Remarks made at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 15 March 2020 by the Revd Dr Sam Wells
We come to church each Sunday, we pray and read our Bibles through the week, to prepare ourselves. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, travelled around Galilee to prepare himself for Jerusalem. In Jerusalem people discovered who he truly was, and what his words and actions really entailed. We’ve spent decades, many of us, preparing we knew not what for. Well, now we know. This is the moment when the world finds out whether being a Christian makes any difference or not.
In Britain, we say pray for a sunny day, but take an umbrella. I’m not saying in the face of the virus we don’t take sensible steps. We must follow public health advice. We do so not because others are a danger to us, but because we might, directly or indirectly, be a danger to them. We’re a community defined not by fear but by trust, not by scarcity but by plenty, not by anxiety but by communion. It’s time to show our true colours.
This is the time to find ways to overcome isolation that don’t involve touch. We have this opportunity to explore the hinterland of the word with, that doesn’t always involve physical presence, but still means solidarity and kindness, generosity and love. We will limit our contact to protect the most vulnerable, but we still need to proclaim that there’s something more infectious than coronavirus – and that’s joy and peace, faithfulness and gentleness.
It was in its most bewildered hour that Israel in exile found who God truly was. This is our chance to discover what God being with us really means. None of us would for a moment have wished this crisis on anybody, let alone the whole world. But our faith teaches us that we only get to see resurrection through crucifixion; that we see God most clearly in our darkest hour.
Remember what Isaiah tells us. You shall cross the barren desert; but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety – though you do not know the way. If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown. If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed. If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all. Be not afraid, says our God. I am with you like never before.
This is our faith.