Last Monday, I excerpted parts of Peter Hitchens’s column from the Mail on Sunday, March 22, 2020: ‘Is shutting down Britain REALLY the right answer?’.

Yesterday, March 29, he wrote another column, this one about the coronavirus shutdown one week after: ‘This Great Panic is foolish, yet our freedom is still broken and economy crippled’. His column has photos of what’s been going on over the past seven days, including one of Derbyshire police telling a couple walking their dog in the remote hills that what they are doing is ‘not essential’.

Emphases mine below.

He says he got a lot of verbal abuse for his March 22 column. Yet, he also received many messages of support.

That support comes from the silent majority whose voices are never heard on the news or even in their own communities. We must be quiet and follow the herd now.

He is right to say that things will get worse before they get better. On Monday evening, March 23, Boris announced an immediate lockdown. By Wednesday, March 25, the Coronavirus Bill passed the House of Lords.

Incidentally, I wrote this on Sunday, and a gale blew threw all day long. Temperatures took a dip. Although it was sunny, at least where I live, it was not good weather for walking around, even with restrictions. But I digress.

Hitchens predicts — probably rightly — that the government will have to tighten the screws just to reinforce its own misguided case:

I now suspect this dark season might get still worse before we see the clear, calm light of reason again. The greater the mistake we have made, the less willing we are to admit it or correct it. This is why I greatly fear worse developments in the coming few days.

When I predicted roadblocks in my column two weeks ago, which I did, I did so out of an instinct that we were entering on the craziest period of our lives since the death of Princess Diana. And now there are such roadblocks, officious, embarrassing blots on our national reputation.

But even I would not have dared to predict the mass house arrest under which we are all now confined.

He mentions a little known piece of legislation passed in 1984 (!) which he says was used to justify the lockdown:

I have found the origin of this bizarre Napoleonic decree – a few clauses in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which I confess I had not even heard of. It just goes to show how careful you have to be with the wording of the laws you pass.

Holy moly:

Perhaps we will emulate the French or Italian states, which have returned to their despotic origins and reduced their populations to a sort of cowering serfdom, barely able to step into the street.

I wonder whether there might also be restrictions on what can be said and published. I can see no necessary bar to this in the law involved.

Section 45 C (3) (c) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (appropriately enough) is the bit that does it. Once the Health Secretary believes there is a threat to public health, he has – or claims to have – limitless powers to do what he likes, ‘imposing or enabling the imposition of restrictions or requirements on or in relation to persons, things or premises in the event of, or in response to, a threat to public health’.

The former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption doubts that the Act can be used in this way and warns: ‘There is a difference between law and official instructions. It is the difference between a democracy and a police state. Liberty and the rule of law are surely worth something, even in the face of a pandemic.’

Lord Sumption is generally a liberal hero, and he was invited to deliver last year’s BBC Reith Lectures. But the Human Rights crowd have all melted away in the face of this outrage. So his warning was buried on Page 54 of The Times on Thursday, and Parliament, already supine, has slunk away after its craven acceptance of new attacks on liberty on Monday.

It will be interesting to see what our MPs have to say on April 22 when they reconvene in the House of Commons after Easter break.

Until then:

do not be surprised by anything. After last week, can we rule anything out?

The police are playing a bigger role in the North. Civilians are opting in to help, Hitchens says:

Humberside police are already advertising a ‘portal’ for citizens to inform on their neighbours for breaking the ‘social distancing’ rules.

If you think they won’t get any takers, think again. Northamptonshire police have revealed that their control room has had ‘dozens and dozens’ of calls about people ignoring the order.

They said: ‘We are getting calls from people who say, “I think my neighbour is going out on a second run – I want you to come and arrest them.”’

Others will have seen the films, taken by Derbyshire police drones, of lonely walkers on the remote, empty hills, publicly pillorying them for not obeying the regulations. It is genuinely hard to see what damage these walkers have done.

Meanwhile, in London, police are telling isolated sunbathers in search of natural Vitamin D — said to ward off coronavirus — not to lie on the grass in parks:

Most people will, by now, have viewed the online film of Metropolitan police officers bellowing officiously at sunbathers on Shepherd’s Bush Green in London, energetically stamping out the foul crime of lying on the grass (would they have paid so much attention, two weeks ago, to a gaggle of louts making an unpleasant noise, or to marijuana smokers?).

Hitchens says this reminds him of his time in the Soviet Union:

… as a former resident of the USSR, I can tell you that this sort of endless meddling by petty authority in the details of life, reinforced by narks, is normal in unfree societies – such as we have now become for an indefinite period. It is, by the way, also a seedbed for corruption.

He turns his attention to the economy, specifically the generous coronavirus bail out for 95% of people living in Britain. How can Chancellor Rishi Sunak recoup the money? Only through higher taxes in the years to come.

This is what scares me and, as sure as night follows day, this WILL happen:

He will get this back from us as soon as we are allowed out again. Just you wait till you get the bill, in increased taxes, inflation and devastated savings.

Hitchens discusses the evidence supporting his arguments during what he calls the Great Panic:

several powerful pieces of evidence have come to light, suggesting that the Great Panic is foolish and wrong.

… I do not claim to be an expert. But I refer to those who definitely are experts, who doubt the wisdom of what we are doing.

It is sad that far too little of this is being reported as prominently as it should be by our supposedly diverse and free media, especially the BBC, which has largely closed its mind and its airwaves to dissent. It is quite funny that a statue of George Orwell stands by the entrance to the BBC, bearing the inscription: ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’ …

Now, if you want a scientist who does not support Government policy, the most impressive of these is Prof Sucharit Bhakdi. If you desire experts, he is one.

He is an infectious medicine specialist, one of the most highly cited medical research scientists in Germany. He was head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, one of Germany’s most distinguished seats of learning.

In a recent interview he had many uncomplimentary things to say about the shutdown policy being pursued by so many countries (there is a link on my blog to the interview, and a transcription).

But perhaps the most powerful was his reply to the suggestion that the closedown of society would save lives. He argued the contrary, saying this policy was ‘grotesque, absurd and very dangerous’.

He warned: ‘Our elderly citizens have every right to make efforts not to belong to the 2,200 [in Germany] who daily embark on their last journey. Social contacts and social events, theatre and music, travel and holiday recreation, sports and hobbies all help to prolong their stay on Earth. The life expectancy of millions is being shortened.’

He also gave this warning: ‘The horrifying impact on the world economy threatens the existence of countless people.

‘The consequences for medical care are profound. Already services to patients who are in need are reduced, operations cancelled, practices empty, hospital personnel dwindling.

‘All this will impact profoundly on our whole society.

‘I can only say that all these measures are leading to self-destruction and collective suicide because of nothing but a spook.’

Dr John Lee is another expert. He wrote an article for the Spectator on March 28 about the way Britain is handling coronavirus:

John Lee, a recently retired professor of pathology and a former NHS consultant pathologist, writes in The Spectator this weekend that by making Covid-19 a notifiable disease, the authorities may have distorted the figures.

‘In the current climate, anyone with a positive test for Covid-19 will certainly be known to clinical staff looking after them: if any of these patients dies, staff will have to record the Covid-19 designation on the death certificate – contrary to usual practice for most infections of this kind.

There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes.

Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not. It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded.’

This, of course, explains why such an overwhelming number of Covid deaths, here and abroad, involve so-called ‘underlying conditions’, in fact serious, often fatal, diseases.

Take this into account whenever you hear official figures of coronavirus deaths.

Dr Lee adds, equally crucially: ‘We risk being convinced that we have averted something that was never really going to be as severe as we feared.’

As Hitchens says, there are important lessons to be learnt from the Great Panic, especially those regarding civil liberties and a broken economy.

The question remains: will we learn those lessons?

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Romans 2:1-5

God’s Righteous Judgment

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

—————————————————————————————————-

My posts on Romans 1 are here and here. The second one, covering verses 16 to 32, is particularly important.

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur say that Paul addressed Romans 1 to the Gentile world.

In Romans 2, Paul turns his attention to the Jewish world. As Christianity was still in its infancy at that time, AD 56, the Jews were the predominant believers in God.

