COVID AS SABBATH (by Lynne McCarthy)
A few blogs ago I wrote that this Covid was a Lenten time. But there’s another view, among many.
On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. (Gen. 2:2b) The Creator looked at what reflected His beauty and splendour and wonder, loved the results, and said so! Then -- He rested.
Perhaps this bleak, upside-down time is Sabbath.
“Sabbath”? The dictionary says “a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday.” But the first place we read "Sabbath" (from the Hebrew verb shabbat, "to rest from labor"; the day of rest, the seventh day), is in Exodus 16:23. To give his human creatures His rest, He insists in His life-rules, that Sabbath is also holy. (Our culture blithely ignores this.)
“Holy”? It means “separated, set apart”. God is holy; in Him we are made holy, and His gift of rest is holy. We “shabbat” -- in Him. We are apart yet held together by worship with other believers; to listen to, consider, live His word; confess our failures, and remember Christ’s sacrifice in bread and wine. The day is His, lovingly made for His children.
So how did Covid become Sabbath, in my tangled brain? Where is Sabbath in this distressing time? We worship: through a glass dimly. We obey authority: Stay home. Slow down. Revise routines. Wash hands, lots. Travel less. We realize: God walks with us. We need one another. We adapt. We stop: no church, fellowship, Eucharist, hugs; virtual a poor substitute for real. It’s a hard rest, but others have it harder.
For people without work or home, those ill with the virus, loved ones dying alone in institutions, their families severed from farewells… we mourn. For them, it’s still Lent. For medical staffs, retail clerks, drivers, mums, health care workers, emergency workers, Covid offers no Sabbath. So we thank God for them, encouraging in creative ways -- singing from balconies or in virtual choirs, banging pots, praying for them, saying, “Thank you.” We acknowledge our common helplessness and share our gifts as we can.
While conspiracy theories abound; along with the usual media frenzy, grace is given to rest quietly in him, in prayer, in confidence, in peace. Let the theorists foam at the mouth. God is doing something new -- if we care to look.
Isolated with God, we consider the lonely and ill, help where we can, bear one another up, pray for one another, connect by phone or email or Zoom, look for ways to offer love, reconsider our lives, tell others about Him, see with new eyes. Always, thankful for God’s so-much in this lean, tough time.
It’s a grind, this rejigging of the familiar, this absence from normal. Yet it’s an opportunity to discover anew God’s holy way, a stilling time. By His grace, Covid just might offer Sabbath rest.
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