I think this article, while written for the Canadian context, does a good job of putting a finger firmly on a perspective that is, at best, under-reported in the midst of our current pandemic situation. From my experience working among the citizens in a blue-collar town in West Virginia where the opioid epidemic has only become more deadly because of covid, the heartache and the anxiety that this author names is spot-on. But covid numbers are easier to quantify and turn into a punchline for news outlets.
“He was an immigrant from India, and he had worked tirelessly to achieve the Canadian dream. It was his dream to immigrate to Canada to own a small-business and provide for his family. And his dream came true—briefly. By the end of the first lockdown in August, he lost his dream—he lost his restaurant. COVID-19 didn’t make him lose his restaurant, the government did. And he isn’t alone.”
For those who plan to watch the Presidential debate tonight, remember the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4.26: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
I’m not trying to be funny.
If you are like me, you’ll need to skip the debate altogether. I can’t imagine anyone saying something that will help me love my neighbor better tomorrow. I CAN imagine them saying plenty of things that will turn me into a jerk toward my neighbor tomorrow (both in-person and on social media). My relationship with my neighbor is far more important than “being well-informed”.
The dangers to life and health that are being sorely neglected during these coronavirus days have nothing to do with infection vectors and face coverings and everything having to do with the impact on those who struggle with mental health issues. For instance, in our area the increase in the number of deaths per opioid OD (over and above the average #) since the start of the pandemic is grossly larger than the deaths by covid-19. Loneliness (for the elderly especially) has been shown to be physically harmful. Seasonal Affective Disorder can be worsened by social isolation. Depression is made more severe. Children are suffering from increased domestic violence. Suicide rates have jumped. COVID-19 is killing people who aren’t infected with it… people who would most likely not have died had the pandemic not hit. Public health concerns must consider mental health.
Please, if you are suffering, reach out. Go out. If you know someone who is suffering, reach out to them. Call them or even visit them. “Stay Home. Stay Safe” is not true for everyone.
(I shouldn’t have to say this, but I know I do. I’m not advocating a cavalier or dismissive approach to the pandemic protocols.)
Thanks to my friend and fellow minister, Thomas Kuhn (RUF – Nebraska) for pointing me to this quote:
“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of the Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
As our congregation gathers for the first time since March to celebrate the Lord’s Supper this coming Sunday, this quote has helped my heart swell with gratitude for our Lord, the foundational host of our fellowship. But given the risks inherent in gathering, there will be a good number of members who will absent themselves (as prudence would advise). Their absence makes me yearn for the day when all the body of Christ can gather… when the fellowship can be complete. But is that not the reality of how God’s grace works? God’s grace makes us grateful for what we already have and yearn for more of what God’s grace has to offer. If you are among those who are remaining absent for whatever reason, you are the “more” that the fellowship desires. We will celebrate until you get here. And it will be better when you do…when you deem the time is right.
My oldest daughter graduated high school recently, and at the small ceremony we had, I offered to her the following charge. Because of time constraints, I had to edit the original piece down a bit to make it fit with the time we were allotted. I present the unedited version here with her permission.
Rev. Dr. Ligon Duncan was asked by the Lt. Governor of Mississippi and the Speaker of the House for Mississippi to make a statement on the issue of whether the Mississippi flag ought to be changed or not. Rev. Dr. Duncan is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (the denomination in which I serve), the chancellor over Reformed Theological Seminary (the seminary from which I graduated), and the former Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS where he served for almost 18 years. His statement on this issue is sound, loving, and demonstrates good leadership. The truth it contains has application far beyond the borders of Mississippi.
This past Sunday, our congregation’s livestream of our morning worship was a failure due to technical difficulties. But ours was not an isolated event. The livestreams of worship services seemed to have problems all over if I hear my fellow pastors correctly. I thought that there was at least a little something saved when the recording of the sermon seemed to be intact. But then when I sampled it on line, the audio quality was atrocious, a drastic departure from what we normally have. So I thought, as an ironic extension of our series of failures (An inventory of victory? Really?!) this past Sunday, maybe I should post the manuscript of my sermon here. So here it is. At the very least, for anyone who tunes into the livestream this coming Sunday, we’ll at least all be at the same place in second Samuel.
My previous post that included a collection of chapters curated from various resources by the folks at www.wtsbooks.com included a few devotions from A Small Book for the Anxious Heart: Meditations on Fear, Worry, and Trust by Ed Welch. I present one of those devotions here for your reading and edification below. The passage from Hebrews 2 that Welch quotes in this is one that I have had laid before me a few times in my reading of late. I guess when God starts repeating himself, I need to listen, huh?
Here is a collection of 15 chapters from various published works that have been cobbled together by the folks at the Westminster Bookstore. While I have only read a couple of the book selections that they have drawn from, the folks at wtsbooks.com are some of the best curators of faithful Christian literature that I’ve found. So I commend this collection to you all and encourage you with the wtsbooks.com director’s words:
“While escapism ignores, meditation, in contrast, orients. Indeed, meditation is more than a helpful suggestion, it is a command for God’s people (Philippians 4:8). Books that expound on the wonderful works of God are perhaps the single greatest tool we have for orienting us towards our creator.” –Josiah Pettit
In reading through Proverbs this time, I am, for some reason, struck by all of the assumptions these seemingly universally applicable texts have. Wisdom literature seems to always be trotted out as some kind of instruction that is non-religious and able to be used in even the most secular, non-religious person’s life. But this one verse (Proverbs 14:9) jumped out at me this morning as a blaring example of the inescapable covenantal context of Proverbs. Notice the parallel between “guilt offering” and “acceptance”. This proverb is implying that there is a need for a guilt offering in order to find acceptance. But this verse leaves us asking such questions as follows:
What is a guilt offering?
How can one be “upright” and still be in need of a guilt offering?
Acceptance implies there has been a breach in a relationship, so “acceptance” with whom?
In order to answer any of these questions, we have to look to the rest of the Bible. It’s when we do that that we find that we are all in need of a guilt offering (Lev. 5.14ff; 2 Cor. 5.20-21), whether we are among the “upright” or not. Or to put it in other covenantal terms that place us within the new covenant with Christ, we all need the cleansing sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the once-for-all guilt offering. We all need Christ as our guilt offering in order to come to Him the first time (i.e. our conversion), and we all need that guilt offering for the whole course of our lives in Him (i.e. “the upright”). And we find this “guilt offering” in every worship service where we have confession of sin and an assurance of pardon. It is there where we renew our acceptance with God in Christ. It is there where there is a dying to ourselves (i.e. the right to stand up based on our own good deeds) and a rising to new life (i.e. the need to cling to Jesus for each step of every day). It is there where we are reckoned in a fresh and renewed way to be united to the crucified and resurrected king.
Imagine that. All this from a supposedly non-religious text. Whowouldafiggered.