As such, they upheld the standard for religious morality and believed they were exempt from judgement because of the covenant God made with them. Yet, Paul tells them that they, too, are imperfect and sinful, guilty of the same things they condemn in others (verse 1).

MacArthur says that Paul addresses six types of judgement in Romans 2 (emphases mine below):

the first three – knowledge, truth and guilt, and the last three: deeds, impartiality, and motive. God judges on the basis of those six things. He judges men on the basis of their knowledge, He judges them on the basis of the truth, He judges them on the basis of their guilt, He judges them on the basis of their deeds, He judges them with impartiality, and He judges their motives. Those are the six elements that come together to show how God judges.

Knowledge comes in the first verse.

MacArthur explains the point Paul makes and discusses ‘Therefore’, the first word of that verse:

… let’s look at the first one in verse 1, knowledge. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest, for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself for thou that judgest doest the same things.” Now, let’s see what this is saying – fascinating verse. It begins with “therefore.” What he’s saying is this – and the “therefore” ties us, doesn’t it, backwards to the previous chapter? Some people have been confused by that “therefore” but there’s really no reason to be. Listen: Because what was true of those in 1:18-32 is also true of you, you are also without excuse. That’s the connection. If you go back to verse 18 – watch, here it is: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth.” Verse 19, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them.”

In other words, because they know the truth, the end of verse 20 says, they are without what? Excuse. Now, go right to verse 1 of chapter 2: “Therefore you also are inexcusable, O man.” Why? Implication: because you also know the truth. And you know how you prove that you know the truth? You prove it because you are judging others, and if you have a criterion by which to judge others, you prove that you must know the truth. You’re just as inexcusable.

Now, they knew the truth. Obviously, they knew the truth. It was clear that all men knew the truth from chapter 1, and what was true of those people is also true of the Jew in chapter 2. They knew not only from external natural revelation, they knew from conscience.

Paul, referring to his previous verses on immorality (Romans 1:16-32), says that God will judge anyone who is guilty of those sins, Gentile — and Jew — alike (verse 2).

Therefore, Paul reasons, how can the Jew escape judgement if he is guilty of such sins (verse 3)? The Jew already knows God, so, as MacArthur puts it:

you have the knowledge. In fact, you have a more complete knowledge so you’re even more inexcusable.

Paul poses another question, asking if the Jew believes God’s kindness extends to him in all circumstances, misunderstanding that His kindness is meant to lead His people to repentance not relieve them from His judgement (verse 4).

Then Paul lays down the spiritual hammer, warning the Jews of his day that they are laying up God’s wrath against themselves for their collective ‘hard and impenitent heart’ (verse 5).

MacArthur ties together the end of Romans 1 and these first five verses of Romans 2 as follows:

Look at verse 32 at the end of chapter 1. It says even the pagans know the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death. Even the pagans know what is right and wrong. Even the pagans can apply God’s standard to their own life if they chose, much more you who have received His revelation, and you who sit in judgment on the pagans give evidence that you know. This would be like a judge who condemns a criminal by applying the law. He, therefore, makes himself responsible, obviously, to keep that same law if he’s going to sit in judgment on somebody else.

And then he goes to the next statement – powerful: “For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” Now, when you show the law of God as applied to somebody else, you prove that you know that law, and in knowing that law you condemn yourself. A pretty powerful statement. You condemn yourself. And this is really what Jesus said. If you look for a moment in Matthew 7, you can see where Paul got this whole thing: through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was really restating what our Lord said in Matthew 7 verse 1, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

Now, what this means is not don’t make a proper evaluation, you’re supposed to make a proper evaluation of things. It even tells you to do that later on in the same chapter when it gets down into verses 15 to 20 and tells you to examine and make a decision based upon the fruit that you see in someone’s life. But what it means here is stop criticizing, stop being condemning and censorious and critical and fault-finding and self-righteous. Stop playing God. Stop trying to impugn people’s motives when you can’t even read their hearts. Stop pushing your criticism to the point where you’re playing God because in verse 2, with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you again.

In other words, if you show that you can judge everybody else, then you show that you ought to be judged by that same standard. If you know it so well to apply it to other people, you better make sure it isn’t going to be applied to you. That’s why James 3:1 says stop being so many teachers for theirs is a greater condemnation. Why is a teacher’s condemnation greater? Because the more he knows, the more he therefore condemns himself. And then the Lord goes on in chapter 7 to talk about before you get a splinter out of another guy’s eye, why don’t you get a two-by-four out of your own eye? It’s a fatal tendency – isn’t it? – to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize our own. And this was the classic line of the Jew who sat in judgment on everybody and thought he himself was exempt, and God says, “You’re not exempt. Not only are you not exempt, you’re even more inexcusable, and you prove it because you are applying the law to somebody else, which proves you know it, and it’s going to condemn you, too.”

As to misinterpreting God’s kindness in verse 4, MacArthur says — note, quoting Matthew Henry:

Matthew Henry, that commentator of old who has so many helpful thoughts in his commentary on the Scripture said, “There is in every willful sin a contempt of the goodness of God.” And that’s right. Whenever you sin or whenever I sin, we show contempt for God’s goodness.

Let me read you just two verses, and you need not turn to them, but in Hosea – Hosea, of course, records for us God’s love for wayward Israel, and in the 11th chapter and the first verse, God says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him,” and that sort of sets the tone for the thoughts in the chapter, and verse 4: “I drew them with cords of a man with bands of love and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws and I laid food before them.” In other words, I didn’t have a bit in their mouth, I fed them and I led them gently and I drew them with love. And verse 7 says, “And My people are bent to backsliding away from Me.” I mean here was God with love and tenderness and graciousness and kindness and mercy, reaching out to draw Israel and they were just sliding away from Him.

Now, let’s go back to verses 4 and 5 and look at the several parts that make up these thoughts. The word “despisest” in the Authorized is a very strong word. It means basically to grossly underestimate the value of something, to grossly underestimate the significance of something. It is a failure to assess true worth. It is making light of the riches of the goodness of God, and this is the blackest of sins, by the way. The worst sin is not rights violated, the worst sin is mercy despised.

Let’s look at what happened. They failed to really evaluate, they failed to see the true worth of the riches of God’s goodness. They didn’t know how valuable it was, and men still don’t know. I mean everybody alive in the world today has experienced the goodness of God. I’ll say that again. Everybody alive in the world today has personally experienced the goodness of God and experiences it every breath they takein many, many ways, not the least of which is that the Lord makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust and the Lord gives them food to eat and the Lord gives them a fire to keep them warm and the Lord gives them water to refresh their thirst and the Lord gives them food to fill their hungry stomach and the Lord gives them a blue sky and a warm sun and the Lord gives them green grass and beautiful mountains and whatever it is, and the Lord gives them people to love. In every way, God has demonstrated His goodness.

And by the way, the word “goodness” is a very important word, chrstots. The idea is really kindness. It’s translated kindness in Galatians 5 in the list of elements of the fruit of the Spirit. It speaks of God’s benefits, His kindnesses to men, and then the word “forbearance” – anoch – is the word for truce. It’s the word for the cessation of a hostility. It’s the word for the withholding of judgment. So God pours out blessing and He holds back judgment. He is forbearing; that is, He says, “Okay, a truce, no hostility, I’ll just be kind to you and I’ll withhold My judgment.” And the word “long-suffering” – makrothumia – means patience. It is a word that signifies one who has the power to avenge but doesn’t use it. It’s a great characteristic of God, He’s so patient. Over and over again in the Scripture, we read about the patience of God, the patience of God. God is not willing that any should perish. God is long suffering because of that toward us because He’s not willing that we should perish.

In closing, Matthew Henry has this to say about God’s kindness and mercy, designed to bring about our repentance:

See here what method God takes to bring sinners to repentance. He leads them, not drives them like beasts, but leads them like rational creatures, allures them (Hosea 2:14); and it is goodness that leads, bands of love, Hosea 11:4. Compare Jeremiah 31:3. The consideration of the goodness of God, his common goodness to all (the goodness of his providence, of his patience, and of his offers), should be effectual to bring us all to repentance; and the reason why so many continue in impenitency is because they do not know and consider this.

How true.

I cannot add anything more other than to ask that all of us think about that in the days ahead, while we are cooped up at home because of coronavirus lockdowns.

