REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 37: Pandemic uncertainty and gospel surety.
It seems that the longer the pandemic continues more and more uncertainties are taking hold among us. Even in WA where we have been very fortunate in so many ways this is evident. It is not surprising, since we who have enjoyed remarkable levels of stability for many years, who have not always been strengthened by trials, are finding ourselves unprepared for uncertainty. Do we put our hopes in a vaccine? Or is there a security to be found elsewhere?
As we sang this golden oldie on Sunday: I cannot tell why…With its joyful refrain, but this I know…my mind went directly to Deut. 29:29, the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that have been revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. The uncertainties of the pandemic become an invitation to find certainty from outside ourselves and this world. Whilst it is clearly right to do all that we can to ameliorate the health, financial, loneliness and bereavement hurts and dangers of the pandemic, it is wise to look outside ourselves for wisdom, comfort and strength. This is what Deuteronomy 29:29 calls us to do. Revelation from outside ourselves always comes to our rescue in tough circumstances, just as the satellite news of an approaching tsunami will be of great help to the people relaxing on the beach or the specialist radiologist’s reading of the X-rays in Perth will be to the anxious surgeon in the rural hospital. Our hymn helps us, through gospel lenses, to understand with increased clarity what we can be sure about during pandemic [and all] uncertainties.
I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.
I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the Cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.
I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendour
When He the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.
I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King.
That we don’t understand everything about God is a reminder of our humanity, and that God has revealed what we know, a reminder of His remarkable grace. The first verse takes us to the historical reality that we are the planet visited by its Saviour. The second that we can personally know His kindness in dealing with our sin, comforting all who trust Him as Saviour. Then the third and fourth verses bid us look beyond ourselves, where His [and our] seed-sowing labour, fertilised by the pandemic’s humbling work, will bring Him glory at His return. All who have owned Him as their Saviour will not only see but share in, and sing of, this jubilation which will see the whole creation never to be racked by pain or pandemics again, as the joy of Jesus’ Kingship will be shared by the redeemed.
Gospel lenses remove the blindfold of our man-centred dreams and worldly aspirations, replacing the rose coloured glasses of unrealistic optimism, with the 20/20 vision that God graciously would have us enjoy as we live in sync with His once-crucified but now bodily resurrected and Risen Son. Whatever God’s purpose in allowing the pandemic, we can be sure that He wants us to remember that His Son, not us, is in control of the world. When our Lord spoke those words: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life [John 8:12] he spoke them so we who trust Him would obey them. They were given to us for our comfort, protection and joy so that the world He came to light, might be enlightened by we who claim to be His followers [Matt 5:14-16; Phil. 2:12-18; Eph.5:8-21]. The pandemic will bring us troubles but there is no need for it to throw or deflect us. Indeed, as we embrace it as God’s messenger we will prove the depths of His goodness far more than when all is easy and calm, and so shine brighter in the darkness, so helping others grapple with their fears. Our prayer, that will keep us from pride, will always be that as we walk in Christ’s light, others might follow us to Him.
Peter Brain 18th August, 2020