These are uncertain and strange times. Just a month or two ago, few, if any, of us would have expected anything like the present crisis happening in our lifetime; but it is and we will rise to the challenge, God’s People always do, whatever the cost and however long the emergency, that is our nature, that is our calling as disciples of Jesus.
Some think of the situation as unprecedented, regrettably it is not; global conflagrations and pandemics have happened before and they have devastated the communities that experienced them. It is just that we cannot believe it is happening here and now.
But even in the midst of this fear and anxiety as to what the future may bring, we may yet find hope. Those in history whom I hold in high esteem lived and ministered in challenging times; they found within themselves something that most others in a time of peace and plenty overlook or dismiss. For every person who stockpiles unnecessarily we find someone offering to help their neighbour, neighbours they may not have spoken to for some time. Social media has a lot to answer for in helping to create panic buying and conspiracy theories; but is also a means by which we can stay in touch, and connect with those who are unable to get out at the moment.
I believe that society cannot remain unchanged once we get through this and I hope there will be changes. I believe we could learn much about ourselves and our world. I believe that we can become more empathetic and understanding, compassionate and caring. So, I am hopeful, concerned but not beaten.
The writer of the Second letter to the Corinthians has much to offer us at such a time (2 Corinthians 4 NRSV):
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
It is deeply regrettable that worship in our churches has been suspended until better days, but this is a necessary measure to slow down the transmission of the virus. If we are able to slow the contagion down, then our NHS will have a better chance of coping with the inevitable increase in treating those who are in need of medical attention. This will save lives, though many will be lost, sooner than we had expected. So we have to be vigilant for the sake of the greater good. It is easy to criticise those in positions of authority and those elected to govern at such a time, but so long as they continue to work for the benefit of all we must adhere to their advice; we may not like it but that is an integral part of working together in pursuit of a common objective. This is not a time for disunity but a time to serve our neighbours and the nations of humanity.
I would commend to you the creation of a little sacred space in your homes, somewhere you can place your Bible or prayer book, a cross, icon, candle or flower, whatever it is that you find speaks to you of the One beyond us and beside us. The Russians have poustinia, prayer cabins in the woods, a sort of hermitage. Its literal translation is desert or wilderness. I would suggest that we can create a poustinia in our homes, a place to where we might retreat and pray, to reflect upon the world, the crisis we face and our own place within it. It doesn’t need to be another room, or anything grand, just a small table or shelf, or part of a shelf that we set aside to be sacred for us. You will find links on the Methodist Church website for suggestions of how to pray and what to pray. I believe that when we do this at set times each day, maybe after breakfast and at least a drink, or lunchtime or before we go to sleep, we begin to find a poustinia in our hearts, a sacred desert or wilderness in which only God can be found.
May God richly bless you in this time of trial and tribulation and may you carry with you the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 91 NRSV):
1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honour them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
Rev Bruce Thompson
Chair of Lincolnshire Methodist District
Local ministers remain available to be of help, please ring or email them. Please stay at home and avoid as much contact as you can for the time necessary should you feel unwell, if are over 70 or have underlying health issues then please take extra care. The churches are seeking to do what they can in extreme circumstances and support others in their work.
My prayer for all of any faith or none in this time of crisis
Compassionate God, Eternal One, Absolute Truth,
You care for your creation and weep over our misuse of it.
You are above and beyond all that is
And you teach us the Way you would have us travel in life.
We are troubled today by the fear that sweeps across the nations,
So You are the One to whom we turn, for You have been with your children in every time of crisis, you rescued your people in the storm, freed them from oppression, journeyed with them through the wilderness and brought them to rest in a land of plenty.
We are united in our prayer for the world and each other.
We especially pray for those engaged in medical support and the caring professions, that they may know of our appreciation and be strengthened in their tasks today.
For the weak and vulnerable, for the sick, sad and frightened, that they may be calmed and healed by a network of support.
For those who keep essential supplies of food and other services available during this crisis, that they may be given their due reward.
For those who teach and oversee the care of our children, that they may be provided with all they need to fulfil their vital roles.
For those who take decisions on our behalf, may their judgments be filled with wisdom.
Lift the morale of the anxious, raise the hopes of the downcast and clear our cloudy vision.
That we may walk with one another out of the confines of darkness into a world of glorious light, where wholeness is valued above possession, love goes deep between us all and peace and justice are restored.
Rev Bruce Thompson
Chair of District