As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Tuesday 21st April 2020
‘God’s judgment is always redemptive’
Recently a small number of people on the fringes of faith have suggested that COVID-19 is God’s judgement. For example, a DUP Councillor, John Carson, who represents Ballymena, Co Antrim suggested that pandemic in God’s judgment on Northern Ireland for the legalisation of abortion and same sex marriage.
This takes us to one of the most problematic doctrines of the Christian Faith – the doctrine of providence. There are various degrees of understanding. The range from God being the initiator and sustainer of creation, to God being in complete control over every event and experience. It is here that the doctrine becomes awkward. If God is in complete control and is responsible for every event, then what about the Corona Virus? It this part of God’s plan and God’s purpose? And when you take this to its logical conclusion it means God is directly responsible for all the people who have died.
Of course things are not that simple. The study of God – theology – doesn’t always provide clear cut answers. In our study of the scriptures and reflections on our own personal spiritual experience we always end up with more questions than answers. If that is not complicated enough there are further challenges. There is mystery. Our understanding and knowledge of God will always be partial and incomplete. Then comes the counterintuitive aspect of faith – a ‘simple saint’ can have greater insight into spiritual things than a person of great intellect. Here we are reminded that the study of God isn’t just about the mind – it is also a matter of the heart.
So the challenge here is getting a reasonable and nuanced view of what God is up to during this pandemic. I do not believe it is God’s judgement. I do not believe that God is pouring out his wrath. After all the people who are most affected are either the most selfless or the most vulnerable. For me this says more about John 15:13. But I do see God at work here. I see God helping us to examine and reorganise our priorities. I think God is reminding us of things that really matter. I think God is challenging us about our responsibilities to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. I think God is teaching us about the true value of things. The true value of friends and family and community.
Speaking to an empty rain soaked St Peter's Square at the Vatican on the 27th of March on a service that was streamed around the world, Pope Francis said “the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.” Addressing God in prayer, the Pope that "it is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others."
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
John 15: 9-17
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Isaiah 55: 6--9
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Sometimes it can feel that God is absent and far away and everything is freewheeling out of control, yet there are times when God can feel so close and intimate and in control.
What do you think God is saying to you at the present time?
Remember – God’s judgment is always redemptive!
Almighty and merciful Father, who show your love to all your creation.
We come before you asking for a quick control of the Coronavirus currently ravaging our world.
Hear graciously the prayers we make for those affected by the virus in various parts of the world.
Grant healing to the sick, eternal life to the dead and consolation to the bereaved families.
We pray that an effective medicine to combat the sickness be speedily found.
We pray for the relevant governments and health authorities that they take appropriate steps for the good of the people.
Look upon us in your mercy and forgive us our failings.
Loving, ever-living and compassionate God,
You understand the pain of loss, the heartache of bereavement,
May we hold in our hearts all those whose families or friends have died.
You are a light that shines in the darkest times,
Guide us and heal us in our sickness and sorrow.
You comfort us in times of fear,
May we comfort each other, even as we keep apart.
You console and lead us in times of doubt and confusion,
May we follow the light of your love and spread hope.
You move our hearts to acts of generosity,
May we be led to share what we have with those in need.
God of life,
We thank you for the signs of your light in the midst of our darkness,
May we be signs of your compassion in the heart of your world.
(Prayer: Linda Jones)
Lord God, we entrust to you the families and communities
affected by Coronavirus, wherever they may be.
We pray especially for health care workers, that you may guide and protect them.
We pray that your Spirit might inspire those researching new medicines and treatments.
And in the midst of this, keep us strong in faith, hope and love. Grant us the courage and perseverance to be good neighbours.
May the words of your Son Jesus Christ in the Our Father,
be our prayer as we entrust ourselves and all of us who are affected
to your infinite power and love.
Your loving care
when you walked with us on earth
you spread your healing power.
We place in your loving care
all who are affected by Coronavirus.
Keep us strong in faith, hope and love.
Bring relief to our sick,
console our bereaved,
protect those who care for us.
We lift our prayer to you Lord,
and trust in your infinite mercy,
as we wait for the daybreak.
May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Love divine all loves excelling