Lent Sunday 3. (15 March 2020)

We have the snuffles (not a nasty virus, and there is officially no COVID 19 in the South Island) and we will do church virtually. Our church has embraced technology, and this means we can join the community and not infect others.

The question at this time is how do we deal with times like these? Firstly we pray that this does not happen, and we adjust what we do. The quite pagan government is now advising the faithful, noting that the sixth case of COVID-19 attended mass last week.

The Ministry of Health issued advice yesterday to the National Liturgy Office urging it to stop hand shaking and sharing communion cups and holy water.

The office’s acting director, John O’Connor, said people should instead smile and nod or bow to each other, and priests are being asked not to touch children’s heads when blessing them.

But he said there was no plans to ban mass altogether unless asked to by the Ministry of Health.

Fr O’Connor said so far there had not been any decrease in attendance at church services but he was aware of people who were fearful.

“They have no reason to be fearful because the Ministry of Health, whose advice we’ve been following very, very closely, have told them there is no need for fear and that the virus is under control in New Zealand … but we are particularly concerned for those who are feeding the fear.”

We should prepare. we should not consider that we are immune. Suffering is part of this world. Our prayers should not be merely for good health, but that our rulers will be wisely advised.

Collect One
We beseech thee, Almighty God,
mercifully to look upon thy people;
that by thy great goodness
they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All scripture is useful, Particularly the recorded mistakes. When times are bad, you can either rage at God, or you can learn from this. There are lessons here. Plagues happen. If we are wise, we see them as tests, designed to refine us. Because there will always be suffering in this life, and it is appointed for us to die once, then to God give an account for our lives,

Exodus 17:1-7

Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”

Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

The Lord is with us in bad times as well as good. The spirit of this age is one of selfishness, atomization and hedonism: tough times challenge those who have placed their convenience and comfort as the highest virtue: be the libertarian or boomer. Let us learn instead to persevere, and find that hope that does not disappoint.