Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
(Apologies for the date mix up in yesterday’s post.)
“God of Grace and God of Glory” (Hymn 307, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal)
God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy power;
crown thine ancient church’s story; bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour, for the facing of this hour.
Lo! the hosts of evil round us scorn thy Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days, for the living of these days.
Cure thy children’s warring madness; bend our pride to thy control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.
Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.
Let the gift of thy salvation be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore, serving thee whom we adore.
Pastor Scott has spoken of four types of prayer, summarized in the mnemonic “ACTS”: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Or in reverse order, as a rabbi friend has said: Please, Thanks, Sorry, and Wow! All four, I think, are called forth by the coronavirus crisis.
“Wow” is reflected in our awe and astonishment at how quickly a crisis from the natural world could upend our ordered lives and tidy plans, to show us that we do not stand apart from nature, but exist within God’s grand scheme of creation.
Prayers of confession are certainly due. I feel grief and sorrow that we did not respond as swiftly or thoroughly as we could have, leading to widespread suffering in our own country. I am sorry that efforts to “flatten the curve” have led to widespread economic hardship, and that restarting and rebuilding our economy may risk increasing the spread of the virus. And I regret the flaws revealed in our social safety net and our healthcare system, and the especially grim plight of the poor, the hungry, and the stranger. May God forgive us for the things we have done, and the things we have left undone, that have brought us all to this unhappy state.
Even so, there is cause for thanksgiving, starting with the well-provisioned shelter from the storm that many of us enjoy. I am also thankful for the manifest signs of the earth’s ability to heal. As we telecommute and shelter in place, the sky has become noticeably bluer and cleaner around the world, from New Delhi to Los Angeles. That is cause for thanksgiving, as is the chance to glimpse what a healthier world might look like – and the fact that our need to rebuild also gives us the opportunity to rebuild in a wiser, more sustainable fashion. Shakespeare did some of his most creative work during a plague year, so perhaps we, in what is effectively a timeout, might summon the courage to envision a better world, and help shepherd it into being.
Which brings us to supplication. With God’s help, perhaps we can face our challenges with clear eyes, unclouded by prejudice or wishful thinking, and see the world as it truly is. Perhaps we can use the tools of science that God has revealed to curious minds, to tend the garden of creation with humility and devotion. In the movies, when aliens invade, humanity rises as one to respond. Perhaps we might do as well, setting aside our parochial and tribal identities to work together as one human family, seeing the humanity in one another, and realizing that all people of good will hope for a better life for their children. Maya Angelou has said “hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.” Perhaps we can set aside our fear and anger, and cultivate a spirit of hope, of possibility, of confidence in good old-fashioned American ingenuity, in our ability to make a difference. Perhaps we can take the long view, and rebuild on higher ground.
Lord, the majesty and beauty of your creation fills us with wonder. We are humbled by the power of the natural world. We honor you, our God, and your Earth in the hope that our days may be long in the land you have given us. Forgive us for our pride and greed, for our stiff necks and our anger, for our ignorance and gluttony, and for how recklessly we have treated your glorious creation.
Thank you for thus far sparing many of us and our loved ones from this plague. Thank you for the food, shelter and community that sustain us, for the glimpses of what a world in better balance might look like, and for second chances, so that with the intelligence you have given us we might embrace the opportunities before us.
Grant us the wisdom to understand our rightful place in the world, to be grounded in humility and reality, and to tend your garden with love and respect. Grant us the courage to plant the tree of hope, and to be good ancestors – learning and respecting the ways of your creation, and rebuilding on a firmer, more durable foundation, so that our great-grandchildren, and theirs, might live healthy and joyful lives in a world of bluer skies and greener pastures.
Lord, grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days. Amen.
(for more about this hymn, see www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-god-of-grace-and-god-of-glory)