The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham. Auckland Castle (Picture Keith Blundy)

NATIONAL CANDLE PRAYERS

Sunday 22nd March 2020 7pm, Durham Cathedral Livestream

Bishop Paul ‘Live Streams’ National Candle Prayers from Durham Cathedral. Please see: https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?’

Right now for very many of us the whole situation with Coronavirus Covid 19 seems rather surreal. We see pictures from Italy and Spain of countries in complete shutdown. We have reports of the pressure building on our health and social care staff. We have daily updates from our Prime Minister and the restrictions become ever tighter. Yet for very many of us in terms of actual health it has not directly touched us, or those who are most dear to us. For some the impact has already begun to happen.

It feels to me rather like the times I have entered into a cave with my family. The sun is bright on the outside; the cave looks dark within but as we enter light still shines, the path is easy. Yet there is a growing sense that the light is becoming dimmer, we have to tread more carefully. We know that it will become darker and more difficult but initially that is anticipation not reality. We all have to hear clearly that the impact of this unseen virus is coming. In this sense darkness will descend upon us all. Yet in the dark cave one leads with a light, and we follow. We know that our safety lies in following the light.

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

Darkness tends to create fear. The unknown makes most of us uncertain. So some anxiety and fear is inevitable in all of us at this time. A healthy level of fear is good for us. It makes us helpfully cautious; it encourages us to look out for, and support, one another. It makes us look more intently at the light that will lead us through.

This is a time not only of national crisis but international crisis. I think regularly of the impact there will be in countries that do not have the extraordinary health and social care services that we have. I think of those who have no access to the brilliant ways we can stay connected through phones and social media. I think of those for whom food truly is in shortage. Let us not shut down our compassion for the very poorest in our world when they need it most.

Light will shine in the darkness through loving care of one another. It will shine through supporting and helping one another. Light will shine by all of us being thoughtful, disciplined and undertake the self-isolating and self-restraint required.

God’s light still shines in the darkness. In prayer, in humility, let us all discover that light through one another. Let us look to Jesus Christ and follow his light each step of the way knowing that his light shines not for this life only but on into eternity. As he said to his first disciples as they faced the darkness of his death, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.’

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom, or of what, then shall I be afraid? … Wait for the Lord; be strong and he will comfort your heart; wait patiently for the Lord.’