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Life has changed.
We might prefer it if it hadn’t, but it has.
In January 2020 the first cases of COVID-19 in the UK were identified here in York. At the time the situation was managed, contained, and resolved. It didn’t lead to a wider outbreak.
Yet, a year later, we are facing a crisis of infection, hospitalisations and deaths. Our NHS workers are exhausted and expecting a rising tide of cases. The number of new infections being reported tells a disturbing story of what will follow in the coming weeks. We all need to abide by the measures politicians and scientists are asking us to take.
The events of the last 12 months have shaken the world.
In the thick of this crisis, we can’t determine how it will end, and for the moment we must travel hopefully.
There are vaccines which will begin to change the situation. But there’s a lot we don’t yet know about the way vaccination will allow us to return to a more normal life.
The world has gone through many critical moments in the past.
The contents of the Bible say a lot about uncertainty and fear.
I’m sure that for a whole host of reasons many people are afraid today – perhaps you are one of them.
Fear of the illness itself;
fear of other people who may have it;
fear of the economic cost to our society and the long time it will take to repay the money we are borrowing.
For the people of Israel fear was met with faith.
Despite all they endured a faith in God never failed to surface.
When things seemed most dark and disturbing, faith brought hope and determination. It couldn’t be clearer in the Psalm we heard tonight:
God is our hope and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved…
The writer of the Psalms imagined the thing we rely on most, the certainty of the ground beneath our feet, being shaken, fragmented and tipped into the sea. A terrifying image, but also an image set against the faith that despite all this, God can still be trusted.
In all the calamity we may fear, God’s presence endures. When the things we rely on most are shaken, God remains steady. At the moment we feel we can’t hold everything together, God steps into our silence.
These are tough times.
We want to help others, and we should.
We want to lessen the risk to our neighbours as much as we can, and we must.
But when the doing is done, we need to be still.
It is not by our works, but by God’s grace that we know we are loved.
Loved in good times and times of sorrow. Loved when we feel the ground shaken and when, in those rare moments, we find ourselves utterly still – waiting with hope and with faith upon the love of the Lord.
Let us pray:
Faithful and present God, you are not blind to the storms that rage in this world, the illness that threatens. Bring your refuge and healing strength and make us still in your safety.
When what seems permanent begins to crumble, when devastation ravages the earth, when powers that be claim your authority –help us to let go of fear and doubt and make us still in your waters of gladness.
God, Creator of time, in this new season of quarantine, help us lay down both what keeps us too busy to be still and stillness that is empty before you so that we may lift our eyes to your glory. In Jesus name. Amen.
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