Every Lent, as part of my offering I try and write a weekly blog. This means giving up an hour or two to share a few thoughts. So, this is Week 1.
Whilst traveling up to London this week, I heard a fellow passenger lament, referring to the current COVID-19 virus as, ‘it’s a plague’. Well I don’t think so! At school we are doing all we can to help the public ‘hygiene’ campaign. All schools have been given specific advice from the DfE and Public Health England, which we have been following since the beginning of this issue.
The word plague or pestilence is mentioned in the Bible over 100 times. The question of whether Bible stories can be linked to archaeological discoveries is one that has been debated for some time. The ten plagues of Egypt are no exception, and over the years, scientists have been curious about whether the story of the plagues may have been based on some event that can be proved to have happened. One theory that has some scientific credence is that the plagues were really the fallout of volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini in the south of Greece around 1620-1600 BC.
The scientific argument goes like this: winds would have carried the volcanic ash to Egypt at some point over the summer, and the toxic acids in the volcanic ash would have included the mineral cinnabar, which could have been capable of turning a river a blood-like red colour. The accumulated acidity in the water would have caused frogs to leap out and search for clean water. Insects would have burrowed eggs in the bodies of dead animals and human survivors, which generated larvae and then adult insects. Then, the volcanic ash in the atmosphere would have affected the weather, with acid rain landing on people’s skin, which in turn caused boils. The grass would have been contaminated, poisoning the animals that ate it. The humidity from the rain and the subsequent hail would have created optimal conditions for locusts to thrive. Volcanic eruptions could also explain the several days of darkness — which means nine plagues are accounted for.
“God full of compassion and mercy, we lay prostrate before you… Wuhan and the surrounding cities have now been closed, and the spread of the virus has exceeded our capacity. The city is surrounded by the shadow of death. We, the covenant people who have received great grace, cry out to You.”
That’s the opening paragraph of a letter from a pastor in Wuhan, China — the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Save us, oh Lord, from this great calamity,” the Chinese pastor went on to pray. “Help us not to hide ourselves, but may we have a strong sense of social responsibility to serve the elderly and the children.”
The prayer went on to ask for protection of those living in poverty in the countryside villages He also prayed for health-care workers.
The prayer ended with a plea to God “please remove this plague, hear the cry of your people, and have mercy on the city of Wuhan.”
In good times, it’s easy to talk about faith. It’s easy to see why we believe and encourage others to ‘keep the faith’ when they’re feeling down. But what about periods of prolonged suffering as in Wuhan or other areas across the globe?
We can all experience tests of faith, whether it be as a result of illness, bereavement or any other issue. I am always humbled by parents, staff and students who have to cope with extreme difficulty, who choose to remain faithful when there is no visible finish line and no feeling of relief, but remain close to God. The tough times can hit us, but we must hold on to the fact we are living for something bigger.