March 15, 2020 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It has long been our custom to pray the Litany during Lent. You are encouraged to use it at home, daily. It is marvelously suited to our world and need. It starts and ends with a Kyrie. The body begins with a long list of what we need deliverance from: sin, error, evil, the devil, death, pestilence, famine, war, bloodshed, sedition, rebellion, lightening, tempest, calamity by fire and water, and eternal punishment in Hell. From all that we say, “Good Lord, deliver us.”
The next part gives us the basis of our hope and expectation of deliverance. By what means will God deliver us from all that, even from pestilence? By the mystery of His Incarnation, by His holy nativity, by His Baptism, fasting, and temptation, by His agony and bloody sweat, by His cross and passion, by His precious death and burial, by His glorious resurrection and ascension, and by the coming of His Holy Spirit, the Comforter. By all that, by who is Himself and what He has and is doing for us, we say, “help us, good Lord.” Deliver us. Have mercy upon us.
Then we make some more mundane requests. We ask that God rule His church, preserving the Ministry among us, that He put an end to all divisions and beat down Satan under out feet. We pray that the world would be evangelized, that He would raise those who fall and strengthen those who stand, that He would comfort and help the weakhearted and distressed, that He would give to all people concord and peace, that He would preserve our land from discord and strife, that He would give our country His protection in every time of need, including guidance to our political leaders.
Then we move out to the greater world. We ask that God would watch over and help all who are in danger, necessity, tribulation, that He would protect and guide travelers, that He would increase the happiness of pregnant women and mothers, that He would defend orphans, the fatherless, and widows, that he would strengthen and keep all sick persons and young children, and free those in bondage.
Finally, we ask that He would forgive our enemies and turn them to Him and that He would bless the earth itself.
We thus implore God and His goodness on behalf of the whole world. It is a good prayer for Lent or a time of pestilence or for those days when the sun comes up. It is a godly response to crisis and fear, an antidote to panic. Because in the end, we are in His hands, as are our loved ones and our enemies, our country and this planet. He knows what He is doing. He doesn’t forget His promises. He is trustworthy.
The Church doesn’t panic. “If God is on our side, who can be against us?” “Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, they yet have nothing won. The Kingdom ours remaineth.” This is one of the things we endeavor to teach the field workers about the conduct of the service: the Church doesn’t panic.
The world, of course, is panicking right now. They are facing the reality of their own mortality and limitations. They can’t beat the common cold or the flu. None of us knows what the immediate future holds. Maybe this scare will pass over. Maybe it be far less deadly than the normal flu. Maybe it will turn out that all these precautions were unnecessary. Or maybe it is barely begun and we waited too long to take appropriate measures and they are all futile. Maybe the next wave is going to hit China 1000 times worse and the few people who survive will enter into a new age of terror and crime and scarcity. We don’t know. Your friends on the internet don’t know. The best man from your wedding who went to Harvard medical school and studied infectious diseases and respiratory ailments and worked in Toronto during SARS and China during the swine flu, probably doesn’t know either. And even if he does, there are other experts with similar experience and education telling us that he is wrong. But God knows. He knows what He is doing. He hears our prayers.
We don’t know the immediate future but we know, according to the Bible, that pestilence will increase as the world ages and the Last Day draws near. It is a sign that Jesus gives in Matthew 25 and one of the four horseman that is seen in St. John’s vision. We don’t know the day or the hour. The end could be any minute but it could also continue to be delayed, but we know it is coming. We know that it is going to continue to get worse until it does end, maybe this will pass and nothing in our world will be changed, but eventually a pestilence will come that will devastate the world. Maybe we will have to endure that day and maybe we won’t. Either way, we know the finale. All men, one way or another, will eventually face their Creator and the devil will finally be silenced completely.
We are more than ready to face God. We are eager. We are eager because we know Him. He has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, strengthened and kept us in the faith that He is our God and the good and gracious will of Him who send His Son to die for us, in our place, as one of us, is not to leave us here in this sin-infected world, or to torture us with pestilence, but to bring us to Himself through repentance and grace.
That is why we don’t panic. We know the Way, the Truth, and the Life and in Him we know the Father. We believe that He works all things together for good and that death is only a passage.
Our current reality is an opportunity to repent. It is a reminder that the end will be terrible. we rightly pray to spared the worst of it. God’s wrath over our sin is rightly seen in every tragedy. We should fear that wrath and repent. We should amend our ways and not live for ourselves but walk in the love. And we should also show a calm and friendly face to the world. We should not hoard or try to use these circumstances to gain wealth or political power. Rather, we should help our neighbors in their physical, mental, and spiritual need. Panic is a sign of deeper problems. We have the answer for those problems. We have the answer for the end of the world. We have the answer for eternity. Quite obviously, it isn’t quarantines and disinfectants and social distancing, any more than it is capitalism or universal health care. It is Jesus.
He delivers us sin, error, evil, the devil, death, pestilence, famine, war, bloodshed, sedition, rebellion, lightening, tempest, calamity by fire and water, and eternal punishment in Hell. From all that we say, “Good Lord, deliver us.” He does so by the mystery of His Incarnation, by His holy nativity, by His Baptism, fasting, and temptation, by His agony and bloody sweat, by His cross and passion, by His precious death and burial, by His glorious resurrection and ascension, and by the coming of His Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
Help us, good Lord. Deliver us. Have mercy upon us.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.