Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer

Thursday 14th May 2020

‘Relational Spirituality’


One of the curious features of the present day is the lockdown of communities. All the places we usually take for granted – library, community centres, hotels, gyms, schools etc., are all closed. Even the local play park is shut. The lack of the sound of children happily playing is a rather curious feature of the lockdown. However, there are some groups who are refusing the instruction to stop community activities and failing to observe social distancing.

In the US some conservative Christian groups have flouted government regulations aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19. In an expression of open defiance and (in their view) fighting for religious liberty they have remained open. Some very conservative Jewish communities were also slow to respond to social distancing orders. In one case a prominent religious leader who first instructed his followers to continue to study and pray together, was himself diagnosed with Covid19.

In the Me’a She’arim neighbourhood of Jerusalem, when local police arrived to enforce social distancing regulations, local residents responded by throwing stones and uttering curses. Even a group of medics carrying out testing for the virus were attacked. One medic required hospital treatment and their vehicle was wrecked in the ensuing riot. Despite the high rate of infection within the ultraorthodox communities, resistance continues. Israeli police even closed down an illegal prayer meeting, and issued fines to at least twenty of the participants.

On a superficial level it is easy to condemn these ultraorthodox communities. Their actions are increasing the risk of spreading what is already a highly contagious virus. But a closer look at these groups provides a more nuanced understanding. For example, (in their view) they maintain their closeness to God by distancing themselves from the secular world, which kept many of them from seeing news reports of the virus spreading elsewhere. Also communal prayer and study of sacred texts is a commandment, a requirement, and a duty. More than a way of life, prayer and studying the Hebrew scriptures (Torah) are the means for protecting life itself. One prominent rabbi also suggested that “cancelling Torah study is more dangerous than the coronavirus.”

There is another factor at work here. It is what is called ‘collective memory.’ There is still within living memory, the experience of soldiers and police wreaking havoc and destruction on Jewish communities, most significantly within the Nazi holocaust. The history of persecution is central to Jewish identity. How that memory works in contemporary Israel varies of course according to the different groups, but this maybe helps us to understand why people are responding in such a way


John 15: 1-8

‘The vine and the branches’

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.


Unlike conservative Christian groups in the United States or ultraorthodox Jewish communities in Israel, the Church of Scotland has taken a more pragmatic approach. In order to protect church members and visitors, our buildings have closed. They will only reopen when it is safe to do so. Meantime, the church continues to be active with online discussion groups, coffee mornings and worship. But in the heavily secularised West, where religious belief and spirituality are viewed as private, inward and personal, we have an enormous lesson to learn.

Note what Charles Wesley writes in the opening verse his majestic hymn ‘Love Divine’

Love Divine, all Loves excelling,
Joy of Heaven to Earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble Dwelling,
All thy faithful Mercies crown;

God’s love that has existed before the dawn of creation, extends beyond heaven and reaches down to earth and enters the human heart. As Jesus made crystal clear in the Parable of Vine, faith is relational and is to be lived out in community – with God, with ourselves and with people of faith around us.

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church.


In this time of COVID-19, we pray:
When we aren't sure, God,
help us be calm;
when information comes
from all sides, correct and not,
help us to discern;
when fear makes it hard to breathe,
and anxiety seems to be the order of the day,
slow us down, God;
help us to reach out with our hearts,
when we can't touch with our hands;
help us to be socially connected,
when we have to be socially distant;
help us to love as perfectly as we can,
knowing that "perfect love casts out all fear."

For the doctors, we pray,
for the nurses, we pray,
for the technicians and the janitors and the
aides and the caregivers, we pray,
for the researchers and theorists,
the epidemiologists and investigators,
for those who are sick,
and those who are grieving, we pray,
for all who are affected,
all around the world...
we pray
for safety,
for health,
for wholeness.

May we feed the hungry,
give drink to the thirsty,
clothe the naked and house those without homes;
may we walk with those who feel they are alone,
and may we do all that we can to heal
the sick—
in spite of the epidemic,
in spite of the fear.
May we feed the hungry,
give drink to the thirsty,
clothe the naked and house those without homes;
may we walk with those who feel they are alone,
and may we do all that we can to heal
the sick—
in spite of the epidemic,
in spite of the fear.
Help us, O God,
that we might help each other.
In the love of the Creator,
in the name of the Healer,
in the life of the Holy Spirit that is in all and with all,
we pray.
May it be so.

(A prayer during times of COVID-19 by the Right Rev. Richard Bott)

God, who knows all things,
we know you love us.
From the very beginning your loving mercy has been poured out upon us.
You have loved us like a mother embracing us in your lap;
like a father, you have watched over us, guiding us each day.
We want to live our lives for you.
Please continue to guide our thoughts and control our actions.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.


The deep peace of the powerful wave be with you,
The deep peace of the air that moves be with you,
The deep peace of the water that flows be with you,
The deep peace of the silent land be with you,
The deep peace of the shining stars be with you,
The deep peace of the Creator,
Redeemer and the Spirit of Peace be with you. Amen


Shine Jesus Shine!