A letter from Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
Dear Beloved in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I am writing this letter on the 5th Sunday of Lent, with the lectionary focus on the death of Lazarus (John 11:1-45). In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus not only demonstrates his deep comfort to the grieving family, but also expresses his pain and sorrow by weeping with the family before he brings Lazarus back to life. One thing is very important for us to note: Jesus wants the community to be part of his miracle of raising Lazarus by inviting them to “unwrap him and let him loose” (John 11: 44 The Message).
I cannot avoid making connections to our current context and the coronavirus. There are many questions being raised around the globe about the virus: concerns about the handling of this pandemic, a cry for more effort to find a vaccine and offer financial relief – particularly for the marginalized, and more existential questions that surface day by day along with our fears and anxiety.
It is very important that we be in prayer, deep prayer, and cry out to our Creator God to help us stop the spread of this virus and bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones. We must also continue to lift up all those who offer sacrificial help as medical professionals in various roles: physicians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, volunteers. Also, let us not forget the victims of the economic effects of this pandemic.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is important not to stop with prayers but to act out those prayers! Let us heed the words of Jesus who said to the loved ones of Lazarus, “Unwrap him and let him loose.” As we lead our lives as disciples of Jesus, it is of vital importance for us to show the marks of our baptism through our witness.
How can we help to unwrap and let loose all those who are caught in the web of COVID-19?
Though we might approach this question from many different angles, may I suggest a few practical ideas?
May we work to counter and dispel all the myths circulating on social media – including names for the virus that condemn entire nations! Whenever innocent people are branded or blamed, we need to stand for justice and peace. Fight for it!
Second, we need to take full advantage of being the people of the Church by employing all the technological resources available to allow us to worship as a community and conduct meetings. We can use FaceTime, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media (including the telephone!) to engage with others, check on their well-being, etc.
By joining in online worship over the last two Sundays, we have had a chance to listen to preachers we otherwise would not have heard. The Cabinet and I are working on a recorded video Love Feast that will allow us to join you in worship, perhaps this coming Palm Sunday or Holy Week.
Third, we need to heed the call of our civic leaders, national, state, and local officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, so we are working together to stamp out COVID-19 completely. May we listen to their directions carefully and faithfully to help control the spread of this virus. As hard as it may be, this means stay at home. Do not gather for in-person worship of any kind until further notice.
Fourth, may we consider the resources with which God has blessed us and share them generously and sacrificially with those who are struggling with food insecurity, the loss of employment, or other hardships in our current reality.
I still remember a pastor telling me that during the 2008 financial crisis she realized some of her parishioners could not ask for help when they lost their jobs because of their pride. She asked on their behalf, personally challenging some of her wealthy parishioners to share their resources. It was a great Christian witness.
Friends, who is God calling you and me to “unwrap and let loose?”
May our Triune God fill us with the love of Christ and empower us with the Holy Spirit, so that our actions and deeds may glorify God.
Have a blessed Holy Week!
In Christ love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar