Twenty-twenty. When I say those two words I’m not sure if I intend them as a statement or a question. A lot of things could be said about 2020. It feels like we have been exiled from our homeland, from the way things used to be, from what was familiar and comfortable, and maybe even taken for granted. It feels like we are living in a foreign land, waiting and wanting to go home. I don’t know when we’ll get to go home. I hope and pray that with the vaccines and continued use of masks and social distancing we can return sooner than later. But I don’t know. So what do we do in the meantime?
If 2020 showed us anything it revealed how necessary that kind of deep and intentional listening is, and how difficult it is to sort through all the voices we hear, both within and outside ourselves, and discern a truthful way forward. I don’t expect that kind of listening to be any less necessary or difficult in 2021. Who are you listening to these days? Who are you not listening to? What are you listening for? What do you want to hear and what do you not want to hear?
Last week, some of you may remember, I ended my sermon by asking this question: Will we, in 2021, be different from and better than how we were in 2020? There’s not much about the first ten days of 2021 that suggests we will. I think it’s still an open question and, I hope, still a possibility. But after the events of last Wednesday and the assault on our nation’s capitol I’m just not so sure we will be. As I reflect on the events of last Wednesday I keep going back to words from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
We’re three days into the new year, a time of change and transition often marked by the calendar more than the circumstances of our lives or world. Regardless, the 2020 year end reviews are well underway with commentaries, assessments, and judgments. For some, maybe most, “Good-bye 2020,” could just as well be “Good riddance, 2020.” And “Hello, 2021,” could just as well be “You could’t get here soon enough, 2021.” We’ve quickly greeted the new year with predictions, wishes, and prayers. I read this in the news, op eds, and on social media. I hear it in the conversations I have with others and in the silence of my own heart. Will 2021 be different from and better than 2020? I suspect all of us, at some level, are asking and living with that question.