This reflection is being posted on the feast of St Patrick, the man who is credited with driving all the snakes out of Ireland. I can’t help but think that we would all call upon St Patrick today to drive a different vermin out of our communities. What saint will be credited with driving out COVID-19? Saint-Patrick-Drives-Snakes

In these days of self-isolation and fear of global pandemic, many communities have chosen to cancel in-person worship services this coming weekend. What will worship look like for you this week? Are you preparing a sermon to be broadcast online, or to be delivered only to your family and the church musician? Wishing blessings and good health to all, this weekend and beyond.

Some reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary texts for a time such as this…

Psalm 23 might be a good starting point for this week. The familiarity and the comfort, the reassurance that God is with us and we have no need for fear – those things make this passage a great focus for a sermon. I don’t know whether your community is walking through the darkest valley, but even those who remain on green pastures know that the frightening valley is out there. In what ways is God caring for your community in these days? How does your cup overflow?

The healing story from John is long but very good. It is especially important to remember that sickness, suffering, and physical limitations are not the result of sin. Does someone in your community have COVID-19? It’s not because they messed up and didn’t sanitize enough. And whether they recover quickly or not has nothing to do with their worth in God’s eyes. As Jesus saw the blind man and his need, God sees each one of us and knows our every need. Even if we are in self-quarantine, we are not alone.

If you do read the passage from John in worship, whether you preach on it or not, please consider replacing every instance of “the Jews” with “the Judeans.” It’s the same word in Greek whether you’re talking about adherents of the Jewish faith, or people from Judea (Ἰουδαῖος). In an attempt to mitigate some of the anti-Semitism that the Gospel of John has created over the years, it’s worth avoiding language that suggests that Jews today might be guilty in some way for the persecution of Jesus.

mgwJ1h0Another language concern in this week’s texts is the possibility of equating light with good and dark with bad, which can sometimes end up having racist connotations. If you’re preaching on Ephesians, in particular, be intentional about making clear that “dark” as this passage uses it really means “in secret” – something shameful that a person is trying to hide from God and neighbor. “Light” here means “revealed” or “public.” Maybe you could try replacing the light/dark language with something more concrete and reflective of the author’s intent.

Peace and grace to you this weekend, as you prepare for worship, whatever that might look like. Wash your hands, sanitize everything, and love everyone. Blessings to you.


Katya Ouchakof is a chaplain in Madison, WI (USA). One of her jobs at the moment is fulfilling online orders for a small, family-owned paddlesports company. This means that she’s busier than ever at work, while people stay home and find what they want and need online! Maybe it’s time for her to take out stock in one of the hand sanitizer companies.


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7 thoughts on “RCL: Sickness is Not a Sin

  1. No in-person worship for a few weeks here in Sterling KS, and the big news that’s got everyone stirred up is Kansas cancelling in-person school for the rest of this school year. We’re having our first Zoom session meeting tonight. I will do a “kitchen table” broadcast on Facebook Live Sunday morning. I had in my sermon plan this week to talk about giving using 2 Cor. 9. I think I may shift my emphasis to Psalm 23 “I shall not want” and talk about stewardship and giving as sharing/trusting God’s provision. I sure have grown in my understanding of how much I use thoughtlessly and waste now that going to the store is not so easy. Side note: I am so thankful that we started live streaming and online giving last fall!

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    1. Wow, no school until the end of the year? Is online instruction happening, or the rest of the year simply cancelled? This reminds me of how Sunday School was originally started with the intent of teaching working kids how to read and write on the one day off they were allowed off. How is your church responding?

      Also, your sermon/stewardship ideas sound great. Best wishes! Let us know how it turns out!

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      1. They’re doing online school. Kids here do lots of extracurriculars and I don’t think they will do those. We have a lot of older folks who need to stay isolated, so we’re doing weekly phone calls and making inquiries about how to help. We had our first zoom meeting last night and I realized that I am already very much missing having time face to face.

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