Where is God now?
To be sought in leading the way in trying to preserve earthly life and our infrastructure?
Does this make sense? What does it suggest we believe?
In the primacy and priority of earthly life, over and above all other considerations, including the Divine Life which does not notice death. In the notion that lay-participation in the Eucharist, lay Communion, is merely a selfish indulgence and not part of the outflowing of God’s love “for the Life of the World”.
We are not witnessing to God in a crisis, but standing helpless and craven before a threat which is horrible, but which Christ has overcome, not by sparing us death and disaster, but by raising us up through them into his risen life.
This is not all or nothing – a matter of taking reckless risks or a matter of giving up altogether. I would be inclined to advocate, for instance, within my own Church group, that people should be live-streaming services from their Churches, and then engaging everyone who can to take Communion to people in their homes to do so. Through an open window with both minister and recipient wearing mask and gloves, if necessary.
I come from a part of the Church that makes a lot of celebrating the Eucharist daily and receiving daily. But so far, we have been left without any sort of access to the Sacraments for almost six weeks, during a crisis – when we need it more, and when the world needs it more. It is an inherent part of what I was taught about the Eucharist that it is Divine inbreaking, the Real Presence. To set it aside is to set Christ aside. If the laity say to the clergy in normal times that they don’t need to come to Church, and that they don’t need to receive the Sacraments because God can provide in other ways, then the clergy tend to disagree quite hard. And rightly so according to our theology and world view. But now the church seems to be saying exactly that to us – and I’m not sure people are even aware that it wasn’t what they were apparently saying ten weeks ago.
It’s true that I would advocate straightforward disobedience to a state command to stop people participating in Christian worship, for all I would also advocate taking any precautions that don’t involve actually stopping participation. However, under these circumstances, I do feel able to understand and respect a preference for yielding to the injunction temporarily while making an enormous fuss about being allowed to reassume as soon as possible. (And I am talking of denying Christian ministry, not of a particular Christian deciding in all conscience that they are right not to seek to receive under particular circumstances. That is completely different).
But who is speaking for us? Who is clamouring to be allowed to worship? To be allowed to return to our prayer and service to a world that is in agony? That is rediscovering the horror and inevitability of death, and needs so much to hear the news that death won’t have the last word.
I feel that what is happening is rather like being told that 2+2=5. If we believe in the Divine Life, then given a straight choice, it takes precedence over earthly life. What is going on? How is it we seem to preach one set of beliefs, and act upon another? Why are we supposed to be serving the world by accepting its values and fears? We speak the creed, and we act as if there was no Resurrection, as if human death was final and as if the ultimate service we can offer is to attempt to preserve it, rather than to witness that it is not, or at least does not have to be, final.
What has happened? What is happening? Have we been persuaded to believe, only to be persuaded not to believe if we have to take a risk in order to act in the way that belief would dictate?
Kyrie eleison – Lord, have mercy upon us all. I do not see any way forward, personally or as a church, and I am totally bewildered. But the faith of Christ is enough to supply our lack thereof.