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?
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.
Another 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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