” To accept the invitation to sit at the table together.

“As creatures made in God’s image, we were created for relationships, both with God and with other image bearers. By God’s design, therefore, genuine relationships are the basis for all human flourishing. We learn in the Bible that sharing a meal together is one of the primary ways relationships are established, deepened, and enjoyed both with God and with others.” (“Eating Together”, David Camera)

Dear Reader, we’ve made it so far!  Be safe as you and I continue to move towards a loving community.

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