Defying Public Health Orders
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91: 11,12)
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
(Matthew 4: 5-7)
For the past year I have watched with dismay and some fascination (you know – slow moving train-wreck fascination) the number of Christian churches that have openly defied public health orders and have looked for loop holes so they could gather for worship. Several large churches have now faced fairly steep fines for gathering and one clergy has now been jailed.
What was interesting to me was that the rhetoric used to justify this has fallen into two camps:
- You can’t encroach on our religious freedom, and
- God will protect us.
The latter, often using the scripture from Psalm 91 that I posted above.
So here’s where some issues come in. You can see that in the book of Matthew this very same quote from Psalm 91 is used by Satan to ‘tempt’ Jesus in the Wilderness. Satan – the personification of Evil is using beloved scriptures of safety and comfort to tempt Jesus – God’s incarnation on our Earth. The whole story of Jesus’ temptation in the Wilderness was something that we have recently read from the Book of Mark, but the Book of Matthew has much more detail, so you may want to open your bibles and read it.
Interesting, eh. That the very same scripture that some people are using to justify defying pubic health orders is the same scripture that is used by Satan to tempt Jesus in the wilderness.
I have wondered what the ‘red-flag’ is for people to openly defy public health orders, and justify it in the name of faith. Its not a core belief that I share with them, and I call myself both a Christian and a person with great faith in God. I get the temptation to throw all things back to God and expect God to operate kind of like a drink machine where you put your coins (prayers) in the top and out comes the pop of your choice (freedom, prosperity, protection etc.). That kind of God is insidiously tempting, right! It means that those of us who are ‘truly faithful’ can live lives that are safe and prosperous all of the time.
Which sounds suspiciously like a prosperity Gospel, and also suspiciously opposite to what Jesus has been teaching all the way through our Lenten readings. It also puts you in this weird bind that if bad things do happen to you – like you or a family member contracting Covid – then it ‘must’ mean that you aren’t ‘truly faithful’. That kind of belief, in my opinion is seriously damaging especially since terrible things happen to faithful people all of the time, including contracting Covid.
I get it though. I desperately want to be safe. I also desperately want to be with you all in worship. The pandemic is lonely and at times frightening. It would be really nice is we could have God intervene and just stop this virus in its tracks so that we can get together again. Here’s the thing, though – Maybe God has. Maybe God is wielding God’s powerful hand through the best thinking of our scientists, with public health orders and masks and hand sanitizing. Maybe our ‘angels’ that have been sent don’t resemble the Renaissance painting angels we are so fond of, and instead look like a vaccine roll-out, triple layer masks and a ‘transition team’ at our church that continues to put the brakes on so that when we can re-gather, all of us return.
And once again, maybe our impatience and expectation that we will have instantaneous results from God’s protection is our Temptation in the Wilderness, the Wilderness of the Pandemic.
So I hope you will join me in calling a spade a spade and name the misuse of Psalm 91, and the defiance of public health orders for what it is: wrong. Or Evil. Or Satan. We will be able to be with each other again and I believe it will be soon. Our ‘angels’ of vaccinations, masks and social distancing are continuing to offer us safety and protection, and God is present and active in our world but isn’t a pop machine in the hall at the church.
Blessings today and remember you are Loved,
~ Rev. Lynne
(Your pictures today are the hooks I have at both my front door and my back door. I used to only use them for keys, sax neckstraps (yes those are Hugh’s) and dog leashes. Now I have a huge variety of masks hanging so that we can grab one every time we go out. Where are your masks?)