One amazing thing about COVID-19 is its ability to shut things down. For a couple of months all the churches were completely shut, alongside schools, businesses and many other things. More recently many of these things have re-opened, but many possibilities are still closed off. For example, in church, congregational singing is still not allowed.
But the crisis has also opened certain things up. Home baking, countryside walks and online shopping all enjoyed surging interest during the lockdown. Suddenly through Zoom online conferencing I find I am taking part in national and international meetings in a way that was quite unthinkable a year ago.
It makes me think about Jesus, “the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3: 7).
God, with his mysterious providence, orders the changes of this world to bring about his purposes. The great events of history inevitably and ultimately bring about God’s plans for the world (c.f. Proverbs 19: 21). The small events of our lives, be they good, bad or indifferent, also represent God’s personal love for us and work for our good, if we love God (c.f. Romans 8: 28).
I have just been planning Remembrance Sunday, but I feel a sense of powerlessness in the face of the virus. It is less than a month away, and yet small changes in the COVID regulations could easily change the plans completely.
I am being reminded how little control I have over my own life. I did not choose to be born, or who my parents were. As I grew older I sometimes thought I had things under control, but then some unexpected event would reveal how little control I really had. This is happening for me again now with COVID.
I find I have to grow in trust in God. I have to remind myself that he loves me and wants my good and I need to trust in that. But then prayer becomes ever more important. My prayers usually start with me trying to influence God about the way I would like things to happen. Sometimes that works! But sometimes (as with COVID!) my prayers become a crying out about all the difficulties and sufferings arising from what is actually happening! But this can still have value. If it is lived in communion with the crucified Jesus, who cries out, “Why?” (Matthew 27: 46) then it has great value. I start to be moulded into the form that God wants for me and I start to find the good things in what he ordains.
With prayers and best wishes, Fr Patrick
A prayer for defence through life
ASSIST us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers,
and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation;
that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life,
they may ever be defended by thy most gracious and ready help;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From the Book of Common Prayer 1662 – Collects to be said after the Offertory, when there is no communion.