Forward Today: Cleanse and defend your church

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s collect seems particularly appropriate for this moment in our common life.

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In this time of pandemic, when we worry about our health, surely we want to pray that our churches might continue in safety. And praying that our church might be cleansed is especially fitting when disinfectants are selling like never before.

But of course, the collect isn’t really about the church in a time of pandemic.

Those of us who live in the United States are blessed to dwell in a land where we Christians are not persecuted for our religion. While some nations may need to pray for the church to be defended from persecution and other terrors, the threats to the church are different here. Our chief danger is complacency. We might enjoy the comforts of life and the privileges of the church so much that we fail to be convicted and transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another collect asks God to help us make no peace with oppression. Our church must be cleansed from its timidity in the face of injustice, from its enjoyment of wealth and privilege, and from its failure to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.

The church has truly known the goodness of the Lord, but it is also true that we have sometimes fallen short of our high calling. Let us treasure all that is good, while praying for defense from all that draws us away from Jesus. Let us seek an awareness of God’s continual mercy in our church and in our lives.

While our churches are fully or partially dispersed, I hope we will take the time to pray and to take stock of how well we have allowed Almighty God to govern our church with goodness. This uprooted time prevents us from our business as usual and invites reflection and redirection. How can we grow as disciples during this pandemic? How can we meet the increasing needs of our world, caused by disease and economic crisis?

So, yes, by all means, pray that the church be cleansed and defended from a deadly virus. And beyond that, let us all pray fervently that our church is cleansed and defended from all that holds us back from our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ, living transformed lives to change the world by God’s grace.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director



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Image: Larry Lamb, Flickr

A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit

Isolated, anxious, and unsure of what will happen next, our response to the virus has already taken months, and we don’t know when it will end. What can we do to take care of ourselves and others during this difficult time? How can we rely on God to help us survive—spiritually, physically, and emotionally—and to do God’s work in the world? In this course, four instructors offer suggestions to help us manage this period of anxiety and social isolation. This course is being offered for free.

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