Next time — Romans 2:6-11

What follows are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent — Passion Sunday — March 29, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Traditionally, the Fifth Sunday in Lent — Passion Sunday — begins a two-week season called Passiontide, which encompasses Palm Sunday (next week) and Holy Week.

Some traditionalist churches cover crosses and images with dark or black cloth from this Sunday throughout most of Holy Week. Crosses and crucifixes can be uncovered after Good Friday services. Statues remain covered until the Easter Vigil Mass takes place on Holy Saturday.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Here we have the dramatic account of the Lord instructing Ezekiel to blow life into bones, which come back to life as His remnant of believers. This is one of the Bible’s best accounts of God’s omnipotence. This theme of resurrection is also seen in today’s Gospel reading, that of Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead. The 20th century spiritual, Dem Bones, was inspired by this story and uses verse 4 in the refrain.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’

37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.

37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Psalm

This Psalm ties in well with the reading from Ezekiel. Many readers will recognise the first verse. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this is a Psalm of the soul, expressing the desires of the penitent towards God: repentance, reconciliation, hope and redemption.

Psalm 130

130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.

130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

130:4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

130:6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.

130:8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Epistle

Matthew Henry says that these verses offer comfort and refreshment to the faithful, as Paul reminds the Romans — and us — that we received the Holy Spirit to turn us away from sin.

Romans 8:6-11

8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

8:7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot,

8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

8:9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

8:10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel

This is the marvellous account of Jesus’s raising Lazarus from the dead. This was His last miracle before His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday). It foretells His own Resurrection to come in the days afterwards. This ties in well with the aforementioned reading from Ezekiel.

John 11:1-45

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

11:2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.

11:3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

11:4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

11:5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,

11:6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

11:7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

11:9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.

11:10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”

11:11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

11:12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”

11:13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.

11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

11:15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

11:17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

11:18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,

11:19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.

11:20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.

11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

11:22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

11:24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,

11:26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

11:27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

11:28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

11:29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

11:30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.

11:31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

11:34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

11:35 Jesus began to weep.

11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

11:38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

11:39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.

11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

11:43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

John’s Gospel is the only one that tells us about Jesus resurrecting Lazarus.

The King James Version has a superb rendering of verse 39. Once you read it, you will never forget it:

39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

As we are unable to attend church because of international coronavirus shutdowns, below is a brief exposition on today’s Gospel reading.

Last week, we read John’s account of Jesus curing the man who had been blind since birth.

Matthew Henry explains what Jesus meant when He said that the two men presented Him with the opportunity of glorifying God by curing the one and bringing back the other from the dead:

It was for the glory of God, for it was that the Son of God might be glorified thereby, as it gave him occasion to work that glorious miracle, the raising of him from the dead. As, before, the man was born blind that Christ might have the honour of curing him (John 9:3), so Lazarus must be sick and die, that Christ may be glorified as the Lord of life. Let this comfort those whom Christ loves under all their grievances that the design of them all is that the Son of God may be glorified thereby, his wisdom, power, and goodness, glorified in supporting and relieving them; see 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.

Jesus waited two days before visiting Mary and Martha to test their faith and patience, despite His love for them and Lazarus. A deferred visit made the raising of Lazarus to life that much more meaningful, not only to the three concerned but also to the Jews who were at their house.

Henry says:

If he had been there time enough, he would have healed his disease and prevented his death, which would have been much for the comfort of Lazarus’s friends, but then his disciples would have seen no further proof of his power than what they had often seen, and, consequently, their faith had received no improvement; but now that he went and raised him from the dead, as there were many brought to believe on him who before did no (John 11:45), so there was much done towards the perfecting of what was lacking in the faith of those that did, which Christ aimed at: To the intent that you may believe. [3.] He resolves now to go to Bethany, and take his disciples along with him: Let us go unto him. Not, “Let us go to his sisters, to comfort them” (which is the utmost we can do), but, Let us go to him; for Christ can show wonders to the dead. Death, which will separate us from all our other friends, and cut us off from correspondence with them, cannot separate us from the love of Christ, nor put us out of the reach of his calls; as he will maintain his covenant with the dust, so he can make visits to the dust …

Also:

Promised salvations, though they always come surely, yet often come slowly.

He was also returning to Judea, which was dangerous for Him. Nonetheless, He returned out of mercy, compassion and love for the three. Even more importantly, He took that risk to a) glorify God and b) bring others to believe that He is the Messiah.

Henry explains why Jesus used the word ‘sleep’ in referring to Lazarus, because the word refers to refreshing rest:

He calls the death of a believer a sleep: he sleepeth. It is good to call death by such names and titles as will help to make it more familiar and less formidable to us. The death of Lazarus was in a peculiar sense a sleep, as that of Jairus’s daughter, because he was to be raised again speedily; and, since we are sure to rise again at last, why should that make any great difference? And why should not the believing hope of that resurrection to eternal life make it as easy to us to put off the body and die as it is to put off our clothes and go to sleep? A good Christian, when he dies, does but sleep: he rests from the labours of the day past, and is refreshing himself for the next morning. Nay, herein death has the advantage of sleep, that sleep is only the parenthesis, but death is the period, of our cares and toils. The soul does not sleep, but becomes more active; but the body sleeps without any toss, without any terror; not distempered nor disturbed. The grave to the wicked is a prison, and its grave-clothes as the shackles of a criminal reserved for execution; but to the godly it is a bed, and all its bands as the soft and downy fetters of an easy quiet sleep. Though the body corrupt, it will rise in the morning as if it had never seen corruption; it is but putting off our clothes to be mended and trimmed up for the marriage day, the coronation day, to which we must rise. See Isaiah 57:2,1Th+4:14. The Greeks called their burying-places dormitories–koimeteria.

I will leave it there. Everlasting life is ours, my friends. Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves now — in this life — equipped with His infinite grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, for the life to come.

We are now in Lockdown Day No. 4, Friday, March 27, 2020.

Following on from my previous post on the UK, yesterday, Imperial College London changed their estimates of coronavirus deaths. They have now been adjusted to be much lower: 20,000 deaths instead of 200,000+/500,000+ (versions differ). To put that into perspective, 20,000 is the number for a bad flu/respiratory illness year. The latter figure is akin to the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919.

Here‘s the ‘horrific Imperial model’. You can read informed Twitter thread summaries from Jordan Schactel, Jeremy C Young and Sam Coates.

The possibility of collapsing the economy must have finally dawned on Dr Neil Ferguson:

Risk that the economic hit of long-term lockdown could harm health more than Covid-19 is “very valid consideration”, says Ferguson.

Guido Fawkes summarises Imperial’s changes and the reasons for them. The article from The Times is behind a paywall:

The Times’ Chris Smyth explains Ferguson’s findings, namely:

    • Peak demand on ICU is expected in 2.5-3 weeks, and will then decline
    • Imperial estimates post-lockdown fatalities to reach 20,000, though “it could be substantially lower than that”
    • Only “large scale testing and contact tracing” will bring an end to the lockdown

The NHS capacity prediction has been based on the recently-seen NHS ICU surge and Monday’s lockdown.

The British government and Houses of Parliament used the 200,000+ figure to bring in lockdown and emergency legislation, the likes of which Britons have never before seen in living memory. It seems to be an historic first.

My friends and I suspected Imperial’s extreme estimate when their numbers first appeared. We never changed our minds, despite media and government hype.

This lockdown and the Coronavirus Bill are entirely unnecessary.

By the end, though, it doesn’t matter. The government will come up with an escape clause strategy. Imperial’s experts now say:

fatalities to reach 20,000, though they could be substantially lower than that

Plan on them being the latter.

Guido Fawkes’s readers commented on this. Comments below come from this thread on Imperial’s new numbers. Guido’s new commenting system has no hyperlinks to individual comments.

The figure of 20,000 is far lower than the 30,000 for the Hong Kong Flu in 1968 (emphases mine below):

I remember the Hong Kong flu in 1968. We kept calm and carried on. But we didn’t have Piers Morgan on TV then. In fact, we did not have much, if any, daytime TV at all. Life was much better then in many other ways too.

Precisely. No one then would have even thought of a lockdown or emergency legislation, even a Labour government!

