Three Church Mother Bodies Pray Against COVID-19, Call For Action and Unity of Purpose

 

The three Church Mother Bodies namely Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) on Sunday held a virtual joint ecumenical prayer service in the midst of the second wave of covid-19. The Church Service which was also physically attended by Minister of National Guidance and Religious, Affairs Rev. Godfredah Sumaili, was held at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka.

And speaking when he delivered the Homily, ZCCB Secretary General, Fr. Cleophas Lungu, called on the nation to put aside tribal, regional, religious and political differences and stand together as 'ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION' until COVID-19 is defeated.

Below is his full Homily:

“We gather today as members from different Church Mother Bodies and various Christian denominations to express our solidarity as members of the same Body of Christ and raise our minds and hearts to God in prayer. We do so, in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the precious lives of many Zambians, including the clergy and high-profile figures in this nation. In this Ecumenical Prayer Service, our thoughts and prayers will also reach out to the families that have lost their dear ones, the COVID-19 patients in hospitals and in our homes as well as all the healthcare workers who are busy taking care of our ailing brothers and sisters. When a nation is facing a calamity such as COVID-19, as Church, we believe that we need to PUT OUR TRUST IN GOD as the theme of our Prayer Service invites us. Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us in Matthew 11:28 by saying: -

“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” To our dearest brothers and sisters who are battling with the Coronavirus and other related diseases, we wish to remind you that your sickness makes you, in a particular and unique way, one of those “who labour and are burdened”, and thus attract the eyes and heart, in other words, the full attention and compassion of Jesus.

In God, you will find the light to brighten your darkest moments and hope to soothe your distress and anxiety. Jesus Christ is saying to the sick: “Come to me, put your trust and faith in me!”. In Christ, we find the strength to face all the worries and questions that assail us during our “dark night.” In addition, let us remember that the words of Jesus, are actually born out of a lived experience. By being born like us, Jesus Christ became frail, endured the pain of sickness and other forms of human suffering; he was moved with pity whenever he encountered the poor, the lame, the hungry and the sick; he carried his cross and rose from the dead on the third day. In this way, Jesus can afford to look upon the wounded humanity, a world devastated by the negative impact of COVID-19, with eyes full of God’s compassionate love.

In the first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we heard the familiar words from the Apostle to the Gentiles. Allow me to highlight two aspects relevant for us today: Firstly, that nothing can separate us from the LOVE OF CHRIST; and Secondly, that in all these things, WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS THROUGH HIM WHO LOVED US.

1) Who will separate us from the Love of Christ? – As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it appears impossible to avoid speaking about love. In the academic world, we learn about the philosophy of Descartes which argued that: COGITO ERGO SUM, that is, “I THINK, THEREFORE, I AM.” However, the Christian Philosophy argues that: AMOR ERGO SUM, that is, “I AM LOVED, THEREFORE, I AM.” Indeed, the fact that many have recovered from COVID-19 and that many others have not contracted this disease is a clear demonstration of the LOVE OF GOD for each and every one of us. Therefore today, we wish to focus on the love of God towards us, even in times when his presence can hardly be felt. St. Paul testifies that the LOVE OF CHRIST, who suffered and died for us, will outlast all the potential problems that we may encounter in our lives. Indeed, in times of adversity, sickness and many deaths, it is tempting to think that God is distant, unmoved by our anguish, and perhaps showing his disfavour to us. Again, in the words of St. Paul, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” (Rom 8:35). Of course, the logical answer for believers is, NOTHING! NOTHING WILL SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD in whom we put our trust.

2) In addition, “We are more than conquerors through Him who Loved us” – Let us always remember that OUR PRAYER SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED WITH ACTION and we should remain confident that we shall overcome the war against the Coronavirus disease. Of course, COVID-19 is not part of Fake News. It is REAL, SERIOUS and DEADLY. It is an enemy that needs to be jointly fought and defeated physically, morally and spiritually. The words of St. Paul are there to inspire us as we continue to fight against this disease. Instead of resigning or giving up, St. Paul reminds us: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). As we have often been told, in order to eradicate COVID-19, we have to religiously and strictly observe the Golden Rules, especially those of:

a) Masking up;

b) Washing our hands or sanitising;

c) Observing physical distance;

d) Avoiding unnecessary travel;

e) Avoiding large gatherings;

f) Sharing information with others on COVID-19 prevention; and

g) Seeking medical attention and guidance in good time.

