“When the Lord called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.”
Grant your people, O Lord, we pray,
health of mind and body,
that by constancy in good deeds
they may always merit the defense of your protection.
Through Christ our Lord
Prayer Over the People (March 13, 2020)
The Cornonavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading throughout the world, and the US is no exception. I have heard a lot over these past couple of days which confirms my thought that Americans have a superiority complex, and believe they remain their own master. The audacity of the virus hitting us here in the US! How could it be? The average American has their eyes still focused on themselves, their life, and their superiority to be free over this virus.
Had it not been for a word I received at the last retreat I attended, courtesy of Father Brian King, (Episcopal Secretary to the Bishop of Palm Beach County (FL)), my perspective on things may not have shifted. His words convicted me in a way that spoke to my soul. He focused on our Lenten practice, how we focus so much on us, I’m fasting, I’m praying, Look at me, me, me. He pointed out that even our hymns are about us. He reminded us that we are here to worship Christ and not ourselves. Little did I know that he would send me out with a message of warning before this outbreak really hits us hard.
And the warning is this. God is speaking to us, but will we listen? If we are not armed with our weapons of spiritual warfare, we will not be able to fight. The instructions have been given to us- to wash our hands. Simple, but true. When we look for other answers, we may be missing the message already sent out by God.
There is a great story in the book of 2 Kings about an army commander named Naaman who was a strong soldier and leader, “but valiant as he was, the man was a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1(a)). Through a series of events, Naaman ends up coming to Elisha the prophet, who does not even come out of his house, when he instructs Naaman to go wash seven times in the Jordan River in order to heal (2 Kings 5:10).
“But Naaman went away angry, saying, ” I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand there to call on the name of the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the place, and thus cure the leprous spot. Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed? With this, he turned about in anger and left.” 2 Kings 5:11-12.
It was his servants that convinced him to listen to Elisha. He proceeded to plunge himself into the Jordan River seven times as the prophet told him to do, and “His Flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” 2 Kings 5:14
It is this healing of body and soul that awakens him to recognize and acknowledge God’s power. It is the realization that he is God, and I am not.
The story serves as a stark reminder to the simpleness of God, to the voice of God and the things that He commands. Naaman wanted other answers that he thought were better and so do we. We want a pill or a shot or some other form of medicine to contain the virus. We want to live our lives and go back to normal and are angry when our trips or concerts are cancelled. Can you hear Father Brian’s words in the back of your mind? I, I, I.
Where is the I in God?
Containing the virus is as simple as Naaman washing in the Jordan River seven times. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. There is no other answer.
This of course is just one of the many simple messages we have received as warnings. Heed them. If we do not heed God’s message, we may not be able to serve God’s people when they become ill. We take care of ourselves because we love God, because we know that we may be called in during this crisis, in our world or in our church.
So no need to panic. The words of instruction are already written for us.