Plague, Prayer, and Possibility

The pestilence raging all around us takes our memories back to the influenza epidemic of 1918 and beyond that to the plagues of 14th century Europe that killed off one-third of the population.

For those of us who read a lot in the Bible, it brings to mind the “little apocalypse” in the Gospels where Jesus says: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.  Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matthew 24:38-44)

So we are poised, some awaiting the death of individuals, of families, of governments, and of a desiccated old order no longer able to stand up before the fire of what is demanded by a God who seeks the full flourishing of all creation.

In the Gospel perspective, calamity is the unveiling of what really is at the core of God’s purpose for all of creation. Here it takes the form “Son of Man.” You can fill in whatever term or symbol might convey a sense of the new possibility of human fulfillment.

As we wait, some huddled down, some scrambling to cobble together their resources to face a possible year of want, we are also looking at what will survive of our old order and what will burn away.

Maybe we will rediscover the freedom of human community beyond the supposed freedom of individual liberty. Maybe we will embrace more completely the light of Truth rather than the semblance of celebrity illusion. Maybe we will throw open our windows to sing for and with each other. Maybe we will claim more deeply our common humanity in sharing food, resources, and an environment beyond the pollution of our skies, streams, and bodies.

In the loss may be our finding. In the isolation may be a deeper bond of care, in our trimmed down expectations a real hope that shares a common world of shared life. Let us know what you might be finding now. What might be your open windows as we undergo the disciplines of mere survival in the face of this invisible onslaught of disease.

I attach the liturgy for last week’s Roundtable Worship Gathering, which was cancelled along with other worship gatherings in our community. The Reading was not specified. You can add your own.

Wherever your table is, wherever you go to get carry-out from your local restaurant, do what people have always done at table. Give thanks. Open your hands. Let them be cleansed. Let them be ready to touch again.

Roundtable Gathering

March 15, 2020

Call to the Table

            Out of pestilence and plague,

            You lead us with your healing power.

            In the dungeon of our darkest fears,

           You bring the light of your resplendent love.

            From the bitter isolation of our loneliness,

            You take us to the joyous banquet of your new creation.

            With stubborn limp and fearful hesitation,

             We come to your table,

            ALL:  Your table of peace. Amen. Amin. Ameyn.

Song of Gathering: “Healing”

Remembrance (Unison)

            As Moses held the healing serpent to heal his people in the wilderness,

            As the waters of Ezekiel’s temple healed the errant life of Israel,

            As Jesus healed with touch and word the suffering people all around him.

            As Peter healed the crippled beggar at the temple’s gate,

            As the tree of God’s renewed creation will bring healing to the land,

            So the work of healing flows throughout the ages in the faithful circle of God’s love.

Song Response: “Healing” —Antiphon and Refrain

            “May your mind be renewed by God’s Wisdom,

            May your hands bring Shalom to the earth.”

Thanksgiving  (Unison)

O God of Healing, God of Love,

When we wander in perplexity and fear, you draw us to this table with the bounty of your faithfulness. When our bodies tremble with the burden of their finitude, you release our spirits to the open vistas of your new creation. The patient work of your renewal leads us to the steady care of one another. The marvel of your intricate creation leads our minds to seek the healing of your wondrous ways. At your table we renew our hope in your miracle of mercy:

            Thank you, God, Holy One,

            Thank you, God Creating,* Thank you God.

                                    *Redeeming, Transforming

Sharing at Table

            “The Bread of Life”                 ”The Cup of Healing”

A Reading:

The Conversation:

             “How Do We Respond Faithfully in the Midst of this Pandemic?”

Gathered Prayers

The Hope Prayer

O Source of Life, You alone are holy.

Come, govern us in perfect peace.

Give us today the food that we need.

Release us from our sin as we release our enemies.

Sustain us in our times of trial.

Liberate us all from evil powers.

Guide us in your justice, wisdom, and peace. Amen, Amin, Ameyn

Words of Commitment

            In God’s love, we will seek the path of reconciliation.

            In God’s power, we will walk the ways of peace.

            In God’s wisdom, we will struggle for God’s justice in this world.

            In God’s mercy, we will seek to care for Earth, our home.

Blessing Song:

            1.)        Go now in peace, blessing and blessed,

                        Grounded in God, Filled with God’s Light.

            2.)        Go now in peace, blessing and blessed,

                        Grounded in God, Filled with God’s love.

4 thoughts on “Plague, Prayer, and Possibility”

  1. Here is a reply from Gerd Decke:
    The little apocalypse is really a very pertinent part of the Biblical message for these days and especially for the underlying and accompanying apocalyptical slow motion climate catastrophe which is only covered up by corona for the time being.

    I feel the urgency and absolutely radical seriousness of Luke 13. If we do not repent and that means turn around and change our minds (metanoia) and deeds (you will recognize them by their fruits) then we will all perish in the long run. This Corona virus is a wake-up sign of the times. If we do not wake up through this call of urgency and transfer the direct reaction to the clilmate crisis in terms of rethinking our priorities and taking drastic action (in life style and social and economic behavior and finances), we will suffer disaster in slow motion and ever faster cumulative motion in the years and decades to come.

    Here is the warning and the promise of a certain time period to be used immediately, radically touching the root causes and not to be delayed:

    Luke 13 (new King James version)
    Repent or Perish
    1There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
    The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
    6He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”

    As the German translation says: “Give him (=us) one more year still”! Maybe then we will use the time. In the sense of Ephesians 5:16: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

  2. I cannot say that I have so much elaborated on this idea as lifted it from a lecture entitled “Loving to Know” by N.T. Wright, professor the New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews. I was struck by the similarity of your (Everett’s)description of God who “seeks a full flowering of all creation” with Wright’s words: “Love transcends the objective/subjective divide, because as the image-bearing stewards of creation, as liturgists of creation’s reality, we humans are called not to a cool, detached appraisal of the world, nor to a self-indulgent grasping of it, but to a delighted exploration and exposition, in which respect and enjoyment go together. ” And elsewhere “which for the Christian means receiving creation as what it is, the gift of love from the good and wise creator. Our delighted, sensitive, respectful and curious exploration of creation is the response of love to the love we have received.”
    Well it is no good quoting the whole lecture though it is moving and offers such a captivating invitation to know through loving response to the Creator, that I encourage readers to find “Loving to Know” in First Things, February 2020. You will find an elaboration of the epistemology of Love there way beyond what I could add. I reflect often on relishing or looking long and lovingly at the real as the way to know it.

  3. Thanks so much, Bruce. The phrase “epistemology of love” opens up a rich vista. Let me know if you have elaborated on this idea for our readers.

  4. This is a liturgical foray into the “epistemology of Love.” I will re-visit it daily. Thank you.

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