The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Who has remembered Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) today? Well done you! Blessings to all mothers! I expect that this will be a Mothering Sunday to remember in the family history because of the difference to the past. In former times the 4th Sunday in Lent was a time when itinerant workers might return to services in their ‘mother church’ and I’m assuming what evolved with flowers and a focus on mothers was the reality of visiting Mum at the same time. Today we are in a time of ‘social distancing’, working from home, and talks of ‘lock downs’. (I am writing this on Thursday, what is the situation now?) The cords that bind are being asked to be pretty loose at the moment!

If there is one thing this virus has shown us – and I’m sure there are many things – but it strikes me that the virus is just a thing doing its own thing – wanting to survive and replicate – and its existence around the globe, because we have no natural immunity to it, reveals that in one very real sense our borders, nation states, languages, ways of doing things are what we have created to isolate ourselves from others – but we biologically are united. It seems to me that the virus can give us a perspective on the world – on ourselves – that is similar to what I imagine it would be like to be on the International Space Station and watch the world below. That we are all linked on this blue ball.

Imagine if a consequence of COVID-19 is that each virus coloured the air around it a bright purple say for a range of a few centimetres or inches – this is just a mind exercise! – then we could see it as it is exhaled, see the clouds, see where it lands, and work to avoid it. Sure some would get caught – the air rushed past and we were too slow, we turned on the light and the room was full but generally speaking we’d still be concerned but at least we’d have a target to fight. It’s the invisibility and the hidden infection time that makes this virus a pandemic.

In some ways our current virus situation has a theological analogy with sin. Sin is a mystery. It is hidden. We are born with it but are responsible for it. (I am responsible for my sins.) And it wrecks us and our relationships and this blue ball itself. But because it is unseen – we see more the effects and consequences – we don’t diagnose the situation well and therefore the remedies usually don’t work. That is what Lent reveals. Sin is about us. And the Gospel proclaims hope – medicine – into this dire situation – and he is Jesus! Our gracious loving God is he who became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God and live in this world full of worries and borders and limitations and illness but now with a confidence that Jesus is with us whether we are healthy or not and in all circumstances. Jesus helps us deal with our sins – forgives them and then helps us work on them because they keep recurring. He is patient and kind and caring and sheltering … just like a mother hen!

Be safe and well – sensible and supportive – helping others – and trusting the Lord.