Written by Patricia Benoit
Yes, we’re hunkered down to escape present the spread of COVID-19. We can take comfort from our online connections such as Sunday worship and the Book of Common Prayer. St. Luke’s is alive, working and helping others. Our congregation is alive and open to the community.
So, how did other people in previous hard times handle real restrictions, deprivations and desolations?
God Not Tempted
In 1920, a century ago, the state was gripped with the fear of bubonic plague, which has struck Galveston. The Temple Daily Telegram editorialized, “The presence of the bubonic plague indicates cleanliness necessary for persons and communities.”
Temple, a key railroad hub with a roundhouse and shops, would be an easy target for the next plague outbreak. Rail workers were tasked with fumigating railcars with a highly toxic mixture of cyanide and sulfuric acid – effective against plague-infested rats but extremely hazardous to humans. Cars were treated in Galveston and a second time in Temple.
The bubonic plague is an ancient disease. In a 16th-century outbreak, churches and businesses closed, people were isolated and cities were decimated.
When Christian reformer Martin Luther faced problems of “The Black Death (bubonic plague)” in 1527, he refused to leave town. He decided to stay engaged with others, even at personal risk.
He wrote: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Luther took the sensible precautions of his day, but ventured forth to help others.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
Abide With Me
Written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte, the hymn was composed as he lay dying from tuberculosis.
1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me.
3. I need thy presence every passing hour. What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
4. I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight, and tears not bitterness. Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
5. Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes; shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.