What does it mean to follow Jesus at a time like this? What difference does he make in our lives as we live in this moment?
I think my first thoughts centre on a couple of areas.
I think, firstly, we can be slow to become anxious.
Some verses from the Bible:
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
The issue is where we choose to put our attention and focus.
As someone on my Facebook feed wrote this week:
Two thoughts this morning:
1. What you meditate on you magnify.
2. What you focus on you feed.
If you’re feeling fearful at this time, starve it. Take a break from scrolling social media and spend time in God’s Word and reflect on His promises.
The verses above are a good place to start.
We might also read Psalms like Psalm 23, Psalm 46 and Psalm 91.
Some brilliant apps to look at are the Bible in One Year app, the Lectio 365 app, and the Church of England Daily Prayer app.
And secondly, I think we can be quick to love our neighbour.
I think that this moment offers us a real opportunity to build better community with those on our streets.
I love the story behind #viralkindness which I read recently.
The cards are available here and offer help to neighbours with shopping, posting mail, friendly social contact as well as urgent supplies.
What if, as well as dropping cards around the streets surrounding the church centre, we each took responsibility for our own streets…? (This might not be for everyone, but we each do as we can.)
Christians have form for responding in these sorts of ways. In centuries gone by, when a plague hit a city, it could devastate up to half of the population.
A Christian called Dionysius, writing sometime around A.D. 260 at the height of a great epidemic, wrote: “Most of our [fellow] Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty … heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ.”
Today, we should be aware of the danger, and must act wisely so as not to spread the virus any further. However, the challenge of sacrificial love and loyalty remains.
And one of the greatest ways we can love our neighbour is to pray for them. With that in mind, here is a prayer for this time which has inspired me, written by Cameron Bellm:
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.