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Article | April 1, 2020

Opening to New Life in the Midst of Brokenness

Blog|The Rev. AnnaMarie Hoos

Like all of us, I’ve felt lonely, overwhelmed and afraid these past few weeks. Yesterday, for some reason, was particularly hard; I wept talking on the phone with seminary classmates. So I was heartened, this morning, to listen to last Sunday’s sermon by the Rev. Canon Dr. Ellen Clark King.

It seems like anyone who isn’t afraid at the moment isn’t awake,” she began. She shared her own fear that distant loved ones might fall ill and die without any way for her to say goodbye — a fear I share. She reminded us that the Bible is full of people expressing their anger and fear to God. Even Jesus, she suggested, had an “ugly cry” when he came to the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Ellen also named the brokenness we are all experiencing as the pandemic unfolds, evoked by ancient story of the Valley of Dry Bones from Ezekiel:

We are a profoundly broken society, broken long before Covid-19 came along to highlight our deficiencies. We choose leaders … who consistently put the economic prosperity … above the basic needs of the poor. We rate our own safety as more important than the well-being of others and use fear as a reason to hold children in cages. We fail to weep whenever we see a fellow human being sleeping in dirt on a street corner. This is us – me as well as ‘them’ as well as you. Our society. Our responsibility.” 

Acknowledging the fragility of our society, our relationships or even our own capacity to respond to these challenging circumstances is difficult. It can be easy to retreat, emotionally as well as physically, into distractions, stock-piling, or self-pity. But the hope of and promise of our faith is that God brings new life even to the most dry and hopeless places. Ellen reminded us:

“…But we are not a forsaken society. New breath, new gentleness, new vulnerability, new life can come to this bleak valley, to these stripped bones….It is beyond time to open ourselves to God’s breath in us. To the breath that brought us life in the first place. To the breath that speaks words of love and forgiveness. To the breath that breathes in every human being, every living creature, and that unites us more closely more fiercely than our shared vulnerability to Covid 19.” 

And she called us to find new ways to “draw the prophetic breath of God into our society’s dry bones.” She called on us to “decide to live as if each person mattered as much as we do. To decide to live as though we truly believe in a God who can bring forgiveness out of judgment, abundance out of scarcity, hope out of despair, life out of death. And to live like this without denying the storm of emotions that sweep through us on a daily basis. The fear, the despair, the anger, the longing for life to be otherwise. Bring these to God. Speak these to others. Know your humanity, and in knowing your own, know the humanity of every person who shares this world with you.”

I’m grateful for this reminder of my human frailty at this time, and of God’s care for me and for us. I recall how deeply Jesus entered into humanness when he chose the mystery of the Incarnation, embracing all of life’s suffering and loss along with its joys. As we move into Holy Week, I’m going carry with me the vision of quiet, vulnerable openness evoked in the poem by the Australian poet Michael Leunig that Ellen shared to conclude her sermon:

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open

Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt
And let it sting

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring


The Rev. AnnaMarie Hoos is a transitional deacon in the Diocese of California and a communications consultant, currently working for Grace Cathedral. She serves at Holy Innocents, San Francisco and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, San Francisco. 

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