Living Faith: From Coronavirus to Calvary and beyond …

The Danish prime minister has been exemplary in her response to Covid-19, which has been decisive, immediate and collegial.

The monarchs of Denmark and the United Kingdom have both called upon their people to exercise a civic duty and care for the vulnerable.

“In years to come I hope everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge – that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and fellow feeling to …. define our present and our future,” said Queen Elizabeth II.

Nothing lasts forever
The Coronavirus dominates our consciousness and news media and seems to define all we think and say and do.

And today, as Covid 19 continues to cast its shadow, we echo the psalmist: “Hear my prayer O Lord – My Spirit faints within me – I remember the times past – I stretch out my hands to you – My soul gasps for you – Make haste to answer me – Let me hear of your loving kindness – Deliver me – Teach me – Revive me.”

We have to hold onto the hope that the Coronavirus will end.  It will not last forever. I want to say that my God is bigger than the Coronavirus or our fear. And I say this because of Calvary.

Easter lost in the ether
Without the customary rush to supermarkets for seasonal chocolate comestibles, along with our hands, we seem to have sanitised the sacred and eradicated the contagion of faith.

We are on the threshold of the greatest Christian festival, yet our churches are closed and Easter is somewhat lost in the ether.

The events of the first Good Friday are horrible and unimaginable.  An innocent man is tortured, dies an untimely death, and is laid in a tomb.  He takes upon himself all that is broken in the world and in the moment of death cries out: “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”

This was a death-defying-death, for when all hope seemed to have disappeared, he rose again – never to die.  It is because of the cross we can name suffering for what it is – and know it won’t have the last word!

God has turned the most ghastly event in the whole of human history and taken the instrument of torture, the cross, to be for us the defining moment and symbol of Christian faith.

The best is yet to be
Nothing lasts forever.  However much we suffer, however much we hurt – God will always be able to take our fragility and foolishness and gather it in. The past is limited. The future is eternal. The past is flawed.  The future is beyond bounds. For Christians the best is yet to be. This is the message of Easter.

In these days of social distancing, isolation and confinement, we can live our days regretting the limits placed upon us, or we can live with courage and hope that come what may, we will not be abandoned.  God is with us. In the midst of us. In the day of our fear.

So in the days to come I hope our defining characteristics as Christians at St Alban’s Church, or anywhere else, will be prayer, attentiveness to God’s word, being alongside each other with courage coursing through our veins, and compassion and hope filling our hearts.

Corona connections
I have heard many wonderful stories of people right here in Denmark who have received help in myriad, practical ways and through virtual connections. I have heard people weep as they say that after 10 years, they have spoken to their neighbours – or even received help from them.

When we come through the other side of the Coronavirus Crisis, we will have to rethink virtually everything we do. We will not be able to hit the delete button or erase this from our memories. Even now we at church have been re-imagining ministry with ‘Virtual Worship’ on our website each week.

Perhaps we can live more prayerfully, gently and generously, with a greater recognition of God in all things – to name blessings one by one and see what God is doing in our midst.

We are being called to recalibrate: to see deeply those who are suffering in our world today, not only due to the Coronavirus, but also hunger, persecution, displacement, climate change and the denial of human rights.  These continue to be monumental challenges for half of today’s world.

A Herculean task
Pope Francis cuts a lonely figure as he performs Holy Week ceremonies in isolation, yet he is in strange solidarity with millions worldwide.

At home I have a little glass figure – a treasure given in glass. It’s a Harlequin (‘arlecchino’ in Italian).  In other words, a little Hercules.  And we have a Herculean task this Holy Week and beyond: like the Harlequin, Christ’s disciples are called to be counter-cultural and Christ-like by putting others before ourselves.

Like the Harlequin we wear a mask. It is Christ’s love. Like the Harlequin, we are armed with a prop. Not hand sanitiser but God’s word reminding us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength”.

Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. And he lives never more to die.  With this hope, when Easter Sunday comes and well beyond, we can shout “Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.”