“Lucky to Be Alive Right Now“
When we meet the Schuyler sisters in “Hamilton,” they sing a line that recurs throughout the show.
Look around! Look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!
Few of us would say that right now!
The converging crises of the relentless spread of the COVID-19 virus, the economic collapse, our long over-due reckoning with systemic racism, and a deeply divided Presidential campaign are more than enough to make most of us wonder who would sing with the Schuyler about “how lucky we are to be alive right now!”
Great Leaders for a Great Time
We’re not the first people to feel this way.
In the early war years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Harry Emerson Fosdick described what people in congregation at The Riverside Church in New York City were feeling when he opened his sermon by saying, “This is certainly a ghastly time to be alive.” He captured the mood of the time in words from the 4th Psalm: “Many there are that say, ‘Who will show us any good?”
Fosdick spoke with the same unflinching honesty with which Winston Churchill named the very real dangers, defeats and disappointments the British people faced during the Blitz. (My wife and I highly recommend Eric Larson’s brilliant book, The Splendid and the Vile.)
Like Churchill and FDR, Fosdick knew that people can handle the truth, in stark contrast to our current President who “downplayed” the COVDI-19 crisis because he didn’t want people to “panic.” (He now denies that he “downplayed” it, but we heard it from his own lips and have become almost immune to his denial of the truth.)
Genuine leadership begins with telling the truth. It also means giving hope and calling people to rise up to the challenges and opportunities they face. Like Churchill and FDR, Fosdick declared, “Nevertheless, this is also a great time to be alive, and alike the personal and the public issues of it depend on whether we see that.” He concluded with words that could not be more appropriate for our time.
This is a ghastly time to be alive–that is true, but it is not the whole truth. This is a great time for spiritual adequacy, for wisdom and courage to face and create momentous change, for realistic appraisal of our false reliances, and for profound convictions about God and [people] and the kingdom of righteousness on earth. We are living:
In an age on ages telling;
To be living is sublime.
(A Great Time to Be Alive, p. 10)
With you, I’m weary of the crisis. I grieve for all the things we’ve lost. My heart and prayers are heavy with concern over all the hard truths that make this “a ghastly time to be alive.”
But people of faith have been through times like this before. By God’s grace, they’ve found a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity to dig deeper, reach higher, believe stronger, and stretch out their arms to love more widely. They’ve learned to pray Harry Emerson Fosdick’s words that became one of our greatest hymns, God of Grace and God of Glory.
Set our feet on lofty places;
gird our lives that they may be
armoured with all Christlike graces,
pledged to set all captives free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
that we fail not them nor thee,
that we fail not them nor thee!
Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the search for thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.
May we, facing the hard realities of a ghastly time, find ways to make it a great time to be alive…right now!
Grace and peace,
P. S. This could be the right time for you read the stories of ordinary people who found their own way to Make A Difference.