Bottomless Cup Press presents “A Complaint Before the Court of Coronavirus Justice”

Please download the PDF version of the prayer/poem that includes commentary for use in worship or group settings.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, Keeper of the Universe.
You have thus far kept us alive and preserved us.
Though Sister Death arrives with swiftness now into our circles of care,
We praise You and remember that You alone
are keeper of the Book of Life.
It is You who sends Your Angel Death into the world dressed as a broom;
You who fashioned us from earth, mixing straw and mud with Your own breath.
You blew Time into our nostrils, making our days like fruitful herbs,
which green up in morning, flower and flourish at noon, then fade by close of day.
In humility and grief, we stand before You now, mindful of all we have not loved.
We acknowledge through tears and fears, through our grief, sharp or dulled,
that You alone are God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
We, though many, are not gods. And now, small and frightened, we stand
before the power of viral death that sweeps through the corners of our world.
We are small and afraid of the media’s measuring stick of dead and infected.
We are small and afraid before the needs of our family, neighbors, and congregations.
We are small and afraid listening to tales told by rulers who are full of sound and fury.
We are small and afraid in the face of scarcity and those who demand to be paid.
We are small and afraid before our isolated, individual selves—
self-quarantined, sheltering in place, locked down—and we long for the casual
affections of others.

Yet,
though our sins flow behind us for all the world to see,
we bring, like the Prophet Jeremiah, a complaint before Your court of
coronavirus justice:
If we have taken to heart your command to honor our fathers and mothers,
why must they succumb so quickly to death?
If rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, why are the unjust given an umbrella?
If you promise care for the poor, why are these deprived of work, denied
adequate health care, prevented from accessing Covid-19 tests?
If we train our children for school, why must they now study mourning instead of math?
Why must the best and bravest among us—medical teams, chaplains, ambulance
drivers, grocery clerks—be repaid so harshly for their service?
Why must those with power abuse it through selfishness, hoarding, and greed?
Why, when our nation spends billions on defense, have we been left so defenseless?
Lord, Our God, Death arrives among all like the sound like a shoe with no foot
in it, like a suit with no man in it
.
We protest and demand justice. What are we to do?
And the Lord God said to them:
“O Mortal One, O Empty Suit, O Shoe with No Foot, listen to what I have to say:
You have sacrificed my poor ones at the altar of your stock market.
You have wasted my good Creation, the gift I gave you for your delight and healing.
You have treated sacred life as something to be bought and sold.
You have driven me from your hearts and trapped me in memorials to false pasts.
You have enslaved my people in your profit prisons,
separated me from my families with your harsh policies,
and put your trust in gods of metal, weapons of war, and handguns of fake
heroism.
O Mortal One, like riotous purple wildflowers in an afternoon field have I loved you.
I put my own heart beating within you and wrote there my wedding vow.
You are my beloved. Return to me with all your heart.”

From the mercy seat, a Great Silence went out across the earth.
Then the people said:

[Insert individual or communal responses here.]

Rose Marie Berger, author of Bending the Arch: Poems, is senior editor at Sojourners magazine in Washington, D.C.

Airey: Love in the Time of Coronavirus

By Tommy Airey

This is excerpted from Tommy Airey’s essay “Love in the Time of Corona Virus” on the Radical Discipleship blog.–RMB

Posted on power box at 13th and Irving Sts NW, Washington, D.C., March 20, 2020. [photo: Heidi Thompson]

“The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”—Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)

… 20 years ago, Richard Horsley identified consumer capitalism as the official religion of the United States, offering salvation through the acquisition of products. The problem for so-called “Christians” is that capitalism–especially its current condition called neoliberalism–is tragically incompatible with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who defined love as a life of sacrifice for our friends, neighbors and enemies. In other words, he critiqued the profit motive and self-interest. His prophet motive was self-donating love. He triangulated the exclusive requirements of conservatives and the inclusive offerings of liberals with an expansive vision of love that prodded his followers to flee the fold to find God in the lame, the lepers, good Samaritans and Syro-Phoenician women.

What’s all this got to do with a pandemic? Just about everything. Most of what I heard last week from the media and folks on Facebook who suddenly became experts on viruses boiled down to my safety and security. Dig a little deeper though and our new lifestyle glossary—social distancing, self-isolating and flattening the curve—has everything to do with protecting everyone else, especially the elderly, immune-deficient and those with little or no access to health care.

After I drove my mom from the Pacific Northwest back home to Southern California, I wanted to see old teachers, former coaches and beloved mentors. I couldn’t. Not because I had to protect myself from them. I had to protect them from myself. My capitalist-conditioned soul was caught in a Covid-19 riptide. All of a sudden, my life had limits! Was I going to stop at In-n-Out for a grilled cheese animal style? No. Was I going to go to the gym? No. Was I going to run on the beach? Yes. It was deserted.

Limits and capitalism do not go together. But limits and love do. Real love requires that we think through all our decisions on the basis of how they will affect other people. Our segregated society, working through the suburbs, social media algorithms and so much more, has malformed who we imagine “other people” actually are. Capitalism is built on myths and false assumptions and subsidized by hidden realities. Almost everything we enjoy has been produced by mechanisms of exclusion, exploitation and extraction that middle-class white folks, trained up in niceness and civility, are taught to never notice or name. Because we are possessed by a spirit that makes us unable to speak. …–Tommy Airey

Read Airey’s whole essay at Radical Discipleship.

Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland, pray for us

From Archbishop Eamon Martin for Saint Patrick’s Day in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, Ireland.

Rose at base of Mount St. Kevin on Dingle peninsula 2008, preparing to walk the Pilgrim Way.

“This Saint Patrick’s Day, Ireland – like many parts of the world – is coming to terms with the Coronavirus. Many people are anxious about what lies ahead.

Like others in society, our parishes have been introducing restrictions to help keep people safe, especially those who are most vulnerable. I invite you to join me today in praying the beautiful prayer of Saint Patrick, known as his “breastplate” prayer, in which he invited Christ to surround him with love and protection:

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my left,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

The coming weeks and months are going to bring challenges and uncertainty for all of us, as we are reminded of the fragility of human life and of our dependence on one another and on God.

This is a time for an outpouring of the works of mercy towards the sick and vulnerable, and for a spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice, compassion and charity in Ireland, and across the world. It’s hard for people not to be alarmed, but it’s worth remembering that we are never completely isolated or alone.

This is also a time for prayer. Pray for the virtues of patience and perseverance and for the composure to overcome any temptation to despair. Do your best to spread calmness – not panic; serenity – not turbulence; solidarity – not selfishness. Reach out to neighbours and relatives who may feel troubled or alone. Even a simple phone call can make a huge difference. Work to ensure that hope and compassion will prevail.

In turning towards God for protection, as Saint Patrick did, I ask for your prayers in particular for our health workers and for the medical scientists who are searching for a vaccine and better treatments. Pray that government and public health authorities can make wise judgements and decisions about how to limit the impact of the virus, especially on the most vulnerable.

In Ireland we have a strong tradition that God is at our side in time of trouble. It remains important to keep reminding ourselves and others in the coming days that we are never completely isolated: Christ is beside us, before us, behind us, on our right and on our left, beneath us and above us.

Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland, pray for us.

Dia idir sinn agus an t-olc. – “God between us and all harm”.