I've mentioned every now and then that I've been working on a new job - essentially I'm working on a team at the Children's Hospital focusing on the swine flu pandemic sweeping the nation and the world. Anyone based in the UK will know the West Midlands statistics are very high compared to the rest of the nation so it's quite a challenging role. Part of my job is to take phone calls from staff, patients and relatives who have concerns and need answers and advice. And there is a LOT of concerns which is quite understandable. So these phone calls mean that in the last month I've had to learn a lot, quite fast about swine flu and what it does and may do.
What I didn't expect (maybe naively) was for that panic and fear to worm it's way through the Church. I took a fascinating but rather surprising question from someone in a church. They asked whether (based on guidance from the group of churches they belong to) - whether they should be pre-cutting up the communion loaf to limit the spread of potential infection. I did some research yesterday and I was increasingly surprised to find that this guidance is quite tame. Other churches are looking at sterile pre-packing wafers and a small goblet of wine. Other churches are banning communion altogether.
The most sensible advice I read was by a Lutheran minister in the USA who advices those with flu-like symptoms to stay at home until they are better but states that she will not stop sharing communion or shaking hands or hugging her congregation. This is precisely the advice that I gave - to me, taking the excessive step of pre-cutting the communion loaf is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. A Christian microbiologist did some research into what germs are in the communion communal cup and found some rather terrifying things. That being said, she concluded you stand more chance of catching something from your children at home than if you partook in communion every day.
Essentially the issue is this - someone with flu-like symptoms who potentially has swine flu should not be coming to church and sitting in close proximity with other worshippers for over an hour. If they are doing so then the flu virus will spread through their coughing and sneezing whether the communion loaf is pre-cut or not and whether each worshipper has pre-packed individual wafers and wine or not.
The Christian bloggers are of course busy debating whether this is the final wrath of God or not on the back of the economic collapse. What utter rubbish. What about the Black Death of centuries back? What about the seasonal flu pandemic of 1968 to 1970? God is not mad. He spent His wrath at the Cross and His Son cried; "It's done! It's finished!". Rather this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity for the Church to stop being afraid and to rise up and show the world that we are not afraid. This is in an opportunity to show the world that healing and signs and wonders really do exist now, right now and totday here in the 21st century.
What chance does swine flu have if the fire of God were to fall in response to the authoratative command of His people? Does He reign or doesn't He? Does He heal or doesn't He? If John G Lake could confidently take some infected saliva infested with bubonic plague in South Africa and put it on his skin and watch it die because of the anointing upon him, then why should swine flu stand any more chance?
Enough fear. Enough cutting up of communion bread. Stop! Do we believe or do we not? Does He reign or doesn't He?