For the Third Sunday in Lent. http://lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Lent/BLent3_RCL.html
For those who may not know, the prayer that I post every week comes from the Book of Common Prayer and there is a specific prayer for each Sunday of the year (and other special days). I started posting the Sunday prayers on Facebook years ago for the season of Lent.
One of the things I love about our Episcopal liturgy (fancy church word for the pattern of our worship services) is that through it we are tied to every other Episcopal church as well as all churches within the Anglican Communion worldwide. It is a way of remembering that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
And although I do think that these prayers always speak into our lives, sometimes it’s just so painfully obvious with specific current events, it feels like these long used words were crafted for just this moment in time. Like today, for instance.
“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
We are still in the throws of a worldwide pandemic. While, yes, the number of people who are positive for COVID19 each week is far less than in December and January, they are on the rise again. The good news is that more and more folks are being vaccinated (please, for the sake of all of us, get your vaccine as soon as you are able). But, the health experts and scientists across the country are saying we are not out of the woods yet, and that the reason the overall numbers are down since December and January is that we’ve been wearing masks, avoiding crowded places, physical distancing, and washing our hands. These things are working to get the virus under control and we need to keep doing them.
And, yet, officially, the governor our state of Texas is lifting the mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open at full capacity this next week. In his announcement he was far more animated about reopening and unmasking than he was about his caution to continue to wear a mask and keep distant. This recommendation was lost in the exuberance of the first part of the announcement that Texas is open again.
In the telling of the good news story today, our friend John tells the tale of Jesus encountering people profiting from other’s desire to serve God. These supposedly religious people had imposed their own economy on God’s house. The folks who wanted to serve God had just become another commodity in their transactional worldview, a worldview that brings both physical adversity and spiritual assaults and hurt.
As we follow Jesus both already in and always moving toward God’s Kingdom, Jesus show us that the economy of the kingdom is grounded in loving action and built of relationships. I think so much of the time we forget that without each other and our neighbors, we wouldn’t have businesses to open and manage. People have become just another commodity in the transactional worldview. We use people to get the things we love rather than loving people and using things. We’ve forgotten we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves and in our forgetting we harm our bodies and souls.
And, so, I get to my point about today’s prayer hitting home. This virus is definitely an adversity to our bodies. The debates and arguments about what we as individuals should do assault our souls. Unless I, with God’s help, see this situation through the lens of compassion, I’ll focus on my anger at the governor and I’ll catch myself passing judgement on folks who stop wearing masks and avoiding crowds. And my anger and judgement assaults and hurts all of our souls and so I must decide to let go of the anger and see with compassion the bigger picture because I am part of something so much bigger – I am a beloved child of God living in God’s Kingdom. You are., too. We all are.
People need to get their businesses fully open. We all need more social, in-person interaction than what we currently have. Children and students of all ages benefit from in-person learning. And, as Jesus’ followers, we need to worship together, serve our community side-by-side, and reveal God’s love and compassion in all that we are and do and say and be the visible Body of Christ. AND we need to continue to keep everyone as safe as possible. We need to continue to live in this pandemic with a Kingdom worldview that heals and strengthens.
So, as the official restrictions around us lessen, we come to the question, how can we best show God’s love and compassion? How can we help our community business owners get back on their financial feet and still keep people safe from the virus? As Jesus following business owners and employers, how can we serve our employees, customers, and community and keep everyone safe? How do we do this thing called life with a Kingdom worldview?
Whether we are in a pandemic or not, our guiding question is always, “am I, with God’s help, loving God, my neighbor, and myself to the best of my ability on this situation?” Amen.