It gets stranger, as both Houses of Parliament — the Commons and the Lords — are now hiring their own coronavirus experts:

One of Guido’s readers responded on this thread, saying that we still have very few facts about this virus. Colour him sceptical, and rightly so:

On the subject of the science behind the covid 19 disease. People need to ask 3 questions:

1/ Is there an electron micrograph of the pure and fully characterised virus? 2/ What is the name of the primary peer reviewed paper which the virus is illustrated and its full genetic information described? 3/ What is the name of the primary publication that provides proof that a particular virus is the sole causes of a particular disease?

Unless these three questions are answered correctly, there is no ‘science’ behind the covid 19 virus theory. It is just beliefs. And these beliefs are conveniently sacrificing the small businesses of this country, our freedoms and our lives. For the benefit of big pharma, and big government in general

Which is why there is no proof to back up those outrageous claims…Just saying.

Let’s drill down a little more into what the Imperial experts, led by Dr Ferguson, are now saying:

50% of people who died with CV – not of CV, with – would have died this year. For that, we wrecked the country.

Ferguson said, today, that between half and two thirds of the people who died WITH CV, not of CV, would have died anyway this year. That takes the deaths so far down to a level normally caused by cushions in a bad year. It puts the overall deaths expected smack in the normal range for winter respiratory conditions

You think that is worthwhile? Explain why. Explain in terms that my neighbour, nursing the remains of a business it took him 20 years to build, will understand.

I know other small business owners in the same situation.

Here are a few other business problems occurring during shutdown:

The problem is and this is live experience right now, it is every man for themselves. Customers aren’t paying legitimate contracts which is creating huge problems, and I guarantee that’s happening across the economy. Some companies are taking advantage of the situation, some simply can’t pay and no one wants to catch a falling knife.

This is going to ruin lots of people’s lives. Either through the virus itself or through this cure which will cause untold economic damage.

And most importantly profit and cash are the sustainability of a business. Without them there isn’t any business. And there’s no cash at the moment.

The experts advising No. 10 sold Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his top guru Dominic Cummings a pup:

The virus itself? If you’ve got it, chances are that you’re just feeling “under the weather” just like having a bad dose of the flu, you still go to the pub, restaurant and you certainly don’t stop going to the gym or the supermarket.

Ergo, the economy continues and nobody’s life is “ruined”.

Now, lockdown the country so that pubs, restaurants and gyms are closed.

The economy now grinds to a halt and everyone’s life is “ruined”.

I have enormous respect for Boris (particularly his Brexit efforts) but he listened to the wrong people when he chose to change course……trashing your entire economy is massively worse than the disease.

Just as President Trump said a few days ago:

That said, on March 18, Business Insider reported that, allegedly, Ferguson’s numbers reached the White House and associated medical experts, too. The same article states that Ferguson said he caught COVID-19:

‘Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine,’ he tweeted on Wednesday.

‘Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster.’

Westminster is the beating heart of the nation. It is home to the eponymous abbey church, Parliament, Whitehall (government offices) and more.

I checked Ferguson’s tweet to see what sort of responses he received. Most were supportive. These two, however, were interesting. Portcullis House is a government building in Westminster:

However, as stated above, the UK government will announce success when this is over:

… whatever happens the Government will claim that they saved us all. If it turns out to be a damp squib, the Government will say that their distancing policy saved us all. If it turns out to be more, the Government will say that they were right to run their policy, and it should have been heeded better.

Returning to the economy, the government changed the wording about working:

Ben Goldsmith, environmentalist and son of the late financier Sir James Goldsmith, tweeted:

O’Brien below refers to a left-leaning talk radio host, James O’Brien:

However, the controversy about going into work has a basis in fact.

The morning of Lockdown Day, March 24, a number of photos circulated on social media showing packed Tube trains in London. Good Morning Britain‘s co-host Piers Morgan took issue with the number of construction workers at building sites that day, especially those within close proximity of each other.

Construction workers weren’t only in London. They were also in the countryside working on the new high-speed rail line, HS2. They were not keeping the appropriate social distancing, which, since the evening of March 23 has been extended from one metre to two metres:

In closing, returning to the number of coronavirus deaths, see if this does not come true (a comment from this Guido Fawkes post):

the mortality rate is nowhere near 1%, nowhere near. The death rate of those undertaking treatment – as a whole – might approach 1% overall. But that is a small fraction of the infected. The Oxford epidemiological study published yesterday is probably about right. It looks at end figures and maps them back onto comparable curves – that suggests 70% of us have already had it. Ferguson today poohpoohed that but also accepted one key prediction – that death rates attributable only to this bug would be minuscule. We are not going to have 240k dead just because of this bug. Nor 120k, nor even 20k. We *might* see something like 8-15k additional deaths in end-of-life patients this year, which would otherwise have occurred next year.

That’s it.

I full understand flattening the curve, I understand every teensy bit of the government strategy – but it’s redundant. This is not a big deal.

No, it isn’t a big deal. However, we have to wait several more weeks to be proven correct.

————————————————————–

UPDATE — Ferguson says he hasn’t retracted his original numbers:

No comment other than to say: let’s see how things develop in the next several weeks.

As is true in other countries, the British government and media narrative is that we must have a lockdown to suppress the ‘sombrero effect’ — the rise in people needing medical care for coronavirus.

In the UK, these are health service statistics (emphases mine):

Total number of GP’s = 35,000 (approximately)
Total c-19 cases at this date = 5,500

So we have over 6 GP’s per person infected.

Total hospital beds = 145,000 (approximately)
C-19 cases that require hospitalization (20% estimate) = 1100

And we have 131 hospital beds per C-19 hospitalization case or over 2000 per actual case.

Most coronavirus patients visiting hospital are given the usual advice (isolation, bed rest) and are sent home.

I know of a hospital that has diagnosed 21 cases of coronavirus: 19 patients were sent home, two were hospitalised and one of those patients, sadly, died. This hospital has 124 ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds. After the first coronavirus victim died, only one of those beds was occupied (by the other coronavirus sufferer). The other 123 beds were still vacant. That was earlier this week.

Outside of London and Birmingham, there is no reason for panic.

The UK coronavirus death total as of March 24 is 422. The total UK population is approximately 65,000,000.

Therefore, the need for a) lockdown and b) emergency legislation remains dubious.

On Monday, March 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson put us in lockdown at 8:30 p.m. while MPs were debating emergency legislation, the Coronavirus Bill, sent to the House of Lords that evening:

Boris’s five-minute address attracted at least 27m viewers on the main television channels — around a third of the population:

This is a likely outcome of both:

… We are now a totalitarian state.

This is how it works:

1. Minor breaches of draconian rules will result in further draconian rules.
2. Government will move to enforce their totalitarian authority with force.

Look for facial recognition and phone tracking to enforce breaches of the fear-warriors authoritarian state.

And in a year’s time look for the lack of accountability of those who have permanently damaged our economy

I hope that person and I are wrong.

However, we are not alone in our view. A prominent Conservative MP and Leaver, Steve Baker, voiced similar concern in his Coronavirus Bill debate speech. He believes that this could pave the way for a ‘dystopian society’:

Guido Fawkes posted a transcript of Steve Baker’s speech in full. Excerpts follow:

I will pay particular attention to amendments 1 and 6 and Government new clause 19, which relate to the expiry of these powers. When I got into politics, it was with the purpose of enlarging liberty under parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. When I look at this Pandora’s box of enlargement, discretion and extensions of power, I can only say what a dreadful, dreadful thing it is to have had to sit here in silence and nod it through because it is the right thing to do.

My goodness, between this and the Prime Minister’s announcement tonight, what have we ushered in? I am not a good enough historian to put into context the scale of the infringement of our liberties that has been implemented today through the Prime Minister’s announcement and this enormously complicated Bill, which we are enacting with only two hours to think about amendments

Let me be the first to say that tonight, through this Bill, we are implementing at least a dystopian society. Some will call it totalitarian, which is not quite fair, but it is at least dystopian. The Bill implements a command society under the imperative of saving hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of jobs, and it is worth doing.

