Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, we are living in very unusual and difficult times. I hope that you are doing okay at this time.
When the corona virus first put us in lockdown, I wrote some bible studies on the plagues that hit Egypt as written about in the Book of Exodus. I was concerned that some Christian preachers/teachers were portraying the pandemic as a punishment from God. Because ancient people saw every event that occurred as divinely inspired, ancient people did see plagues as punishment from God/gods. The book of Exodus does then suggest that God is directly punishing the land of Egypt. My studies, as a modern person with the knowledge we now possess, led me to conclude in a different way. Although I am not a scientist the causes of plagues can be found in the natural world. We are hearing different theories about how covid-19 started, and whatever the truth actually is, we can be sure that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does not send plague on us to punish us. (My studies are available to be read via the Circuit web-site under the blogs section).
Having said that, judgement does stand over us, as a world/society at all times for our behaviours. The reason we confess our sins, day by day and week by week, is that we know that we sin. Sometimes we know what we have done is wrong. But we also pray for forgiveness for those things that we do unwittingly or unknowingly. Judgement always stands over us – every day, all the time. God does not need to send plagues to punish us. God sent us Jesus to call us into new life.
But one thing that happens in times of crisis is that we may be led to reflect more deeply on the kind of lives we live. If we as individuals, families, Church fellowships, communities and society as a whole use this time to reflect, the sores of our lives are exposed. On an individual level, and as a personal reflection, I note how much money I am not spending at this time on ‘stuff’ I do not ever really need. As Churches I suspect that we all will have discovered a deeper and more caring fellowship as we have stayed in contact with people and prayed for people more often than usual. So, I encourage you to reflect on what you have learnt personally and on your Church life during this time of pandemic that you would like to hold onto as and when life returns to some sort of normality.
In addition, and equally as important, let us think about the flaws in our society that the pandemic is revealing. Whilst we are all applauding our emergency and support services at this time, perhaps we will also realise that we have undervalued, under-resourced and under-paid so many key workers. We are becoming more aware of the under-funding of our care home system. We are becoming more aware of the poor conditions of our prisons. We are becoming more aware of the plight of the homeless. We see more clearly the domestic violence in our society. We see the hunger in our country as people rely on food banks. One very obvious consequence of the pandemic has been the improvement of air quality as pollution has dropped dramatically.
In the Exodus plague stories the Pharaoh promises Moses that he will release the Israelites from captivity after each plague only to go back on his word and life returns to the status quo. We are hearing a lot at the moment of a new normal. But this is about social distancing. What would a new normal look like if we and all our leaders were to reflect deeply upon the sores and flaws that exist in our world and to do something about them? The Pharaoh and Egypt stood in the end under the judgement of God because they refused to do something new. They refused to fix the injustice of keeping a group of people in slavery. God always punishes injustice but it occurs through our own foolishness and stubbornness to change. When we have the opportunity to change, to grow, to develop as people, Church and society will we use this wilderness experience to repent of our sins and learn to ‘to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with your God’. (Micah 6:8)
Revd Dr Andy Lyons.