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Lent and Healing

Date: 22/03/2020/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

Have you ever prayed for healing? I have. I prayed for healing for people who were sick. I have prayed for healing when I needed to get back on my feet to work, and like many LGBTQ people I have, a long time ago, prayed asking God to make me straight.

Some of these prayers were answered. Some were not. Well – maybe that’s not true. When I think that the prayers were not answered, it is often because the outcome didn’t turn out to be what I wanted. God may have answered my prayer – but the outcome isn’t the one I asked for. I am still gay, and I think that’s God’s answer.

Many of us have been praying for the Covid-19 situation. Praying for those who are infected with the virus, their loved ones, the healthcare workers, those on the front lines, those whose livelihoods are affected by the virus. We have been praying, and it seems that our prayers are not answered. The situation in China appears to be making progress, but elsewhere in the world, things are becoming worse.

When Jesus healed the blind man in this week’s lectionary passage from the Gospel according to John 9, he said, “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Healing isn’t just for healing’s sake – it leads to transformation.

This pandemic will pass. But what happens after it is over? Do we return to business as usual?

Are there things that need to change?

Perhaps what is happening is an invitation from God to respond differently.

Perhaps God is inviting us to honor the Sabbath. To slow down, to rest, to connect.

I love this poem that one of my friends from seminary shared written by Lynn Ungar on 11 March 2020.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

(Lynn Ungar, composed on 3/11/20)

“Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling….. center down.”

First – we can survive on less stuff. And we can do something about climate change!

The shutdowns all over the world is having an unintended effect – reducing pollution and allowing nature to heal.

Of course, there is an impact on those people who depend on producing “stuff” to make a living. There are ways we can make changes – especially now when we see for ourselves how interconnected we are.

I am glad to see a note that a company upstairs is giving away a toothpaste toothbrush set for Malaysian workers.

The initiative that Shawn was part of – everyday heroes – providing care packs for healthcare workers in the hospitals, the hand sanitizers that appear in lifts for everyone in the building to use, people giving out masks – all reveal how we can react not in fear, but in love.

The ones most impacted by the virus are those who cannot stay at home to work, the part-timers, the ones who are part of the gig economy – they don’t work, they don’t get paid, the ones who have to leave their families behind to make a living. The ones who live from payday to payday, with little savings. They don’t get paid medical leave.

How can we change our systems to help them? I have friends who paid their part time domestic helper and told them it is ok for them not to come and work if they are not feeling well. Some employers are understanding – and then there are some like the restaurant chain that threatened to fire Malaysian staff who cannot find accommodation in Singapore. Are we conscious of the sacrifices made by people who cross the borders every day to work here for our benefit?

Stephanie Chok from Beyond Social Services wrote:

Beyond Social Services started calling members to find out how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 situation. We were especially concerned about impacts on employment and household income. Here’s what we found:

Low-Paid & Precarious Work

Members who voiced concerns in the area of employment are disproportionately engaged in low-paid and precarious forms of work. They are part of the gig economy (e.g. Grab driver), are casual, contract, or part-time staff (many in the service sector, e.g. F&B and cleaning), and are involved in seasonal work (e.g. baking/catering).

if they don’t show up for work, they don’t get paid. ‘Working from home’, an option available to a select pool of white-collar professionals, is not a viable option.

Members in these jobs have reported the following impacts:

– Reduction in working hours (including overtime hours) and work days, thus leading to a reduction in overall income;
– Reduction in demand for services (e.g. catering, Grab rides);
– Cancellation of events and contracts (affecting those in events management, for example, and outsourced workers);
– Being asked to take (unpaid) leave, including leave of absence (LOA);
– Not being paid when on medical leave;
– Business temporarily closing (e.g. pasar malam stall, because business is bad);
– Pay cuts;
– Retrenchment.

There were also a number who were unemployed and looking for work, but indicated this is more difficult now. Not only are parents affected, older children who take on part-time work to supplement household and personal expenses (e.g. transport to school) have also been affected…

…The financial strain families are under is, understandably, causing emotional distress. Several respondents expressed feeling stressed and anxious, and concerned about paying for household expenses (including rent and food, as well as children’s school-related expenses) in the coming months. With the economic impact of COVID-19 expected to last at least a year, there will be cumulative impacts from these reductions in income; this will not only affect families’ current expenditure, it will also compound their arrears, if they have any. While some members are adjusting their spending in order to cope (“still able to tahan for now”, one said), this is a limited strategy.

Beyond intends to continue monitoring the impact on families, and mobilizing resources to support them. Our crowdfunding site remains open for donations, and both financial and in-kind support is being harnessed and distributed. It is a time for generosity, and public concern towards those in financial hardship has been heartfelt and encouraging.”

During this time we can act in fear – we may start hoarding toilet paper, food, face masks because we are afraid that they will run out. But where does that fear stem from?

It stems from the idea that if we don’t take care of ourselves, nobody else will.

There is another way. Jesus taught of a different way. If we love one another as Jesus has loved us, love our neighbours as ourselves, then we will take care of each other – we don’t act out of fear, but out of love.

We share what we have because we believe there is enough. If the child thought that there was only enough bread and fish for the child alone, and not stepped forward, there won’t be anything to multiply with. Because the child believed there is enough to share, and offered what was in their hands, a miracle happened. 5000 were fed.

We first start by living out what we believe in – to care for and love each other. We will be paying Molly regardless whether she is here helping out on Sunday so that she can choose to stay at home and minimise risk of exposure to the covid virus. This is how we live out our values. This is how we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Beyond Social Services has started a Family Assistance Fund to help families stabilise during these uncertain times.

http://www.beyond.org.sg/covid-19/

It is natural for us to react in fear – that is the survival instinct. When I thought about appealing to all of you to give to the Family Assistance Fund, there was a part of me that thought – the giving to FCC was also affected for the virus….. That is fear. But there was another voice – “trust that there is enough. I am with you.”

This crisis will test us. It will reveal what values we have.

We have to recognise our collective responsibility to care for the least among us. I believe that God’s works will be revealed through us, if we live into the values Jesus taught us.

Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Maybe we are asking for the wrong kind of healing. Maybe God wants to heal us of our selfishness, our fears so we can grow more into God’s likeness so God’s works may be revealed.

So slow down, rest, connect

“Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.”

May God’s works be revealed in the work of healing – of the people, of the community, of the world.