Coronavirus Pandemic Friday 24th April, 2020

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; Isaiah 26:1-4; 1 Peter 1:13-16

 

Friday 24 April  by Rev. Jerry Eve

 Reported on the news last evening, 18,738 is a very large number. And what’s more, we know it’s a conservative (and that’s with a small c) one. It’s a figure I couldn’t help but think of when I read Psalm 116:15: “How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies!

 There are times when we might seek to comfort one another after a bereavement by saying that, ‘God must have wanted him (or her) back in heaven with Him.’ This text, however, belies that notion, and I wonder if it was a text that Rev Colin McIntosh had in mind on Mothering Sunday in 1996 when he’d to write the most difficult sermon of his life. For he was minister of Dunblane Cathedral at that time.

 Several years earlier I’d attended Sunday morning worship there. I was staying in Dunblane at a Retreat House opposite the Cathedral for a Gorbals Church Elders’ weekend conference, and it just so happened that this was the very first service Colin conducted following his induction. I remember blue smarties had just been introduced (or re-introduced), and Colin was cleverly able to make some theological point about this during his Children’s Address.

 It wasn’t just clever, but absolutely inspired I thought, though, when in that sermon following the loss of 17 lives in Dunblane Primary School he spoke these words: “

 "In those fatal, frightening moments in the school gymnasium, God's heart was the first to break."

 According to the Psalmist, this being true whatever age a person is.

 There’s something else of importance that you might have noticed about this psalm. I’m reading from the Good News Translation, and what happens between verse 14 and the end of the psalm is that David (or maybe Hezekiah or some other songwriter) moves from speaking about God as remote (In the assembly of all his people I will give him what I have promised) to addressing God directly (In the assembly of all your people . . . I will give you what I have promised). This is something we should all aspire to do in worship too.

 Moving to the passage from Peter, if we look at 1 Peter 5:13, we learn that the letter was sent from Babylon, which just as Babylon is used for Rome in Revelation it’s thought to do so in 1 Peter too. Written by Peter, who’s traditionally regarded to have been the first Bishop of Rome, its purpose, at a difficult time, is to encourage Christians by reiterating for them the Good News about Jesus, in order to give them hope that there will be an end to their troubles. Peter’s exhortation to them to ‘be holy’ is a direct quotation from two places in the Book of Leviticus (11:44-45 & 19:2)

 Let us pray:

 God,

We cannot measure how you heal

Or answer every sufferer’s prayer,

Yet we believe your grace responds

Where faith and doubt unite to care.

Your hands, though bloodied on the cross,

Survive to hold and heal and warn,

To carry all through death to life

And cradle children yet unborn,

 

Amen. (John Bell & Graham Maule)


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