Pandemic Praying 3
You don’t have to go far to hear some very angry messages, to the effect that God is using COVID-19 as his instrument of judgement. Yesterday I was given a video of a street preacher in Times Square, shouting at NYC to repent. Today I received a very long, blistering email broadcast aimed at “parents, pope, directors, CEOs, etc., Pastors, Prophets, Priests, kings, princes, and leaders (especially of the body of Christ),” calling each of us to repentance. The email concluded, “Sent With Divine approval.”
N.T. Wright penned an instructive article this week in Time Magazine in which he reminds us, “No doubt the usual silly suspects will tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign? These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation.”
There was a time when the church (by no means just our denomination) viewed all disasters to be the hand of God on His people and on the world. We are not so quick to go there anymore. My purpose here is not to try and furnish an explanation. Wright’s point is that crises such as this should not take us to demand an explanation, they should take us to lament. He continues,
“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.”
Lament, says Wright, is “where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.” The Spirit might well take us then from lament to repentance. I need to repent of my secret hope that certain world leaders contract the virus. Or of the fact that although there have been many terrible virus outbreaks in my lifetime, I really only care when it affects me personally. Or lament the very great suffering of so many in the world.
Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the Lord (Lam. 3:40).
Brady Sluder gained notoriety last month by brashly proclaiming from a March Break beach party, “If I get corona, I get corona.” But we are all learning through COVID, and here’s what he learned:
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of. I’ve failed, I’ve let down, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I can’t apologize enough to the people I’ve offended and the lives I’ve insulted. I’m not asking for your forgiveness, or pity. I want to use this as motivation to become a better person, a better son, a better friend, and a better citizen. Listen to your communities and do as health officials say. Life is precious. Don’t be arrogant and think you’re invincible like myself. I’ve learned from these trying times and I’ve felt the repercussions to the fullest. Unfortunately, simply apologizing doesn’t justify my behavior. I’m simply owning up to my mistakes and taking full responsibility for my actions.”
Biblical repentance, says William Mounce, is “a radical turning from sin to a new way of life oriented towards God.” It is good to be part of a church which regularly includes lament, repentance and assurance of forgiveness as part of its liturgy. In this way, we are called back to God at least weekly. This season of Lent is, as well, a time of lament; we find in Lent a reminder to turn again to God and return to him via the cross of Jesus.
“God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:18-20).
If you hear the Spirit of Jesus calling you to lament and repent, spend some time in Lamentations 3: hear the deep lament of the writer; hear the grief over sin; hear the call to return; and hear the gospel proclaimed.
After spending some time in lament, where is the Spirit directing you?
In closing, let’s pray together as Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Take this blessing with you today:
God go before you to guide you.
God go behind you to protect you.
God go beneath you to support you.
God go beside you to befriend you.
Be not afraid.
Let the blessing of Almighty God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Descend upon you,
settle in around you,
and make its home in you.
Be not afraid.
PS - Everything in this article that is bold and underlined is a live link; click on it to be taken to a new page for more information
PSS –Movie Night is tonight at 7! Details are on the Events page.