This week the UK passed a grim milestone, 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. The enormity of this tragedy is both shocking and unimaginable. Each loss is a person: a name, a face, a friend and family member, a person with a history and hopes for the future. More than that each was an individual known and loved by God. As a result of this pandemic, millions of people have been touched by terrible grief, millions more by economic hardship, loneliness, and anxiety.
What can I do?
Many of us wonder, what can I do? Following guidelines is a way of loving our neighbour and lessening the likelihood of infection spreading. Calling and connecting with friends, neighbours and vulnerable folks around us will help support us all.
One thing we can also do is pray.
The Archbishops of York and Canterbury released a letter to the nation this week. Acknowledging the outstanding care given by NHS and social care staff and the hope contained in the breakthrough development of vaccines it calls us all to join the archbishops in praying each day at 6pm from February 1. I hope that many of us will find time to pause and to pray as I know many people are already doing.
Our prayers are more than expressions of despair, they are a manifestation of hope in Jesus. The archbishops say:
“Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away. Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.”
Archbishops of York and Canterbury
The letter goes on to invite all people, whether believers or not, “to cast their fears on the Lord”.
Our text this week is Phil 2:1-11 with its majestic portrait of Jesus. Jesus, God the Son, as Hebrews 1:3 tells us, is the flawless expression of the nature of God. This is the genuine character of the one to whom we reach out in prayer and the one upon whom we cast our fears.
Paul will have us know that this God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. He was, and is, not aloof and detached from the world’s troubles. Indeed, he sets aside his status to walk alongside us in this life. How wonderful that we can promise God’s companionship to any who call upon him!
Philippians 2 tells us that in Jesus God faced down death and evil and undid death’s claim over our lives. Paul’s portrait of Jesus then concludes with the resurrected and exalted Christ restoring and ruling over all things. Wow! What a hope to place our confidence upon.
The last word then is not given to grief or loss but to Jesus, the risen one! Such is the unique and glorious hope of the Christian faith.
This portrait is a blueprint for a Christ-like life. It was given that we might emulate it. (Phil 2:5) Perhaps you might like to think about how the story of Jesus reaching out into our world in humble service might shape our approach to other people and how we can carry and share this living hope in days like these.