A Reflection and Prayer on COVID -19
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Next to the Lord’s Prayer, and the 23rd Psalm, one of the most quoted passages is the Lord's response to King Solomon's prayer found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” If ever our land needs to be restored, that time is now.
It has been about two months since the COVID-19 pandemic “shelter-in-place” order upending our lives and changing the way we work, socialize, and worship. Over 1 million persons in the U.S. are now infected and over 58,000 have died from the disease. For most middle and upper-class people this two-month self-quarantine has caused a real stir-crazy confinement; for some, even a nuisance. The pandemic has been a hardship for Americans of every race and class – with increased rates of depression, suicide, domestic violence, and unemployment as just some of the issues that need to be addressed.
For people of color, many of whom are likely to be front-line essential workers, the homeless (who have no shelter-in-place options), the incarcerated, and those in nursing homes, their communities can be disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed systemic racial and economic disparities impacting people of color and poor whites. Historic disparities exist in our health care system, with 23 million people uninsured. It has come to light for those outside communities of color that long-term health risk factors in African Americans means many are at an increased risk for experiencing serious illness if they become infected with the coronavirus, due to high rates of certain underlying health conditions compared to Whites. Also exposed is the racializing of the virus by the top officials, labeling it the “Chinese virus.” The problem is not just the term “Chinese Virus,” but also the implicit linkage to a long-standing history of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence endangering Asian Americans who have been attacked physically and verbally as the coronavirus has spread globally.
None of us had a choice about changing our behavior, lifestyle patterns, even our worship styles because of the deadly pandemic. However, we do have a choice in the days ahead and when the virus eventually subsides, to intentionally “turn from our wicked ways” and address the systemic evils of our time. Psychologists tell us that a repeated thought can become an action; and a repeated action become a habit; and a habit builds character. Everything we do arises, first from our thoughts. Racism and economic neglect are rooted in the way we think about some of God’s children that assault the imago dei, the image of God in them.
None of us had a choice about changing our behavior, lifestyle patterns, even our worship styles because of the deadly pandemic. However, we do have a choice in the days ahead and when the virus eventually subsides, to intentionally “turn from our wicked ways” and address the systemic evils of our time.
If we truly believe in the image of God in every person, then we are challenged to make sure our thoughts about others are in line with how God wants us to think. King Solomon’s prayer calls us to “turn from our wicked ways” of thinking that some Americans are actually better than others and deserve all the best that America offers, while others do not because of their race or class. His prayer calls us to adopt a “new normal” of not tolerating any American to live below the poverty line, to subsist without adequate health care, housing, justice in the courts, and the right to vote in free, fair and safe elections.
Many of us are working harder than ever these past two months using every available virtual means to stay connected. Whether we like it or not, this unusual season of personal distancing has given each of us time to reflect on some important questions.
What changes do we need to make in our thoughts about those different from us – different race, class, political persuasion, gender, generation, or in other ways?
What new relationships do we need to cultivate outside of our comfort zones to help us to better affirm the image of God in the people He puts in our path?
What actions do we need to take in the policies we support or the leaders we elect, so that the public policies reflect that divine image in all people?
Almighty God - we are the people called by your name - and Your name reflects your character that is righteous, merciful, forgiving, compassionate, and loving. We humble ourselves in Your sight. You alone have the power over our lives and over this virus. Help us to learn what we need to learn that we might emerge from this pandemic with your thoughts about our brothers and sisters, living in the margins of life. Some of us are annoyed by our lack of freedom caused by personal distancing and sheltering in place during this pandemic, while others, not fortunate enough to shelter in place are dying from it.
Lord God, help us to do our part to create a post-COVID America that reflects your image in all people. Help us to become righteously indignant about the plight of the vulnerable in our land and give us no rest until we take action against systemic poverty and racism, impacting the lives of any of your children. Hear our cry, O Lord, forgive our sins, and restore our land. AMEN.