Who May Ascend?

King David once mused: “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalm 24:2-3a).

While the verse may give us pause to chuckle a bit, David’s reflections had more to do with our sinful character than our current COVID situation. At the same time, there is something instructive for us – as a parable of sorts – as we consider what this biblical teaching about sin is like.

Just in the same way that we live with anxious thoughts due to the virus, sin functions in much the same way. With the virus, we know it’s there. We can’t necessarily see it – but we trust the experts who tells us it exists. At the same time, we know that there isn’t a cure yet – or any effective treatment. So, how do we live? Well, it doesn’t take much to come up with some examples.

Certainly, there are those who are reckless when it comes to getting out into public – even the deniers who figure that this is all a hoax to control the masses. On the other hand, there are those who allow the fear of it to get in the way of finding peace and getting on with life. Then, there are those in the middle who recognize that it’s there but, after taking proper precautions, simple get on with what can be done and what needs to get done as life goes on.

Our relationship with the brokenness of sin is much the same. There are deniers – also those who prefer to stay oblivious to its reality – while there are likewise those whose lives become crippled at the thought. Reflecting on life, we know that its there (if we’re honest) and that no amount of human effort can overcome it. Fortunately we do have a cure that has been given to us in the person of Jesus Christ – the forgiveness of our sins combined with the new life that comes to us through the Holy Spirit. And this gift is on offer in the Word and in the Sacraments.

This has been and remains the Church’s central message that we need to take to heart – even today – especially as COVID wreaks its havoc on our social confidence. Even though society doesn’t see it that way, the Church – and our Lord’s gifts in the Sacraments – continue to be eternally relevant – even an essential service – because, through them, He cuts through the brokenness of our world and of our lives to give us His life in exchange.

Jesus is more than just a hidden bottle of hand sanitizer – or a mask – He is Life itself and He invites us to partake – not just in nibble-bite proportions, but abundantly in that Life which He puts on offer there.

So, ought we to be cautious with COVID? Yes. But we need also be careful that the fears that it sparks do not get in the way of being present to drink deeply of that Life which Jesus gives.

As Saint James looks at opening up services again – be rest assured that we will follow provincial guidelines about numbers and social distancing and making sure that proper cleaning is put in place. At the same time, we are Christians – and as such, we live in the confidence of God’s love rather than any fear of the unknown. Let’s clean our hands – absolutely. But let’s also make sure that we don’t fall out of the habit of making use of the only anti-death medicine which the world has known to date – our Lord’s presence and Gift of Himself in His Word and in the Sacraments. It is no wonder that St. Ignatius of Antioch (died c. 110 AD) – trained and ordained by the Apostle John – referred to the Lord’s Supper as ‘the medicine of immortality which wards off death to life everlasting.’

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