‘Uncharted waters’, ‘Nothing like this in our lifetime’, ‘Challenge never before seen in peacetime’, ’Normal life has been put on hold’; I could go on piling up the words that have been used to describe the current situation as the world copes with the coronavirus pandemic. It seems like a very dark period. We are used to reading about disasters happening in other countries, a tsunami, a volcano, an earthquake or a hurricane, but we are not used to such things in Western Europe. Apart from the virus itself there are the consequences of trying to beat it. It is not just postponed holidays or pubs opening take-aways but the loneliness and isolation which may be felt by the most vulnerable in our society. As older people and those with underlying health conditions are asked to enter a period of ‘social distancing’ which includes significantly reducing face to face contact with the friends and family on whom we usually rely, it is our mental as well as our physical health which is under pressure.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called for Sunday to be a day of Prayer and Action. One of the things we are asked to do is to light a candle at 7pm and place it in the window of our houses or flats. It is a powerful symbol of love and victory.
The Gospel for today, Mothering Sunday, is Jesus healing the man born blind in John chapter 9. Normally, I would love to expound all 41 verses because it is a fabulous story of Christ’s power and love but that will have to wait for another day. Take a moment to read John 9 verses 1-7.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” He said it to a man who didn’t know what light was, who lived in perpetual darkness, a man born blind. A few minutes later the man could see clearly, perfectly, “Light” was no longer an alien concept. He understood shape and colour, distance and diversity. Jesus had made the difference between Light and Darkness.
Jesus as the Light has been mentioned before in John’s Gospel. In Chapter 1 which we read every Christmas John writes: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” and in Chapter 8 Jesus says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
It is quite clear that in our imperfect world there will be times when the darkness seems to close in and yet into that very darkness comes the Light of the World, the Lord of creation whose light the darkness cannot touch. Into our world comes the Lord Jesus and wherever He is cannot be dark because He is the light.
The Archbishops have asked us to copy the example of the Good Samaritan, to look out for each other, to “Love our neighbours as ourselves.” As an aircraft enthusiast I am reminded of the safety demonstration before each flight which, when talking about oxygen masks says “Always fit your own mask before helping others.” Of course, we may not be able to meet together as a Church but God is never off duty, no virus can quench His love or stop Him hearing and answering our prayers.
Put that together and you get a great way of getting through these next weeks and months which came out of Canterbury and I find easy to remember. It is this:
Keep safe, Keep connected, Keep praying
You can find some very helpful material on the Thy Kingdom Come web site www.thykingdomcome.global Look for the “10 creative ideas to help your church during the coronavirus shutdown”
And finally…..most preachers say that and I am no exception…..remember that Jesus also said to His disciples….that’s us….”YOU are the Light of the World.” (Matthew 5:14). There is a gracious, Holy Spirit filled charge to us to live as Jesus would in the darkest days: to know and share His peace, love, and practical care.
God bless you and keep you and those you love close to Himself
The Very Revd Robert Key
Anglican Communion Lead for Thy Kingdom Come