By Father Casey

My friend James Derkits is the Vicar of the Episcopal Church in Port Aransas. His wife, Laura, is a registered critical care nurse, who works in an intensive care unit in Corpus Christi. As you may know, South Texas has experienced one of the highest rates of infection in our country in recent weeks, so it’s been an anxious time for their family as she tends to those battling for their lives. Truly, nurses are the heroes of this long, frightening ordeal, and we should pray for them regularly.

A few weeks ago, Laura shared with James that her hospital had been using plasma from a recovered COVID patient in New York. You may have heard of this sort of treatment, which has proved to be tremendously helpful to the most critically sick patients. As they talked together, they spoke of how this blood, transferred between total strangers, is a manifestation of the grace of God. James eventually came to think of it as a sort of sacrament: a tangible sign of God’s spiritual presence in the shadow of the valley of death.

As he prayed in the weeks afterward, James began to imagine a full complement of seven sacraments for the pandemic. We don’t do them in church, per se, but they are most definitely outward and visible signs that reveal inward and spiritual grace. I am deeply thankful for my friend’s wise insight, and so I share a revised form of them with you in hopes that they can help us reimagine where and how God may be known in the midst of the pandemic.

Give Blood
“This is my blood…poured out for many.” (Mark 14:24)
In the Eucharist, we recall Jesus’ words from the Last Supper, “This is my blood of the New Covenant, given for you.” During that meal, Jesus also commanded them to love one another as he loves. He was inviting his followers into a different kind of community: one that emphasized selfless and sacrificial love, instead of power or privilege. When we give blood, we honor that commandment and emulate the love of Christ: we share our blood for the sake of giving life to others.

Wear a Mask/Social Distance/Wash Hands
“Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
In the Hebrew Scriptures, God provided the Israelites with instructions on how to honor God and one another, and how to keep their community thriving and healthy. During the pandemic, we have been instructed about ways we can honor one another, and in so doing, honor God. They are disciplines that benefit the health and life of everyone around us. They may not be convenient, but showing love to others often isn’t.

Stay Home
“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7)
Staying home challenges many of our normal behaviors. It separates us from people we love, and for many, it puts stress on their ability to work. It also means we can’t gather at church, which surely seems like the opposite of a sacrament! Rather than focusing on what we lose by staying at home, we can embrace the practice of stillness and quiet, which is often when God can most clearly be heard.

“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit.” (Colossians 2:5)
In this time of separation, we must work harder to maintain our relationships. It takes more effort, but in our bonds with those we love, we feel the love of God. It is also supremely important that we reach out regularly to those who are especially isolated. In something as simple as a phone call, we can be a vessel of the grace of God.

Practice Compassion
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
The pandemic has caused many to experience a “slow grinding of the spirit.” People are anxious about their health, finances, loved ones, injustice, and the future. We can join Christ in healing our troubled and divided world by practicing compassion: seeing the pain of others, feeling it inside our souls, and choosing to work for its improvement. By practicing compassion, we better understand the love of Christ for us, and offer more of it to the world.

“God has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft.” (Exodus 35:31)
All that is, seen and unseen, was born out of the overflowing, creative love of the Trinity. But creation is not something that God did only in the past; it is also something God invites us to experience today. When we use our minds and bodies to create – making music, painting, gardening, dancing, writing – we can better understand the overflowing, creative love of God. It continues to fill our world, and it can flow out through us, too.

Manage Your Health
“Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Maintaining our health is important, so we will not require the help of our strained health care resources. Exercise and healthy eating are also excellent ways to feel our best, physically, mentally, and spiritually. God gave us bodies to enjoy, so as we take care of our bodies, we show how highly we value this holy gift.