A message from Revd Chris
Passiontide 2020: Coronavirus
In line with Government advice we are, wherever possible, being asked to “Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives”. As vicar of Tavistock, Gulworthy and Brent Tor, I know that many have been asked to self-isolate and I thank you all for the ways in which you are responding to the Coronavirus crisis by seeking to follow this guidance. I too have been asked to self-isolate and thankfully, for me, this will end next week when I will be able to fully resume my duties. I have missed you all. You have been very much in my thoughts and prayers.
As we try to curb the spread of the virus, we are finding new ways to care for one another pastorally – particularly those who are vulnerable, anxious, or frightened and in need at this difficult and challenging time. I have heard numerous heart-warming stories of the kindness and generosity on members of our congregations in helping others – literally, putting “love into action” and I thank you for all for what is being done. I thank you too for the faithfulness of prayer. This is what the Gospel asks of us: that we should love God and love our neighbour. To love someone is to take responsibility for them and for their wellbeing. We are being called upon to do this in new ways as we seek to support one another and our communities.
Nationally, the Church is making a growing range of digital resources available for those at home including weekly video broadcasts each Sunday; audio broadcasts for day and night prayer, and new mental health reflections. Much of this content is downloadable and in printable formats. Over the coming weeks, I also hope to stream services, prayers and reflections. The first streamed service will be on Palm Sunday at 9.45 am and this will be followed by daily worship and reflections during Holy Week.
As Passiontide begins tomorrow, I offer this reflection in the hope that it may be of help at this time:
In his Gospel, St. Mark records a story of storms and chaos – of a world out of control. You can read this in Chapter 4, verses 35 to 41. In many ways it feels at the moment as if we’re on that boat and in the storm ourselves. We can imagine exactly what it’s like: we can picture the fear on the disciple’s faces, and their agonised expressions; the sound of the waves breaking over the boat; the force of the raging wind. It’s frightening. We know what it feels like to be afraid. Storms and chaos are frightening. We know this only too well, because this is our world too. Storms and chaos are being experienced now. We know about all these things and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by them. But St. Mark’s story holds good news, and we need to hear it. Jesus calms the storm. Storms, chaos, and a world out of control are not the final word. God speaks powerfully.
And from the Old Testament, in the book of Job, there is a story of personal suffering and chaos – the story of a life out of control. This is the story of Job. If we put ourselves in Job’s shoes for a moment we can feel his discomfort, and we can hear his questioning. Everything is ripped away from Job, his life appears to be ruined. We hear him
complain bitterly. He argues vehemently, he protests, he questions, and he rails against God. He demands a right to be heard. Job is destitute, sick and alone.
We know about all these things too, and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by them. But this is an amazing story of an amazing person. Job’s faith never waivers, and, as we read his story we can feel his inner strength. Job never lets go of God – he never curses God, he never disowns God. Job reaches out to God and God stands by him. Job comes to know God in a new and deeper way than he has ever known before. Literally, plucked from death, he’s not only restored to his former status, he surpasses it. And the strength he discovers – the assurance he feels – is there for us too. This is good news, and it’s the nearest the Old Testament comes to an Easter experience.
Remember too that on the first Good Friday, though mocked, deserted, and hung up to die, Jesus held firmly onto God even when he could no longer sense God holding onto him.
Jesus’ story is much greater than Job’s, but the good news is the same: Hold on to God – hold on really tightly the tougher things get. Even when everything looks desperate, God is there. Personal suffering and chaos – and lives out of control are not the final word. God speaks powerfully.
These stories speak powerfully to us today in the face of the Coronavirus – there is good news to hear. Clearly, we must not act as if Christ has not come – for that would lead us to avoid taking responsibility. Acting responsibly means that our priority now is to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. To pray and support one another in the best way we can.
The taking of responsibility as a Christian means living in the knowledge that decisive battles have already been won. It means living with the strength and assurance that comes from holding on really tightly to God, the tougher things get. This is a time of crisis: of storms, chaos, and suffering. But, we will not be overwhelmed if we hold on to the story of Jesus calming the storm, and to the story of Job – the good news of the Christian Gospel. Despite apparent evidence to the contrary, Christ is present and God speaks powerfully. As the Church of God in this place we too can speak powerfully in the days and weeks ahead.
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Please be assured of my love, care and prayers. My God bless you.
28th March 2020