“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11.
We have all been watching the news with concerned interest as information is shared about the challenging and unprecedented spread of the coronavirus (CoVId-19) here in Scotland and, indeed, across the whole world.
The CoVid-19 outbreak is a situation like no other we have known before and we are probably all being affected by feelings of heightened anxiety and vulnerability in the general public to one degree or another and that is perfectly understandable. Misinformation is being freely traded and confusion sets in as people not only self-isolate from the world but also from the news sources flooding them with updates. However, in this unparalleled, rapidly changing and turbulent time when we are all affected by the coronavirus, whether directly or indirectly, whether physically, biologically, psychologically, spiritually, and for many, economically, it may be helpful to remember (and I do not mean this to sound trite or clichéd) that we are all in this together. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.” Consequently, you and yours are most certainly not alone.
Jesus came among us in the first place, to show us the way to be right and reconciled with the God who is the creator of us all, and right and reconciled with each other as children of this one God who has created us all, and therefore as sisters, brothers, and siblings, one of another.
Jesus came to show us how to be in a relationship with God and in relationship with each other, He came to show us how to live not simply as collections of individual self-interest, but how to live as the human family of God.
That’s why He said “love the Lord your God, love your neighbour as yourself” Because in that is hope for all of us to be the human family of God. In the Church of Scotland, and in the worldwide Christian Church of Christ, by whatever name it calls itself, we are all part of a much big family. Bigger than our biological families, bigger than our immediate families, bigger than our congregations, bigger than our presbyteries, bigger than our hamlets, villages, tows, cities or nation. We are part of the human family of God. Jesus came to show us that His way of love is the way of life. It is God’s human family. We are currently living in a time when remembering that important and comforting fact may be very important for all of us as we are most certainly and completely in this together! What affects some directly affects all indirectly. We are part of a family, the human family of God.
Last weekend Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus the Director-General of the World Health Organization, said this, and I quote, “We have seen this coming for years. Now is the time to act. This is not a drill. This epidemic can be pushed back, but only with collective, coordinated, and comprehensive approach by us all.” It takes us all. We are family!
And then one of the spokespersons for the European Union, speaking to the member states said this, and I paraphrase: “We must share our resources and our information. It is not the possession of any one nation”.
In each of those calls, and in the calls of The First Minister here in Scotland and The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, we have heard again and again, that we are in this together, we can walk through this together, and we will find our way in our life together. So in the very challenging weeks and months that lie ahead please try to look out for your neighbours, look out for each other. Look out for yourselves. Listen to those who have knowledge that can help to guide us medically and help to guide us socially. Do everything that we can to do this together, to respond to each other’s needs and to respond to our own needs. Thank God for the communities in which we live where we have family, friends and neighbours.
We all wrestle, too, with the deepest issues of life, why is this happening now we might ask and where is God in this? God is the only one who understands - and even He has His heart broken by what He sees. Each of us views life from our own limited perspective. We react on instincts developed over a lifetime of handling the expected and the unexpected - and we all crave answers. But God is sovereign even in things we don’t understand! God has given to humankind the freedom to make their own choices and to live with the positive and negative consequences of those choices as they impact us and as they impact others. How does a virus with its genesis in a city in China come to infect and affect the whole world? Life is certainly very messy and not at all simplistic. God’s truth is multi-dimensional. You and I may legitimately raise the question, “How can a good, all-powerful God allow such sickness in this world? How could God have allowed this time of chaos to engulf the whole world?” I don’t know, I’m human, and I’m angry and frustrated too! But our creator God does know!
We don’t need to be afraid to argue and even be angry with God.God wants to have honest conversation with us. While adoration of God and reverence of Him is very important in prayer, at the same time, God does not want someone to go through phony, fake, verbal gyrations to try to win His favour. God knows our hearts. God knows our questions. God knows our anguish. The God of creation is touched with the feelings of what we ourselves feel and wants us to express ourselves honestly to Him.
Remember, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, cried out in anguish, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” You might say, “Well that was God in human form, the Son of God, He’s entitled having emptied Himself of His divinity to, in His humanity, cry out in that demanding way!”
The questioning of God is a sign of a firm and forceful faith, declaring that we are in relationship with this One, that we do take God seriously, that we yearn for our answers, that we are able to argue with God - always in the context of beginning with a prayer acknowledging we are creatures and God is Creator, though, at the same time, taking God seriously enough to engage Him in virile, vital, strong conversation.
There is absolutely no need to despair! My seventeen year old granddaughter said to me the other day, “Grandpa, it’s okay to have a little meltdown, but don’t unpack it and live in it!” I think I know what she means?
Please remember in these difficult days that God unconditionally loves you. God loves every single person who has been impacted by this international tragedy. The clearest statement of what Christianity is all about is in those words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
And let this time of national tragedy be a wake-up call to all of us. We have all too clearly been shown that individuals and nations can’t put themselves “first” at the expense of others. We are all very much in this together, one people, one world, one family! We need, then, to share information, research and resources - and, in time, working and cooperating together, we will undoubtedly overcome CoVid-19! The same argument applies, too, to the climate crisis, we need to be much more cooperative and collectivist in the future!
The historic Auld Grey Kirk on the Hill will continue to serve the people of its parish in any and every way we can. We will work energetically and enthusiastically with any and all others of good faith in unconditionally keeping the channels of our little community open and all of our people well. Be sure, you are not alone. At this immediate time, we believe our Christian call to action is to pray - for those infected and those affected, for those in the medical and scientific fields who are researching and combating the virus, and for all those who may feel anxious - that the Great Physician Himself, Jesus Christ, will bring strength, comfort and healing to all.
A Prayerful Moment: God of the present moment, God who in Jesus stills the storm and soothes the frantic heart; bring hope and courage to all who wait or work in uncertainty. Bring hope that You will make them the equal of whatever challenge lies ahead. Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided, for Your will is health and wholeness; You are God, and we need You. This we pray in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
And may God hold us all in His almighty hands of love.