COVID-19 : What to pack and a Call to Prayer

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak is drastically affecting individuals, organizations, and businesses. Fear of the unknown and the spreading of misinformation are making people clear store aisles to prepare for the future.  Local and global authorities are asking for the cancellation of large gatherings, including church services.

All this begs the question: What to pack for the trying upcoming days? What does it look like to be "The Church" in this situation?  And how is Jesus good news to people during the COVID-19 pandemic?

First, we, as followers of Jesus, can look at what Jesus packed when he went into a prolonged period of testing. When “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted” (Matt 4:11) the only thing he packed was “God’s Word,” which carried him during his testing days.  Matthew 4:1-11 contains a road map on how to face the different temptations that will come our way during this time of testing because of COVID-19.

A temptation we may face will be to just focus on our physical needs –on our need for bread. Like Jesus did, we need to remember: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt 4:4). During this COVID19 testing times we need to let the "Spirit" lead the way in our choices. If we let our minds or bodies, that easily get frightened or worn down, call the shots, we will likely fail the test. 

A second temptation we may face is to do ‘spectacular’ things –to move from trusting God to testing him. Just like Satan asked Jesus to do:

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Again, Jesus had the word of God right on his lips to successfully resist this temptation: “ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matt 4:7).

Jesus assessed the risks very accurately, and so should we. In his “Biblical Theology of Risk” talk, Claus Burchert defines risk as: “action or inaction that exposes someone or something of value to danger, harm or loss.”  Burchert asks: “What is worth risking and why? Jesus knew that jumping off a cliff to prove himself in a spectacular way would put him at risk of dying a small death (as it would be “testing God”) rather than the death he was called to die. (A ‘small death’ in Burchert’s talk refers to an unnecessary or preventable death).

A final temptation is to take the easy route to gain power:

“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ (Matt 4:5-6).

Greedy shopping could be one way to gain control or power over this COVID-19 situation.  

Praise be to God for his word, that can help us remain faithful during trying times. Praise be to Him also because he can feed his children in desert times through angels like he did with Jesus, or through natural forces like he did with the people of Israel. Either way, he did not approve of greed even in the desert:

“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matt 4:11)

"When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. ..Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” Exodus 16:11-18

We need to pack the Word of God in our hearts so it is ready to be spoken as truth against any lies or half truths that the enemy wants to bring to our minds. Maybe this time of social inmobility can be used to spend more time soaking in God's Word so we can be refreshed in this desert. 

Finally, what does it mean to the church in the time of COVID-19 when large gatherings are not allowed? Many churches are choosing to meet in homes. The question is: “why are we gathering?” “What is the risk and is it worth the gift?” (“The Art of Gathering”, Priya Parker). Jesus said: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20). The 71-year-old lady with a respiratory condition who chose to come to our house church this Sunday, felt that the risk was worth the gift.  It felt like a true gift for me to gather in Christ’s name in our home. Higher participation and deeper intimacy brought me joy. As things change in the coming days, we will see how we will need to adjust our “gathering” efforts.

Risk is fundamental for transformation. COVID-19 can be very transformative for the church in North America and around the world. It can help us learn how to manage risk associated to Gospel obedience, which is a necessary part of Christian life (Burchert).

Jesus’ followers –the Church– can be the good news amidst COVID-19.We do not need to give into fear or greed because of what Jesus achieved in his life, death, and resurrection.. We can trust God and know that neither money nor our human efforts ultimately sustain our destiny.  Christians have the capacity to be hospitable and carry a presence of peace, and not anxiety, to their neighbours.

So, let’s aim to be present and caring to our neighbours. Let’s remember that we love and serve a God who can provide for our needs even in the desert.

Let’s also be intentional and creative to find ways to connect with others near and far, and not forget those who less visible or isolated, such as seniors or those with disabilities.    

Most importantly let’s pray without ceasing for peace and hope, for medical staff, for senior homes, for people stuck in different countries away from home, and for our authorities. 

Here is one online prayer initiative.

Other sources of inspiration:

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