“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” – N.T. Wright
Holy God, you have called us to follow in the way of your risen Son, and to care for those who are our companions, not only with words of comfort, but with acts of love. Seeking to be true friends of all, we offer our prayers on behalf of the church and the world. Guide us in the path of discipleship, so that, as you have blessed us, we may be a blessing for others, bringing the promise of the kingdom near by our words and deeds. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
From N.T. Wright, “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To.,” Time Magazine Online, March 29, 2020.
“The point of lament, woven thus into the fabric of the biblical tradition, is not just that it’s an outlet for our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why. The mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in his world. That’s not the picture we get in the Bible.
“God was grieved to his heart, Genesis declares, over the violent wickedness of his human creatures. He was devastated when his own bride, the people of Israel, turned away from him. And when God came back to his people in person—the story of Jesus is meaningless unless that’s what it’s about—he wept at the tomb of his friend. St. Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit “groaning” within us, as we ourselves groan within the pain of the whole creation. The ancient doctrine of the Trinity teaches us to recognize the One God in the tears of Jesus and the anguish of the Spirit.
“It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.”
I love you, O LORD, my strength. (Psalm 18:1)
From Longing to Pray by Ellsworth Kalas: “This is the essence of the prayer of helplessness. We seek from a base of love, and we solicit power to live. This is a mood born of the nursing infant who clings to the breast in trusting love and draws from it the very strength of life. It is the small boy holding his father’s hand on a crowded street: love and strength. It is a child of God, of whatever age, surrounded by the armies of hell, taking hold of with love the indomitable strength of God. Helplessness as a word may not appeal to us, but as an experience it is universal and lifelong. Perhaps it is even necessary. Without it, we would be incomplete as humans, because we wouldn’t know the full dimensions of friendship, either human or divine.”
The Virgin of the Veil, Ambrogio Borgognone, 1500
Dear Lord and Father of humankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
– John Greenleaf Whittier
You may be wondering why such difficulty has come into your life. However, the greater question is, “Lord, how do You plan to use this difficulty so I may serve You better?” — Charles Stanley
From Longing to Pray by Ellsworth Kalas:
Israel built into its calendar occasions for exuberance. There were not only the annual feast days — all but one of which were celebratory — but every week there was the Sabbath. And the Sabbath was something to be celebrated…. Exuberance can’t be programmed or scheduled, but a schedule can provide a setting in which exuberance is more easily born or nurtured…. And it is the very essence of religious ritual. We easily decry “empty ritual”; the Old Testament prophets did so with vigor. But if the ritual is empty, that’s our fault. Rituals provide the magnificent setting in which the jewel of holy exuberance can shine. (Kalas 54-55, emphasis added)
Psalm 98, from The Message – An example of “holy exuberance” if there ever was one!
Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!
He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.
God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.
He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.
The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!
Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.
Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.
Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.
Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—
A tribute to God when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.
He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
We will get through this. Be sure to take a prayer break whenever you need one… maybe even while social distancing in a patch of dandelions! May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)