By God, I hope the Prime Minister has a clear conscience tonight and sleeps with a good heart, because he deserves to do so. Libertarian though I may be, this is the right thing to do but, my goodness, we ought not to allow this situation to endure one moment longer than is absolutely necessary to save lives and preserve jobs.

Although I welcome new clause 19 to give us a six-month review, I urge upon my hon. and right hon. Friends and the Prime Minister the sunsetting of this Act, as it will no doubt become, at one year, because there is time to bring forward further primary legislation. If, come the late autumn, it is clear that this epidemic, this pandemic, continues—God help us if that is true, because I fear for the economy and the currencythere certainly will be time to bring forward further primary legislation and to properly scrutinise provisions to carry forward this enormous range of powers.

Every time I dip into the Bill, I find some objectionable power. There is not enough time to scrutinise the Bill, but I can glance at it—I am doing it now—and see objectionable powers. There would be time to have several days of scrutiny on a proper piece of legislation easily in time for March or April 2021.

I implore my right hon. Friend, for goodness’ sake, let us not allow this dystopia to endure one moment longer than is strictly necessary.

As I write on Wednesday, I am listening to Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament. Boris Johnson has assured us that the provisions of the Coronavirus Bill will be reviewed at three-month intervals, rather than six months. Having listened to the Lords’ debate on the legislation, I can state that the Lords came up with the three-month review — a positive development I had not expected.

On the first Lockdown Day — Tuesday, March 24 — Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the government’s daily update that a temporary hospital with 4,000 beds is being built. This is said to be at the Excel Centre in east London, near Canary Wharf:

His department is also seeking 250,000 voluntary workers to help with home deliveries to the 1.5 million persons receiving NHS letters this week telling them that they must stay indoors for 12 weeks. These individuals have chronic health conditions: e.g. cancer, organ transplants, certain heart conditions.

This update was also the first remote videoconference that the government has conducted from No. 10.

However, there might be good news ahead. While most Britons are at home until April 8, at least, an article in the Financial Times (paywall) says that many of us might already have acquired herd immunity. A Guido Fawkes reader on this thread kindly posted the link and a brief excerpt from the FT:

The new coronavirus may already have infected far more people in the UK than scientists had previously estimatedperhaps as much as half the populationaccording to modelling by researchers at the University of Oxford. If the results are confirmed, they imply that fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with Covid-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment, said Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology, who led the study. The vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all.

But the Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months. If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated. Although some experts have shed doubt on the strength and length of the human immune response to the virus, Prof Gupta said the emerging evidence made her confident that humanity would build up herd immunity against Covid-19.

I certainly hope so. I fully supported the Prime Minister’s original measures of regular hand washing and self-isolation.

I do hope that Professor Gupta is correct and that the Oxford herd immunity results can be confirmed so that we can live once again as a free people.

Milton Friedman once said:

Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.

Britain needs to be free to circulate, not stuck at home with minimal forays outdoors — or subject to historic draconian laws: a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

For the past few days, news of New York State’s coronavirus crisis has been updated daily by the BBC.

But do they have a crisis or not?

Does the United States have a coronavirus crisis?

American lawyer Robert Barnes has crunched the numbers and found them wanting:

In New York, it appears that things are relatively normal (see second tweet):

Is it worth tanking the economy for this pandemic?

Why aren’t we in a similar panic over other deaths?

Bubonic plague, thought to have died out centuries ago, is making a resurgence in California. Now THAT’s something to worry about:

The restrictions on personal and civil liberties will be problematic, mark my words.

Thank goodness that President Trump can see this:

Even so, there will be damage:

People will not look favourably on the panic created by politicians and the media over coronavirus:

They will begin to suspect something else is going on:

What about the flu season? Compare those tens of thousands of annual deaths with coronavirus:

Agree. It is pretty stupid to cripple Western economies for coronavirus.

Finally, though, people are questioning authority. Thank you.

By the time the coronavirus hysteria is over, there will be even less public trust of politicians or the media than there was before this started.

Good. May they be held accountable for frightening the public into submission.

It looks as if Italy might be readjusting its death rates from coronavirus.

China’s seem to have gone down. This is because they have no longer been reporting ‘mild’ coronavirus cases since February.

On Friday, March 20, 2020, Breitbart reported on the news that China allegedly had no new coronavirus cases that day (emphases mine):

The Communist Party of China triumphantly proclaimed on Thursday that it had logged its first day without a single domestic Wuhan coronavirus infection, earning the applause of gullible mainstream media outlets and its puppets at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Those celebrating, in addition to disregarding the clear signs that the claim may not be true – like reports of Wuhan hospitals turning away residents with coronavirus symptoms, or a suspicious increase in “pneumonia” death certificates at funeral homes not counted as coronavirus – have failed to note that China made a significant change in how it counted coronavirus cases in February.

That month, the National Health Commission ordered doctors not to count individuals confirmed to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, but exhibiting no or “mild” symptoms, in the official count of coronavirus cases.

“The changes to the classification of asymptomatic coronavirus cases emerged on Jan. 29, in a set of guidance from China’s National Health Commission,” the New York Times reported in mid-February. “Health officials said that they would reclassify patients who had tested positive for the new coronavirus but did not have symptoms, and take them out of the total count of confirmed cases.”

The Times noted that China had “closely guarded the demographic details about the fatalities, creating uncertainty about who is most susceptible.”

The National Health Commission did not define what a “mild” coronavirus case looks like, in contrast to severe cases that would count in China’s official tally. A study published in China two weeks later found that as many as 80 percent of coronavirus cases are “mild,” suggesting that Beijing had suddenly decided to document only 20 percent of its coronavirus cases, if using the same standard that the Chinese researchers did.

Cue Barry Manilow, because, to most of the world, ‘it’s a miracle’. News of this appeared in January:

The decision calls into question China’s “milestone” announcement of no new cases, one of several proclamations of victory from the Chinese Communist Party. In January, about a week after telling the world the novel coronavirus existed, Beijing claimed a miraculous drop in the number of cases in Wuhan, the central metropolis where the virus originated.

Meanwhile, Italy’s coronavirus case and death rates have been rising.

Italy looks bad, and China is capitalising on that. Be sure to read the comments following this tweet:

If so, it is worth keeping in mind that many Chinese live in northern Italy:

On Saturday, March 21, The Telegraph reported that Italy says it has overestimated its number of coronavirus deaths:

It’s unclear how accurate this report is, judging from the replies to the tweet.

One thing is for certain, however. People are now beginning to wonder if all of us were sold a pup with the coronavirus hysteria:

Did China put pressure on Italy to recalculate their coronavirus deaths? Who knows?

How many of these figures can we trust?

These reports are going to get people’s backs up. Celebrities aren’t garnering everyone’s sympathies, either:

This leads to people being unhappy with confinement, curfews and other restrictions:

I agree. Open it all up.

Message to Boris Johnson and the Chief Medical Officer’s team — please go back to the original advisories on hand-washing and social distancing. This is a farce.

On Friday, March 20, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in his daily coronavirus update at 5 p.m. that all pubs, clubs, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and theatres would have to close effective immediately.

He also asked that people buy groceries ‘considerately’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a number of government measures he was implementing to keep companies and workers afloat.

Although the Chancellor presented his spending proposals brilliantly, it scared me to hear the vast scale of them.

The economy will crash. Not only ours, but those all over the world.

Remember, whatever you hear or read in the media, 98% of coronavirus sufferers recover.

On March 5, an emergency room physician, Dr James Phillips, gave Fox News’s Ed Henry the same figure (emphases mine below):

“Most of us are going to get this virus. It’s undeniable. You won’t find a single expert out there who is saying that this is going to be contained,” said Phillips, who serves as the George Washington University School of Medicine’s operational medicine fellowship director.

“And, the more we learn about it, the more we see that the spread is going to be global and, for the most part, that’s OK because the data we know from China shows that roughly 98 to 99 percent of us are going to do very, very, well,” he told Henry at the time.

In the Mail on Sunday, on March 22, Peter Hitchens had an excellent editorial on the draconian measures implemented in the fight against coronavirus thus far: ‘Is shutting down Britain REALLY the right answer?’

