How Long O Lord?

Full Emergency Bulletin

The Vicar writes:

On Monday the Prime Minister called everyone except essential workers to remain at home for three weeks except for essential trips, and advised those classed by the NHS as vulnerable to remain shielded at home for 12 weeks or more. All church building are now closed until further notice. How slowly time now moves for some, while others in essential roles are working around the clock.

The clocks spring forward  this Sunday (29 March) which means we lose an hours’ sleep. Some may wish we could spring forward 3 months or more and wake to find the emergency passed. 

It seems that the period of panic buying has passed and supply chains are holding up. Now the question is: How long can we bear isolation, the loss of liberty and social contact?.

How long will the vast majority of people be willing to restrain themselves when the sun is shining, and boredom strikes?

This shutdown will be a real test of national resolve and character. Do we still have ‘The Blitz’ spirit? We must remember that the aim remains to delay the spread of disease and prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. We have a duty to follow government advice, especially if we are vulnerable. 

As Christians we have a duty to set a good example in following good advice, even if the resolve of others is failing. Secondly we must care for one another, and I am happy to report that our church Emergency Care network is coming together. The Bovey Parish Action Group also has a working hotline and email address for those in need, while the Government’s plans take shape.

As Christians we also have the privilege and duty of praying to God and calling him ‘our Father’, through Jesus our brother, Lord and Saviour. 

We can speak honestly to God, from the heart, and we may therefore want to say:   How long, O Lord?

The psalms often ask this question:  

How long O LORD? 
Will you forget me for ever?       Ps 13.1

How long, O LORD?, will you look on? Rescue from the lions         Ps 35.17

How long, O LORD? Will you be angry for ever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? 
            Ps 79.5

How long O LORD? Will you hide yourself for ever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?                Ps 89.46

Just asking the question requires a faith that God is the LORD - the God who promised to bless his covenant people, and a faith that the suffering that we are experiencing is not just a misfortune beyond God’s control, but is in his hand, with a purpose in his mind.

The bible encourages us to ask the question, and expects us to wait for an answer. This is a Lent like no other, when God is- at the least- testing his Church to find out if we want to know him. I do not want us to leap to hasty conclusions: “this is God’ judgement for… Brexit/climate change/abortion”. But we do need to pray and to read the scriptures, on our own and together in families and through the strange new medium of virtual church.

God does test his people. He allowed his righteous servant Job to be tested, and his friends failed him by trying too quickly to explain that his suffering must be his fault. Job said, rightly,

“I have heard many such things;
miserable comforters are you all. 
(Job 16.2)

God allowed his only son to be tested in the wilderness and in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus sought the help of his three closest disciples, and they too failed him by falling asleep.

    Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14.38

How will we pass the test that this emergency sets us? Will we give up on church till normal service is resumed? Or will we make the effort and learn the godly skill and habit of daily praying and reading scripture for ourselves? Will we learn to support other Christians by telephone calls, through TV and radio service, or even participate in Skype, Zoom and Youtube meetings?

Let us join together in praying

 “How long, O Lord?” and be prepared to hear and obey whatever the Spirit of God may reveal to us about ourselves, our church and our world.

        yours in Christ


Graham Hamilton, 27/03/2020