How do we as Christians respond to this pandemic?
During this year, I (and probably many of you) have been hearing Christian voices call us back to the language of lament.
As I mentioned in my sermon on the crossing of the Red Sea two weeks ago, in relation to the rabbinic commentary on the Egyptians dead on the seashore; “As we make our way through the dark and deep and messy parts of our lives, our human history, we are called to lament for our suffering and for the suffering of others.”
Lament came up frequently in the conversation I had, at our Zoom day retreat recently, with the other city Baptist ministers, and, the other week, John shared a clip with me from The Drum, where journalist Bo Seo, from The Australian Financial Review, spoke of having found some comfort in the psalms during these months of the pandemic. “What the psalms get right, “ he said, “is that for a condition like this, there’s no cure. There’s no therapy. There’s no treatment. There’s only consolation. Things that help you make it a little bit better. It’s not a bad reminder that those are the things that we need.”
And this week I have finally got around to reading, God and the Pandemic by Tom Wright and he writes:
In a time of acute crisis, when death sneaks into houses and shops, where you may feel healthy yourself but you may be carrying the virus without knowing it, when every stranger on the street is a threat, when we go around in masks, when churches are shut and people are dying with nobody to pray by their bedside – this is a time for lament. For admitting we don’t have easy answer. For refusing to use the crisis as a loudspeaker for what we’d been wanting to say in any case. For weeping at the tomb of our friends. For the inarticulate groaning of the Spirit. ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice,’ said Paul, ‘and weep with those who weep.’ Yes and the world is weeping right now. The initial calling of the Church, first and foremost, is to take our place humbly among the mourners.
Grief , after all, is part of love. Not to grieve, not to lament, is to slam the door on the same place in the innermost heart from which love itself comes.
From the 18th October John and I are going to be preaching a short series on the psalms of lament. If you would like to be part of a small group exploring this theme or use these materials in your existing small group, please speak to me (after I’m back from leave on the 6th October).
Over the next few weeks, however, and certainly this Sunday we are remembering the seasons of creation. We are remembering again our love for the world around us and God’s love and creative delight in the world around us. We are also reminded, as Tom Wright says in the quote above, that all creation is groaning and waiting for the redemption of God, a redemption that has a material and physical dimension. We look forward to what Paul Falconer is going to preach on this subject for us this Sunday.
And, on the 11th October, you are invited to let family and friends know that we will be celebrating another ‘Blessing of the Animals’. It’s an A to H Sunday that week, but feel free to come and join the Family Church that Sunday (and bring your pets!) if your surname is in the I to H group. Hopefully – in keeping with the theme of giving thanks to God for all creation – we will be able to take the Family Church service outdoors that Sunday.
God be with you as you grieve for and as you love this world in which we live.