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Hitchens began with a personal anecdote about a medical ailment he had which two doctors said required an operation. A third physician told him to cancel the operation and take a different antibiotic instead. He was correct. Hitchens writes:

Heaven knows what would have happened if Providence had not brought that third doctor into the room. I still shudder slightly to think of it. But the point was this. A mere title, a white coat, a smooth manner, a winning way with long words and technical jargon, will never again be enough for me.

With this in mind, he expressed his doubts about the partial lockdown in place since Friday afternoon.

I thought that the emergency legislation had already been passed. Ugh. He says it is up for the vote today, Monday, March 23:

And so here I am, asking bluntly – is the closedown of the country the right answer to the coronavirus? I’ll be accused of undermining the NHS and threatening public health and all kinds of other conformist rubbish. But I ask you to join me, because if we have this wrong we have a great deal to lose.

I don’t just address this plea to my readers. I think my fellow journalists should ask the same questions. I think MPs of all parties should ask them when they are urged tomorrow to pass into law a frightening series of restrictions on ancient liberties and vast increases in police and state powers.

Perhaps this is why I thought these unprecedented measures had already become law:

Did you know that the Government and Opposition had originally agreed that there would not even be a vote on these measures? Even Vladimir Putin might hesitate before doing anything so blatant.

We are at a crucial crossroads:

If there is no serious rebellion against this plan in the Commons, then I think we can commemorate tomorrow, March 23, 2020, as the day Parliament died. Yet, as far as I can see, the population cares more about running out of lavatory paper. Praise must go to David Davis and Chris Bryant, two MPs who have bravely challenged this measure.

Chris Bryant (Labour, Rhondda) is an ordained Anglican priest, although he gave up that calling for politics, partly because of his personal circumstances.

As I have been saying here the past week, shutdown measures anywhere are killing not only treasured civil liberties but also the free-market economy. Those are the two pillars of Western society.

Hitchens rightly points out our upcoming economic disaster:

It may also be the day our economy perished. The incessant coverage of health scares and supermarket panics has obscured the dire news coming each hour from the stock markets and the money exchanges. The wealth that should pay our pensions is shrivelling as share values fade and fall. The pound sterling has lost a huge part of its value. Governments all over the world are resorting to risky, frantic measures which make Jeremy Corbyn’s magic money tree look like sober, sound finance. Much of this has been made far worse by the general shutdown of the planet on the pretext of the coronavirus scare. However bad this virus is (and I will come to that), the feverish panic on the world’s trading floors is at least as bad.

Now on to our treasured civil liberties, being eroded one by one:

At first, Mr Johnson was true to himself and resisted wild demands to close down the country. But bit by bit he gave in.

Yes, and I am furious about that:

The schools were to stay open. Now they are shutting, with miserable consequences for this year’s A-level cohort. Cafes and pubs were to be allowed to stay open, but now that is over. On this logic, shops and supermarkets must be next, with everyone forced to rely on overstrained delivery vans. And that will presumably be followed by hairdressers, dry cleaners and shoe repairers.

How long before we need passes to go out in the streets, as in any other banana republic? As for the grotesque, bullying powers to be created on Monday, I can only tell you that you will hate them like poison by the time they are imposed on you.

I am sure my fellow Britons are aware that during the coronavirus scare, in France, you must carry a document — available online — that states your one destination on any particular day. There you are allowed to leave the house only once a day! And, yes, police DO check (source: RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules, all last week).

Is that what Britons want?

What about this?

Imagine, police officers forcing you to be screened for a disease, and locking you up for 48 hours if you object. Is this China or Britain? Think how this power could be used against, literally, anybody.

The Bill also gives Ministers the authority to ban mass gatherings. It will enable police and public health workers to place restrictions on a person’s ‘movements and travel’, ‘activities’ and ‘contact with others’.

Many court cases will now take place via video-link, and if a coroner suspects someone has died of coronavirus there will be no inquest. They say this is temporary. They always do.

If you doubt Hitchens or me, look at America’s Patriot Act — still going strong long since 2001! It’s nearly 19 years old!

Hitchens returns to the theme of trusting experts, medical or otherwise:

There is a document from a team at Imperial College in London which is being used to justify it. It warns of vast numbers of deaths if the country is not subjected to a medieval curfew.

But this is all speculation. It claims, in my view quite wrongly, that the coronavirus has ‘comparable lethality’ to the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed at least 17 million people and mainly attacked the young.

What can one say to this? In a pungent letter to The Times last week, a leading vet, Dick Sibley, cast doubt on the brilliance of the Imperial College scientists, saying that his heart sank when he learned they were advising the Government. Calling them a ‘team of doom-mongers’, he said their advice on the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak ‘led to what I believe to be the unnecessary slaughter of millions of healthy cattle and sheep’ until they were overruled by the then Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King.

He added: ‘I hope that Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance show similar wisdom. They must ensure that measures are proportionate, balanced and practical.’

I fully agree. But all wisdom seems to have been thrown out the window now.

How I wish we could go back to Thursday, March 12, when we were given only the sensible advice on hygiene and social distancing: common sense measures.

Hitchens then goes into the stats for England’s annual flu/respiratory ailment deaths, which are far more in number than coronavirus deaths, even worldwide.

England’s population, by the way, is approximately 55 million:

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tells me that the number of flu cases and deaths due to flu-related complications in England alone averages 17,000 a year. This varies greatly each winter, ranging from 1,692 deaths last season (2018/19) to 28,330 deaths in 2014/15.

The DHSC notes that many of those who die from these diseases have underlying health conditions, as do almost all the victims of coronavirus so far, here and elsewhere. As the experienced and knowledgeable doctor who writes under the pseudonym ‘MD’ in the Left-wing magazine Private Eye wrote at the start of the panic: ‘In the winter of 2017-18, more than 50,000 excess deaths occurred in England and Wales, largely unnoticed.’

There are other deaths every year, far more numerous than those from flu:

In the Government’s table of ‘deaths considered avoidable’, it lists 31,307 deaths from cardiovascular diseases in England and Wales for 2013, the last year for which they could give me figures.

This, largely the toll of unhealthy lifestyles, was out of a total of 114,740 ‘avoidable’ deaths in that year. To put all these figures in perspective, please note that every human being in the United Kingdom suffers from a fatal condition – being alive.

About 1,600 people die every day in the UK for one reason or another. A similar figure applies in Italy and a much larger one in China. The coronavirus deaths, while distressing and shocking, are not so numerous as to require the civilised world to shut down transport and commerce, nor to surrender centuries-old liberties in an afternoon.

AGREE!

Hitchens goes on to quote Dr John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University in California:

He says the data are utterly unreliable because so many cases are going unrecorded.

He warns: ‘This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4 per cent rate from the World Health Organisation, cause horror and are meaningless.’ In only one place – aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess – has an entire closed community been available for study. And the death rate there – just one per cent – is distorted because so many of those aboard were elderly. The real rate, adjusted for a wide age range, could be as low as 0.05 per cent and as high as one per cent.

As Prof Ioannidis says: ‘That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05 per cent is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational

Hitchens then looks at the projected inflated statistics — false — that have accompanied recent health scares:

The former editor of The Times, Sir Simon Jenkins, recently listed these unfulfilled scares: bird flu did not kill the predicted millions in 1997. In 1999 it was Mad Cow Disease and its human variant, vCJD, which was predicted to kill half a million. Fewer than 200 in fact died from it in the UK.

The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported as having ‘a 25 per cent chance of killing tens of millions’ and being ‘worse than Aids’. In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared ‘the first pandemic of the 21st Century’.

There were similar warnings in 2009, that swine flu could kill 65,000. It did not. The Council of Europe described the hyping of the 2009 pandemic as ‘one of the great medical scandals of the century’.

The measures being taken right now are more lethal to Britain than coronavirus itself.

Hitchens says:

… while I see very little evidence of a pandemic, and much more of a PanicDemic, I can witness on my daily round the slow strangulation of dozens of small businesses near where I live and work, and the catastrophic collapse of a flourishing society, all these things brought on by a Government policy made out of fear and speculation rather than thought.

Much that is closing may never open again. The time lost to schoolchildren and university students – in debt for courses which have simply ceased to be taught – is irrecoverable, just as the jobs which are being wiped out will not reappear when the panic at last subsides.

