Liturgy for a Pandemic

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Pandemic. It’s a word with which we’ve all quickly become familiar as the COVID-19 virus has spread. In a time of unprecedented events and unforeseen challenges, we find ourselves needing help in how make sense of it all. While op-eds and data points abound (and are important in their own right), what the heart often aches for is poetry and prayer. Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner, while reflecting on the language of the Old Testament prophets, writes:

“[The prophets] put words to things until their teeth rattled, but beneath the words  they put, or deep within their own words, something rings outs which is new because it is timeless, the silence rings out, the truth that is unutterable, that is mystery, that is the way things are, and the reason it rings out seems to be that the language the prophets use is essentially the language of poetry, which is more than polemics or philosophy, logic, or theology, is the language of truth.”[1]

In the unutterable mystery and unknowns of a pandemic, what we need the most is poetry, the language of truth. We need poetry. And we need prayer. We need words that transcend themselves by pointing us to truth and beyond our own selves and circumstances to the living God and Lord Jesus Christ who superintends all things.

And so, as a humble offering, here is “A Liturgy For a Pandemic.”

Call:

In every age, O LORD;

You have been our refuge.

Response:

Guide us all our journey through!

Call:

In wisdom and out of Your Triune affection,

You have brought us forth.

Behold, we are Your creatures;

We are Your beloved children.

Response:

Great is the LORD and worthy of our praise!

Call:

Because of Your intimate generosity and kindness,

We bear Your image, O Immortal God.

As the Divine Potter, You have shaped and formed us.

Response:

Our hearts are not lifted up;

Our eyes are not raised up too high;

We do not occupy ourselves with things too great and too marvelous for us.

Call:

As our Father, You hold us in Your everlasting arms.

Truly, we are close to Your own heart.

Response:

We have calmed and quieted our souls.

Like a weaned child with its mother;

Like a weaned child are our souls within us.

Call:

In a time of pandemic and public panic, still us with the peace of Your presence.

For truly, You are Lord over all plague and pestilence.

As in the exodus, all creation bends to Your purposes.

Response:

Be still and know that the LORD is God!

Call:

While Your ways are not our ways

(They are too high)

We seek Your face in a time of trouble.

We look to You, Sovereign King.

Response:

We exalt and magnify Your Name!

Call:

In faith, we recall how out of Your boundless Fatherly love

You have paid our debt through Christ our sacrifice

You have made us pure, holy, and righteous through the same Savior

And we belong now, body and soul, to You forever.

Response:

This saying is true and worthy of full acceptance!

Call:

Truly, You are reconciling all things through Christ, Your Son and Our Lord.

As our resurrected and ascended King, He rules and reigns over all.

Even now, You are bringing everything into submission under His feet.

Response:

Crown Him Lord of all!

Call:

In Him, our sin is subdued, and death is swallowed up in victory!

O death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?

Response:

Thanks be to You, Father God,

Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Call:

In these uncertain and fearful days, draw near to us!

As our Good Shepherd,

Comfort us with Your strong yet tender love;

Walk with us – even through the valley of the shadow of death;

Cause us to fear no evil,

But to be reminded that You rule over this treacherous pandemic.

Response:

O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Call:

May our anxiety and fear be fuel to our prayers,

As they ascend as holy incense to You.

May our love for You translate into love for our neighbor:

In conscientious, wise living

In deference and service to the elderly, the infirm, and the needy

And in hopeful worship and joy in the face of uncertainty and fear.

Response:

We commit ourselves to You;

For You have redeemed us, O LORD, faithful God.

 

[1] Buechner, Frederick. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. 19.

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