A Spiritual Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

A Spiritual Response to the Pandemic

from Richard Frazer, Moderator of Edinburgh Presbytery

As we anticipate the impact of the Corona Virus Pandemic, many of us are looking for ways of calming down or finding the inner peace that eludes so many of us in these troubled and anxious times. We are being warned of a tsunami of illness heading our way. How can we prepare? Of course, there are the very practical steps, and the advice is everywhere, and we must pay attention. But, how can we prepare spiritually, especially when we have the responsibility of ministering to people who will be looking to us for guidance and support through these dark days?

The search for contentment and wellbeing might go on eluding us if we are not alert to the reality that the ‘ache’ of life is not an aberration, something to be overcome, but a lived reality for all of us at some time. The pandemic is a massive reality check that we are fragile beings, always on the edge of tragedy and loss. This one happens to be on a global scale.

At the heart of the Christian message is the story that tragedy is a part of what it is to be human. It is about learning, as Jesus did, to live with and through tragedy, rather than imagining that we can live our lives avoiding it or pretending that this is not a reality.    

Coming from our tradition, which is based on the idea of suffering and the cross, tragedy is at the centre of what we proclaim, and sometimes you are nearer to the point of it all in suffering and crisis than you are in the midst of wellbeing.

Our faith is not about keeping our fingers crossed hoping for a better life on the other side of death, it is about the reality that through tragedy, grace, kindness, humanity and compassion are underwritten in spite of the reality of life’s brokenness. This is what Jesus means when he invites his friends to ‘love one another, even as I have loved you’. (John 13:34). His love took him all the way to Calvary and beyond it to the mysterious community of compassion, tenderness and love that is his risen body at work in the world.  What makes us truly human is taking the stuff that life throws at us seriously and enabling those experiences to build us into people of grace and compassion.

Many years ago I read a reflection by Frederick Beuchener, the American Presbyterian minister, on the story of Jacob in the Book of Genesis (32:30), when he is supposed to have seen the face of God. He asked the question, ‘What would Jacob have seen?’ He answered, ‘He would have seen a face like that of Christ, half ruined by suffering and fierce with joy’. In times like these, we may not be able to reach out with our hands, but we can open our hearts showing, through our faith in Jesus, something of that understanding of human suffering mixed with the joy of knowing that Christ has overcome, and his love will prevail.

In all your efforts to support people, your families and yourselves over these coming weeks, be assured of the solidarity of prayer and the presence of Christ in the midst of suffering.                                           

Richard Frazer

Moderator of Edinburgh presbytery