He warns us about projections and extrapolations from notional experts. Will martial law stop the spread of coronavirus? Hmm, one wonders. Hitchens doubts it. So do I:

We are told that we must emulate Italy or China, but there is no evidence that the flailing, despotic measures taken in these countries reduced the incidence of coronavirus. The most basic error in science is to assume that because B happens after A, that B was caused by A.

He knows that his stance is unpopular, but feels it is necessary to speak up now:

There may, just, be time to reconsider. I know that many of you long for some sort of coherent opposition to be voiced. The people who are paid to be the Opposition do not seem to wish to earn their rations, so it is up to the rest of us. I despair that so many in the commentariat and politics obediently accept what they are being told. I have lived long enough, and travelled far enough, to know that authority is often wrong and cannot always be trusted.

I also know that dissent at this time will bring me abuse and perhaps worse. But I am not saying this for fun, or to be ‘contrarian’ –that stupid word which suggests that you are picking an argument for fun. This is not fun.

This is our future, and if I did not lift my voice to speak up for it now, even if I do it quite alone, I should consider that I was not worthy to call myself English or British, or a journalist, and that my parents’ generation had wasted their time saving the freedom and prosperity which they handed on to me after a long and cruel struggle whose privations and griefs we can barely imagine.

Of course, that was Sunday. Today is Monday.

I wrote this on Mothering Sunday. There were no church services yesterday. There were no synagogue services on Saturday.

The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Britons not to visit their mothers yesterday:

While he advised Britons to stop stockpiling …

… he also warned of more restrictions to come:

Why not give the weekend’s restrictions time to percolate through the population? We’ve only had a few days.

I despair. What will happen when the next pandemic rolls along?

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Monday update: This will be brief, as Parliament adjourned around 10:45 p.m. I’d been watching the Coronavirus Bill debate and committee stage debate since 4:00 p.m. with a break for dinner.

While MPs debated, between 8:30 and 8:35 p.m., we watched Boris announce that we are now in a three-week lockdown, effective immediately:

You can read more here:

But don’t worry. As in France, building sites remain open for work:

These are Tuesday morning’s headlines:

A sparse and generally well-spaced group of MPs ended their day as follows, with the third reading of the Coronavirus Bill passing without a formal vote (division), just:

‘All in favour, say Aye.’

‘AYE.’

Admittedly, there were dozens of amendments that all passed.

We shall see what the near future brings over the course of the next three weeks.

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry (here and here) and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Romans 1:8-15

Longing to Go to Rome

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,[b] both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

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I purposely delayed writing about Romans, although it follows Acts. However, it is heavily doctrinal, which is why I wanted to write about Hebrews first. Having the basics from Hebrews will make Romans more digestible. Parts of it are strongly worded and some might find certain passages objectionable. Nevertheless … sexual sin was a problem then and it has not changed much nearly 2000 years later.

Matthew Henry says that Paul wrote his letters to the Romans in AD 56, while he was staying in Corinth:

Paul made a short stay there in his way to Troas, Acts 20:5,6. He commendeth to the Romans Phebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1), which was a place belonging to Corinth. He calls Gaius his host, or the man with whom he lodged (Romans 16:23), and he was a Corinthian, not the same with Gaius of Derbe, mentioned Acts 20:4. Paul was now going up to Jerusalem, with the money that was given to the poor saints there; and of that he speaks, Romans 15:26.

As to the content (emphases mine):

The great mysteries treated of in this epistle must needs produce in this, as in other writings of Paul, many things dark and hard to be understood, 2 Peter 3:16. The method of this (as of several other of the epistles) is observable; the former part of it doctrinal, in the first eleven chapters; the latter part practical, in the last five: to inform the judgment and to reform the life. And the best way to understand the truths explained in the former part is to abide and abound in the practice of the duties prescribed in the latter part; for, if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, John 7:17.

Henry divides the chapters into separate parts, summarised as follows:

– Doctrinal — a) the way of salvation (Romans 1 – 8), b) the saved (Romans 9 – 11);

– Practical — Romans 12 – 14;

– Personal — Romans 15 and 16 in which Paul writes of his life at that time and mentions his friends.

Paul had been keen to get to Rome for some time. He still had a few years’ wait ahead. The church in Rome was established by Judaeans who were present in Jerusalem at the first Pentecost. They set sail for Rome to spread the Good News. However, there were also Romans present at the first Pentecost, and they returned with enthusiasm, telling their friends what they had witnessed on that glorious day. The emperor Claudius had banned them from the city, so they had to be in exile for a few years, but then they returned, and it was upon their return that Paul wrote his greatest epistle (letter).

The church in Rome had no one founder and there were little groups of new Christians scattered about with no central organisation. John MacArthur concludes:

So there had been no apostolic establishing. And I think in Paul’s heart he sensed the tremendously strategic location of the Roman church in the heart of the empire and he knew they needed to be solidified and he said, “I want to come in order to impart to you some spiritual gift in order to establish you.”

MacArthur surmises that, given Paul’s ministry, he also wanted to convert more Romans:

His heart literally could see the tremendous potential of reaching Rome for Christ.

He also wanted to go for more personal reasons:

I think he thought about himself, too. Chapter 15:32, he says, “I want to come to you with joy by the will of God so that I can be refreshed.” I mean, I just want to fellowship with you. So he wanted to go for the sake of the church, for the sake of the lost, for his own sake. And I think, too, he wanted them to know him for several reasons. First of all, so they could pray for him. Chapter 15, verse 30: “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the love of the Spirit, strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” He wanted people praying for him. He wanted them praying for him.

From Rome, Paul had intended to travel to Spain and evangelise there.

Romans is unarguably one of the great books not only of the New Testament but of the Bible as a whole.

Throughout history, many great theologians read it often. Matthew Henry says that, the early Church father, St John Chrysostom, was one of them:

Chrysostom would have this epistle read over to him twice a week.

St Augustine of Hippo was converted by it. For many years, he led a dissolute life lusting after women. MacArthur tells us:

in the summer of A.D. 386 a man named Augustine, a native of North Africa, who had for two years been the professor of rhetoric at Milan, sat weeping in the garden of his friend Alypius. He was almost persuaded to begin a new life and yet he found it impossible to break with his old life. As he sat, historians tell us that he heard a child singing in a neighboring yard, “Tolle Lege, Tolle Lege,” a little melody that says, “Take up and read, take up and read.”

It struck him that perhaps that was something he should do and so he picked up a scroll which lay at his friend’s side. That scroll contained a portion of the book of Romans. He read it, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

“No further would I read,” he said, “nor had I any need. “Instantly, at the end of this sentence a clear light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” And in that very moment, from one sentence in the book of Romans, the church received the great Augustine, the framer of much of its theology.

Martin Luther studied Romans for ten months:

from November of 1515 to the following September of 1516, he daily spent himself in the understanding of that epistle. And as he daily prepared his lectures, he became more and more appreciative of the centrality of the Pauline doctrine of justification by…what?…faith. He writes, “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, `the righteousness of God.’ Because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous. Night and day I pondered until I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby through grace and sheer mercy He justifies us by faith. There upon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise, the whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the righteousness of God had filled me with hate, it now began to fill me inexpressibly with a sweet love. The passage of Paul became to me the gateway to heaven.” And need I say what contribution Martin Luther made? …

Luther said, “Romans is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel.”

John Calvin said:

If a man understands it, he has a sure road open to him to the understanding of the whole of Scripture.

Nearly two centuries later, on May 24, 1738, an Anglican, John Wesley, was similarly enlightened in London:

His biographer says that he went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where a man was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine he wrote in his journal, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, “I myself felt my heart strangely warmed.” Wesley goes on, “I felt I did trust in Christ and Christ alone for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that He had taken my sins away, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.” And so it was in Aldersgate Street at the reading of the book of Romans that John Wesley was redeemed. And we all know the contribution he made.

