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Pause for Thought, 13 May 2020
Welcome to Pause for Thought.
I know that many people are anxious about the continuing lockdown, the implications for them and their families, and the implications for church. Just at the moment, we’re in a particularly uncertain phase. I was drawn to Psalm 91, where the writer refers to dwelling in the shelter of God.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Whoever would have thought last year that we’d now be in a global pandemic? Yet it arrived, with a vengeance, bringing fear and anxiety in its wake. You don’t need a degree in history to know that the unthinkable can become very thinkable in a flash. Many previous generations have had to contend with plagues and other forms of devastation, taking the lives of countless people in a relatively short space of time. Our ancestors knew what it was to live constantly with a lurking expectation of instant visitations by self-appointed grim reapers, some of them claiming divine authority. In more modern times, human beings in the Western world have generally felt more secure in the world. What the Coronavirus has done for our generation is to shatter the illusion that we are invincible, that we can control events, that our brilliant technologies can deliver us from evil. This modern plague also puts a question mark against our complacency and our pretensions.
Yet, the pandemic also brought other things in its wake. It triggered an avalanche of good things: acts of random, sacriﬁcial giving, heroism on the front line of the NHS. People have shown how to love each other from a distance; people have challenged the unfettered individualism so visible in society; and shown a sense of loyalty to a wider community. To use a theological metaphor, at our best we are members of one another and we ﬂourish best when we care about one another. There’s an old Irish proverb: ‘It is in the shelter of each other that the people live’. Sometimes we should offer shelter to those who need it, other times we need shelter ourselves. It is sad iw missed the chance to be reminded of the meaning of virtue?
So, let’s offer ourselves to God in a prayer:
Loving heavenly Father, in a world turned upside down, where daily life is far from normal, we come to you, the One from whom our help comes.
We come to you, giving thanks that you have promised to always be with us. In your presence we find the security for which our hearts cry out at this time. In this time of personal and global crisis help us to believe this is true. Help us to trust in you. Give us a faith that will be an anchor, firm and secure, in the storms we are going through.
God who loves like a mother, we hold before you all directly affected by Covid-19: those who have been infected;
those who have been hospitalised; those who have lost loved ones. We also bring to you who are caring for and supporting those with the virus: medical staff, health workers, carers, the emergency services, families and friends. Give them strength, compassion, and love in these difficult days.
Lord, you knew abandonment and isolation. In the Garden of Gethsemane you were abandoned by your disciples. On the cross you felt abandoned by your Father. We bring to you all who feel abandoned or isolated because of the emergency we are going through. Help us, in these difficult days, to be good neighbours. To reach out in love to our neighbours in our communities and beyond.
Holy Spirit, may we know you within us, among us, and between us, gently encouraging us, helping us to find hope and strength, today and every day.
We offer you these and all our prayers, God the three-in-one. Amen.
And so, as we return to whatever else awaits, we go with blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Upon us, today, tonight, and forever. Amen.