In the 8th week of the Coronavirus lockdown in the UK, the Government has released new guidance for the way we conduct our lives, which are being used in England, in order that businesses and lives can start to come back to some normality without increasing the numbers of people who are being infected or losing their lives to Covid-19. The rate of infection, the ‘R’ number, is all important in guiding our lives and freedoms and must be kept below 1.
We are encouraged to continue to stay and work from home unless we need to work from our workplace. Those in construction and manufacturing are encouraged to return to work. We are asked not to use public transport unless absolutely necessary. We can exercise freely now during the day and even drive to a place of exercise. We can meet up with one person from another household, but grandchildren and grandparents cannot yet meet. A 2m gap should be maintained for people from different households as well as in the workplace and face coverings should be worn when in close proximity to others. We are asked to understand the risks of infection and to act accordingly and to ‘Stay Alert’ to the invisible virus.
For some people this loosening of restrictions hasn’t gone far enough, causing frustration. For some others it has gone too far and introduces risk and anxiety in contracting or passing on the virus. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for instance have not yet loosened their guidance. Social media commentaries have all sorts of different opinions, some are condemnatory of the behaviour of others. Those who are bereaved with the death of family members are especially vigilant and alert, warning us of the consequences. How is this affecting you?
Church buildings of course are still closed, the Christian community, the body of Christ cannot gather together except virtually. Does this matter to us? Perhaps we were regular Church attenders or perhaps we never attended anyway. How does the Christian community ‘Stay Alert’ and live out its mission to our community and the world?
Jesus said to his followers when he was about to go to the cross (John 14:15-21)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me“.
The Holy Spirit is given to the forgiven follower and believer in Jesus Christ, he points the believer to Christ, he is the Spirit of truth and guides the believer if we allow him to. He is the force for goodness and truth in our world and his work his evident and clear, yet he is invisible. The fruits for the believer of the Spirit in their lives are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) and his gifts are numerous,
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1Corinthians 12:7-11).
It is to the invisible Holy Spirit that the forgiven followers of Jesus Christ look for guidance in this pandemic, for our actions in each of our individual lives, knowing that these actions are focused on the other person. For some this may well mean remaining at home in order to prevent the spread of the virus amongst others or protecting our health services. For others it may well mean serving in the workplace in a way that models the Christian sense of working for the common good. For some it may be serving their neighbours by delivering food and picking up prescriptions. For others it may be home schooling their children. For some it may well mean to be part of the healing of the sick or to know grace and faithfulness in sickness. For some it may be a burden to pray. Whatever it is for you, the Holy Spirit moves us out of the building into our communities to show the love of Christ. We are driven not by our own purposes, but by the love of God for the other person.
Paul met with the elders of Ephesus and told them this (Acts 20:32-35), as he was about to leave them.
“And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.”
Paul’s actions were led by the person of the Holy Spirit and so our actions should be led by that same Spirit in this pandemic, outside of the Church building, sometimes on our own, sometimes with others. In it all we recognise God’s grace to us and show that grace to others.
The invisible Coronavirus is encountered and overcome by the invisible presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of the forgiven followers of Jesus Christ. It is the person of the Holy Spirit who guides us in our watchfulness, our alertness and our actions for the common good, for the other person. What does this mean to you?
Perhaps our prayer could be with the following lyrics
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Stay Alert to the invisible power of God’s Holy Spirit.