MacArthur says that Romans continues to speak to Christians:

It speaks to the issues we face today morally, for it speaks about adultery. It speaks about homosexuality. It speaks about perversion. It speaks about killing and hating and lying and civil disobedience. So it speaks to us morally. It speaks to us intellectually. It tells us why man is so confused because he possesses a reprobate mind. It speaks to us socially. It tells us how we are to relate to one another. It speaks to us psychologically. It tells us where true freedom comes to deliver men from guilt. It speaks to us spiritually for it answers our despair with a hope in the future. It speaks to us internationally for it tells us the ultimate destiny of the earth and specially the plan for the nation Israel. It speaks to us nationally, for it tells us our responsibility to the government. It speaks to us supernaturally, for it defines for us the infinite power of God. And it speaks to us theologically because it teaches us relationships between flesh and spirit, law and grace. But most of all, it brings God to us profoundly.

This is Paul’s greeting to the Romans. Note the biblical doctrine in it:

Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul then pays the Roman Christians a great compliment, saying that their faith is renowned in the Roman Empire (verse 8).

Matthew Henry explains:

Paul travelled up and down from place to place, and, wherever he came, he heard great commendations of the Christians at Rome, which he mentions, not to make them proud, but to quicken them to answer the general character people gave of them, and the general expectation people had from them.

He’s never met the Romans, yet he wrote the rest of the verses in today’s passage as if they were close friends of his.

Paul says that he never stops praying for them (verse 9) and is desperate to meet them (verse 10).

MacArthur says of today’s verses:

I read this passage, I can’t tell you how many times, before something finally clicked in my mind as to what was going on here. In fact, I can’t remember a passage in months and months that I went over and over and over like I did this, and never really got the whole thing put together till half way through yesterday after spending all week on it. Because I never could really see what the key was. And then there was a sort of, “Eureka!” And I caught a phrase in verse 9: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” And the phrase that jumped out at me was: “whom I serve with my spirit.”

Paul explained his desire to see them was rooted in imparting a spiritual gift to strengthen them (verse 11).

Henry explains that the Romans were beginning to go off piste spiritually:

The church of Rome was then a flourishing church; but since that time how is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed! Rome is not what it was. She was then espoused a chaste virgin to Christ, and excelled in beauty; but she has since degenerated, dealt treacherously, and embraced the bosom of a stranger; so that (as that good old book, the Practice of Piety, makes appear in no less than twenty-six instances) even the epistle to the Romans is now an epistle against the Romans; little reason has she therefore to boast of her former credit.

However, Paul was encouraging in his reproach, saying that he hoped each party could encourage the other in faith (verse 12).

He explained that various circumstances prevented him from getting to Rome and that he wanted to meet them as much as he did the Gentiles (verse 13).

Henry elaborates:

What he heard of their flourishing in grace was so much a joy to him that it must needs be much more so to behold it. Paul could take comfort in the fruit of the labours of other ministers.–By the mutual faith both of you and me, that is, our mutual faithfulness and fidelity. It is very comfortable when there is a mutual confidence between minister and people, they confiding in him as a faithful minister, and he in them as a faithful people. Or, the mutual work of faith, which is love; they rejoiced in the expressions of one another’s love, or communicating their faith one to another. It is very refreshing to Christians to compare notes about their spiritual concerns; thus are they sharpened, as iron sharpens iron.–That I might have some fruit, Romans 1:13. Their edification would be his advantage, it would be fruit abounding to a good account. Paul minded his work, as one that believed the more good he did the greater would his reward be.

Paul presented his excuses to the Romans for not being with them (verse 14): his ‘obligations’ to the Greeks (educated) and ‘barbarians’ (uneducated). ‘Barbarians’ was the customary word used at the time for the uneducated. Paul called them the ‘wise’ and the ‘foolish’. By this, he meant he felt obliged to spend time preaching to and teaching them about Christ.

However, nothing could take away his eagerness to get to Rome to further his ministry there (verse 15).

Matthew Henry says:

Though a public place, though a perilous place, where Christianity met with a great deal of opposition, yet Paul was ready to run the risk at Rome, if called to it: I am ready–prothymon. It denotes a great readiness of mind, and that he was very forward to it. What he did was not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. It is an excellent thing to be ready to meet every opportunity of doing or getting good.

MacArthur asks us to reflect on Paul’s eagerness:

He’s like a racehorse in the gate, banging against the steel, waiting for the thing to open. He’s like a sprinter who gets in those blocks, and I can remember that feeling so well. And that guy puts his hand up and up goes the gun and you’re just…and there’s usually in a very important race somebody goes too soon and they have to restart. Paul was like a sprinter and God had to hold him back he was so ready to go.

Are you so eager? Is that the kind of service you render? Or does somebody have to get behind you and shove with all their might to get you involved? Does your wife have to give you the typical Sunday afternoon lecture to get you here Sunday night? To get you to the Flock group or the Bible study? Or are you eager? If it comes out of your heart, you’re eager.

And, you know, it’s amazing that he was as eager as he was because he knew what a volatile place Rome was. He knew they would despise him. He knew they would reject his message. He knew they hated Christ.

What an apostle, what a driven spirit, what an ambassador for Christ was Paul. He was fearless.

In 2009, in the early years of Forbidden Bible Verses, I wrote about Romans 1:16-32, which was not in the Episcopal Lectionary index I was using at the time. Most of those verses are now included in their Lectionary readings. Even in the usual Lectionary readings, however, some verses are omitted, because they contradict what we are seeing today in certain types of sexual relationships. Therefore, it is very important to read that post.

Next time — Romans 2:1-5

The following are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent — Laetare Sunday — March 22, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

This Sunday is Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom. Centuries ago, people returned to the church they worshipped in as youngsters and visited their mothers afterwards.

There was an ancient tradition of ‘clipping’ the church on this particular day, whereby the congregation would gather outside, hold hands and create a huge circle around the building. It was not only a group hug for Mother Church but also a symbol of protection by the faithful.

This is a joyful Sunday in Lent. The traditional Introit for Laetare Sunday includes the words

“Laetare Jerusalem” (“O be joyful, Jerusalem”)

Traditionally, priests wore rose coloured vestments to denote that joy. Easter is nearing and we look forward to celebrating and worshipping the Risen Christ.

On the subject of roses, for over 1,000 years, the Catholic Church has commissioned expert goldsmiths to fashion a golden rose, which the Pope then gives to a distinguished Catholic of high social standing. I do not know what the present Pope does, but, in the past, some of these golden roses have been very elaborate; one was fashioned in the shape of a Jesse tree, which is appropriate, given today’s first reading.

You can read more about Laetare Sunday below:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

The splendid illustration of Lent in the following tweet must be British, as it includes Mothering Sunday. This comes from an Episcopal priest in the United States:

How sad that our churches are closed for public worship because of the coronavirus pandemic. Mothers will have a quiet day at home, as restaurants are also shut, except for takeaway service.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the marvellous story of Samuel’s divinely directed visit to Jesse in search of a future king. Jesse was reluctant to produce David, his youngest, who was tending sheep at the time. Matthew Henry’s commentary says: ‘Thus small are the beginnings of that great man’. This is an early ‘type’ of Jesus and the humble Holy Family.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

16:2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’

16:3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”

16:4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”

16:5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

16:6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.”

16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.

16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.”

16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”

16:12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”

16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm

This enduringly popular and comforting Psalm needs little introduction. David, a former shepherd, names God as his shepherd.

Psalm 23

23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Epistle

Paul encourages the Christians of Ephesus to seek the light of righteousness.

Ephesians 5:8-14

5:8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light

5:9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.

5:10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

5:12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;

5:13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

5:14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Gospel

This moving account from John’s Gospel tells the story of the blind man, whom Jesus cured. The Pharisees were angry that Jesus had mercy on this man during the Sabbath; some said He was not from God. They had blasphemed Him. Jesus told them that they were spiritually blind. Sadly, they remained that way until the bitter end.

John 9:1-41

9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.

9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

9:6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,

9:7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

9:9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

9:10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

9:11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

9:12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.

9:14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.

9:15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

9:17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

9:18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight

9:19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

9:20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;

9:21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

9:23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

9:24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

9:25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

9:26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

9:27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

9:28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

9:29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

9:30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.

9:32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.

9:33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

9:34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

9:35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

9:36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”

9:37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

9:39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

What a powerful story.

Yet, who will hear a sermon today in this period of martial (France) or quasi-martial law (UK)? If you are among the deprived, Matthew Henry’s commentary on John 9 is excellent.

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