Coronavirus, Bonhoeffer and ‘divine interruption’
Bonhoeffer would have seen this pandemic as an opportunity to reorder our priorities, says Will van der Hart:-
I was reading a segment of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together in the garden this week. He says, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans…”
Bonhoeffer’s own life was interrupted by the second world war and then cut desperately short in Flossenbürg concentration camp.
I realise that I have been feeling as much anxiety about the interruption to my plans as I have been about getting physically sick. My life up to this point has been so diarised, every moment has been allocated to work, family or charity. I even have a stock email about bookings needing to be made six months or more ahead of time! I have been so busy doing what my schedule dictates that I have not considered the divine interruptions God has been offering me.
When I am feeling unsettled, I often return to the most familiar stories of scripture. Like an old friend, their wisdom is comfortable and obvious. I was settling into Luke 10; The Good Samaritan and noticed that the characters in the story were all “going down the same road” (v31): In the same way, we are often living with automatic assumptions and priorities, particularly around success and failure. We plan our lives accordingly.
Catastrophe struck in the form of robbers (but it could have been a pandemic), who left the man “half dead”. Then a priest and a Levite walked past the broken body of the beaten man. I guess that they epitomise so much of what is being shaken collectively and individually right now: It wasn’t their problem; he was a diversion that they weren’t willing to take.
Bonhoeffer’s point is not that we simply “hear the divine interruptions” but that we “allow ourselves to be interrupted”. While sitting in the garden I was surprised by the volume of the birdsong and wondered if it was unusual. Then I realised that this is probably the first time in a few years that I have been still enough to hear it: God is always speaking, but we aren’t often listening.
God is always speaking, but we aren’t often listening
The Samaritan had every cultural and social excuse not to attend to the wounded man. Yet, he allowed himself to be interrupted. No doubt he had a schedule and worthy plans, but he expended his resources of time and compassion in response to God’s directing.
This interruption to life is an opportunity to reorder our priorities so that we might be more able and willing to hear. God is diverting us to compassionately meet the needs of others in Jesus name, putting Paul’s teaching practise into when he says, “To do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
It is a chance to desist from judging ourselves against our ability to sustain the pace of the world and finally break free from going down the same ‘old road’ of perceived success. God is shaking the foundations of our heavily scheduled, over busy and inattentive lives. He is stirring new a compassion in us and with it; a willingness to forego our own plans to make his compassion real in the lives of others.
(This article was seen by Alan Frost and copied from this website.)
Click here to watch on YouTube
The Chichester Singers. (Posted 21th May 2020)
You might like to watch this short video of the Chichester Singers giving a remote performance of Mozart’s Ave Verum, from isolation during Lockdown. You may even recognise a few friendly faces.
The Blessing UK —
At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land.
A poem that you may have heard on the television. (Posted 26th April 2020)
Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the depts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won, if he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow-
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned to late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you can never tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight, when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
What surprised me on this particular day was one of the little slips of paper which said, “thank you for praying for us” and underneath were four unusual names. These were the same names I had puzzled to decipher on a previous duty day. I had no doubts about that.
From Marion Egerton (29th March 2020)
Coronavirus is so limited…..
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the Sprit,
It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection!
Our greatest enemy is not disease, but despair.
From Sue Harrison and Marion Egerton (25th March 2020)
The Covid-19 song (let’s hope this goes viral)
Tune: If you’re happy and you know it
If you’re healthy and you know it, clap your hands;
And we all obey the government’s demands:
stay away from social clubs
and avoid the local pubs,
for corona is abroad throughout the land.
To reduce the risk, we all must wash our hands
to a 20-second song with concert bands,
and we catch and bin and kill
every bug that makes us ill –
it’s a rule that everybody understands.
If you cough, then use your sleeve and not your hand,
And we have to cancel things that we had planned,
for to slow infection rate
we must now self-isolate,
It’s the same for everyone throughout the land
Every day at noon, let’s kneel and clasp our hands,
and remember humankind across all lands;
and keep faith with God our lover,
so this world will soon recover
and rejoice, if everyone together stands.
18 March 2020
From Sue Harrison (23rd March 2020)
Lockdown by Irish Priest Brother Richard Hendrick
Yes, there is fear.
Yes, there is isolation.
Yes, there is panic buying.
Yes, there is sickness.
Yes, there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
Across the empty squares,
Keeping their windows open
So that those that are alone
May hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
Is busy spreading fliers with her number
Through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
Are preparing to welcome
And shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes, there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
To touch across the empty square.
March 13th 2020.
From Sue Harrison (20th March 2020)
May the road rise up to meet you,
The wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall softly on your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.