Friday, March 20, 2020

Drawing Hope by Discerning the Voice of God amidst the Fears of Uncertainty

Reflecting on I Samuel 16:1-13 for 4th Sunday in Lent, 22nd March 2020

The world today is gripped in fear and uncertainty caused due to the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, affecting around 200,000 people as of today and that number further increasing in leaps and bounds as the clock ticks forward each day. At such a moment like this, what is the message of hope for people and communities across the world today? 

The reading from the Hebrew Bible for this Sunday is a passage about the anointing of young David by prophet Samuel (Sam). God strengthens Sam when he expresses a threat for his life from Saul, and continues to lead him to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. When God initiates a conversation with Sam to not get stuck with king Saul but to move on to anoint a new king, Sam replied back to God, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me?” (2v) Sam was gripped in fear for his life, as he knew Saul will hunt and kill him, for rejecting him as a king and for moving on to find and anoint another one to be a king.

1.     Listening to the Voice of God amidst Fear:
As I read this text in the context of Coronavirus outbreak, I hear these words of fear reverberating from people all around. With the graph of those people dying because of this virus, and it is fast spreading, people in all countries are panicked. When Sam was in utter fear for his life, perhaps even guilty of the politics he has played against Saul, God drove the fear away by leading him with God’s voice, with God’s ideas and promising him to show God’s ways to move on from that situation of fear. Even today into our context of fear, panic and uncertainty, God is willing to drive away the fear through God’s voice, through God’s ideas and through God’s ways. It is time that we wait, listen and respond to God who wants to intervene into our situation and to drive away the fear of the virus and the virus itself. Are we willing to listen to God’s voice today? God is speaking to us in various ways, through science, through communities, through neighbourhoods, calling us all not to be selfish and greedy to be generous in sharing and caring for one another. There are many creative ideas that are being floated in the communities to support one another like #viralkindness #viralprayers, where we find divine in such acts when the virus is spreading virally among communities. The message of hope for a time like this is in the voice of God, which comes in various ways and through various communities. The significance of this text is that God is restoring life in God’s own ways, and in this text, God finds it through a new king. Be prepared to listen and respond to God’s voice and join with God to virally fight against this virus, for God intends to restore life and to bring back life to its normalcy. Sam experienced such a hope in God’s voice, where restoration and renewal finds its home, and Sam moved forward overcoming fears by responding to such a God’s voice.

2.     Responding to the Voice of God in Courage:
At Bethlehem, Samuel (mis)judges Eliab, the elder son of Jesse to be the one to anoint, until he asks Jesse to bring his youngest son to the fore. It is here that Samuel requests Jesse to bring his youngest and says, “for we will not sit down until he comes here.” Sam gathered courage as he kept listening and responding to the voice of God. Again, in the midst of Coronavirus pandemic, I see hope in the communities who are offering help with one another specially to those vulnerable and elderly people. The call for us today is, “we will not sit down until all those vulnerable are helped and protected,” “we will not sit down until we defeat this virus,” “we will not sit down until the least of our society is cared for.” When Sam responded to God’s voice, he made a strong resolve to wait and not sit down until he anoints the person God chooses. Sam demonstrated his courage to stand up to the voice of God, and never gave up to sit down or gave up on God’s appointment. So, it should be our resolve to support those people who are self-isolating and co-operating with one another to fight out this virus, for we will not sit down and not give up on God’s ways and God’s interventions at our context today.

3.     Opening up to the Voice of God in Humility:
On this mothering Sunday here in UK today, I hear the mothering voice of God when God speaks back to Sam after his misjudging the person God wants to anoint. God speaks in verse 7, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as the mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” These words cannot be but the words of a mother. To any mother her child is very special, no matter how the child looks or appears. We have a saying in my language Telugu Kaki ki kaki pilla muddhu, which means “for any crow her baby chick is extra special.” For a mother all that she cares is her child, for it is the mortals who care about the outward appearance and judge people accordingly. From this voice of God, we infer that for a mothering God all that matters to her is her child and her heart. This mothering God doesn’t care about the judgements of people, for the yardstick of a mothering God is totally different and yet times opposite to human standards. At a crisis moment like this when the fear of Coronavirus is taking over as a global pandemic, this mothering God is opening her arms to embrace and comfort all those self-isolating and waiting for the vulnerable to embrace and grant solace. This mothering God doesn’t see people as humans see, for a mothering God always cares for God’s children. Time to open up to the mothering voice of God in all humility, for God as a mother is speaking to us, wanting and waiting to embrace all her children, specially the vulnerable people and to those people who are out there in the field caring for the other flocks of sheep.

Final Drops:
Lastly, lest we forget 22nd March is observed as World Water Day, and the theme for 2020 is ‘water and climate change,’ inviting us to explore the inextricable link between water and climate change. Let us all prayerfully reflect on the gift of water and strive to be sensitive in using water, for many in the world today are going thirsty due to the lack of accessible safe drinking water. During this Coronavirus climate, the mantra has been, “wash, wash and wash,” which is an important precaution that everyone needs to take care and do it. However, out there in the world there are millions who do not have water to drink and how can they afford to wash and wash and wash their hands to be safe? For many poor people with no water or clean water resource – what would they wash with. How would they pay for their use of this water to wash-wash-and wash? This day invites us to be sensitive to water and calls us to fight for water justice, where water is available for all people in the world. The living waters Jesus Christ is inviting us to strive for justice and peace to flow down like rivers into our contexts in becoming hope to this thirsty world. Let us find hope in the voice of God and let us be hope by responding to the voice of God, for God is speaking to us every day.

Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta,
20th March 2020

Prayer: Our mothering God, we thank you for assuring us that you in Jesus is present where 2 or 3 are self-isolating during this crisis of Coronavirus pandemic. Embrace us under your wings as the mother hen covers her chicks, and help us to experience calmness, comfort and warmth of love during these times of fear and uncertainty. Like a mother help us to care for one another at a moment like this, and journey with us during this time, so that together as a community we can overcome this pandemic. Specially remembering the vulnerable and the elderly during this time and seek your guidance and peace to all of us. We thank you for being our mother O God. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.            


Unknown said...

Thank you Raj. Blessings xàq

Daniel said...

Thanks Raj for your thoughtful words! Bless you! Daniel.

Hazel said...

Thanks Raj.

Hazel said...

Thanks Raj.

Unknown said...

Thx Raj. Today I read Luke 1.vs 37-38.Anne