March 18, 2020by Reverend Dan on March 18, 2020
“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.'”
Ringgggg! That’s the bell for 1st block (we used to call it 1st period back in the day), which means history class. Everyone take your seats and turn your cell phones off.
Back in the 3rd century, beginning around the year 232 A.D., the city of Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia) was struck by a plaque that would turn into a pandemic. The plaque was a deadly combination of smallpox, influenza, and a virus very much like the Ebola virus. When the pandemic spread to Rome about 20 years later, it’s been estimated that there were as many as 5,000 deaths per day in that city. Nasty stuff.
Anyway, back to Carthage. The city officials implemented some very strict rules to try and at least slow the spread of the illness. Anyone expected of having the disease was placed outside the city walls, those who died because of the illness were taken to mass graveyards far away from the city, and people stayed to themselves, never leaving their houses.
Well, thanks Rev. Dan. That’s quite an uplifting story, especially faced with what we’re going through. Way to “pick us up”.
C’mon now . . . you know Rev. Dan isn’t going to have any bad news . . . with bringing the “Good News” into the picture. You see, the bishop of Carthage at that time was a man named Cyprian. And he encouraged the church folks to do whatever they could to alleviate suffering. Take people food. Pray for each other. Stand outside windows and pray WITH each other. Be a source of hope and grace to folks who were sick and felt alone.
That group of church people, who became known as the “Parabolani” (translated “risking their lives”), became a movement that served the sick, the poor, and the forgotten – those on the margins of society – for hundreds of years.
The reason I tell you this story is that we have our own version of the Parabolani in the world today. They are the doctors and nurses and medical professionals; the people working in the laboratories and testing centers; the EMT’s and firefighters and police. Every day they step out among those who are sick, and they bring hope and relief to those who suffer.
That’s the same thing Jesus did. And still does today. And as Christians we are called to do the same. Must we be vigilant and cautious? Yes. But with all of our fervor, we must lift up the modern-day Parabolani in prayer, knowing that when they leave home, they are risking their very lives to bring God’s love to people who are ill.
That pandemic of so long ago is known today as the Plaque of Cyprian, in honor of the man who sought to see – and be - Christ in the midst of the suffering and death. In 100 years . . . how will people remember the church . . . during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020?
“Father, Help us to be your love and grace on earth. And thank you for those who show that love every day during this time of crisis. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”