Indeed, if and when we ALL follow the above-laid guidelines, victory against COVID-19 will be guaranteed. Let us remember that as we fight against this pandemic, there is a need for UNITY OF PURPOSE. We need to put our usual tribal, regional, religious and political differences aside and stand together as ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION, until we overcome. In the Gospel reading, we heard about Jesus Christ who started by teaching and preaching the Word of God in parables. However, when the storm struck them in the midst of their journey across the Sea of Galilea, the disciples proved that they had not fully understood the message of Jesus Christ and failed to apply the Gospel in their life situation. Even today, many people are taught what to do. However, when one goes to Soweto or COMESA Market, it is as if these people are living on a COVID-free planet. Often times, there is no adherence of the COVID-19 guidelines. Yes, they hear the message on radio, television and in Churches, but they neither understand nor put into practice what God is saying to them. Once more, let us remember that, “An army of well-organized ants can defeat and conquer an Elephant.” We can do it! Let us work together and relegate the Coronavirus disease into history. After teaching people in WORD, Jesus joins his disciples on a boat and embarks on a journey across the Sea to teach them in ACTION. Suddenly, a storm arises and strikes them just as much as the advent of the Coronavirus disease was sudden and caught the world unawares. To start with, let us draw a contrast between the attitude of Jesus and that of his disciples. On one hand, we have Jesus Christ, whose other name is EMMANUEL, that is, GOD IS WITH US.

While his disciples are trembling with fear and desperate, he sits in the stern, that is, in the very part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the storm, he falls dead asleep, trusting in God his Father. In fact, this is the only time in the Gospels that we hear of Jesus sleeping. To a greater extent, this was a sermon acted out. The lesson for us is clear - In times of danger and calamity, we should not lose our sense of God and fail to put our trust in him. On the other hand, we have the reaction of the disciples of Jesus. Their response to the crisis, is much like ours.

In the wake of the Second Wave of COVID-19, which has proved to be more vicious, easily transmissible and so deadly, we find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel, we have been caught off guard by the unexpected, a turbulent storm. Despite living in different localities like Kabulonga and Kalinga-linga, we have realized that, in this new normal, as Pope Francis would argue, we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, fearful and confused, all of us called to journey together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat … no one is immune from contagion. THE PROBLEM IS THAT WE ARE ALL AT RISK. HOWEVER, THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT WE CAN ALL BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. Just like those disciples, who cried anxiously with one voice, saying “Teacher, do you not care that WE are perishing?” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only in acting together can we overcome this and many other problems we face as Zambians.

Therefore, we pray for the spirit of UNITY in the country and the spirit of SOLIDARITY. Lastly, instead of being overcome with fear and despair, the Lord is inviting us to be people of faith and disciples who PUT THEIR TRUST IN GOD. St. Augustine commented on this and argues that: “When you are insulted, that is the WIND. When you are angry, those are the WAVES. So when the winds blow and the waves surge, the boat is in danger, your heart is in jeopardy, your heart is tossed to and fro. On being insulted, you long to retaliate. But revenge brings another kind of misfortune - a SHIPWRECK. Why? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN CHRIST. Wake him up, then; REMEMBER Christ, let Christ AWAKEN within you, and give heed to him …”

Perhaps, let us make this our prayer today. That we may not forget God even in the midst of COVID-19 and that CHRIST MAY BE ALIVE IN US – CHRISTUS VIVIT and thus inspire us to act in a Christian way to each other and especially act with LOVE and COMPASSION towards the sick in our midst.

AMEN.”

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The Council of Churches in Zambia is an ecumenical umbrella organization of Christian churches that seeks to promote cooperation and fellowship between Christian churches and organizations in the nation. We therefore seek to bring together members and stakeholders for consultation and discussions in an effort to help form an enlightened Christian opinion on all issues affecting the spiritual, social and physical well being of Zambians.

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