On salvation in vaccination and how none of us are saved until all of us are saved…
In some traditions of Christianity, those that are a bit more touchy-feely than the Church of England, you come across the testimony meeting.
This is a chance for the new convert to stand amongst the people and announce that they’ve been born again. ‘I was lost, but now I’m found….’
It’s a pivot in their life, it’s their salvation story.
The 18th century Methodist Charles Wesley captured the experience in a famous hymn,
‘My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee…’
A sense of relief and joy that your life has changed for good and there’s something of that spirit on social media and the TV lately, as people announce with delight their news of salvation… through vaccination.
Or the salvation of their dearest loved ones. Photos of people getting the jab, words of relief and hope. The prospect of a new life. It’s a sign of our fear in this pandemic that the relief is so palpable. The chains coming off… a chink of light in this grim chapter.
One of our household rituals at the start of lockdown was to end the day with the ten o clock news, watching in silent disbelief at the stories of lives being lost. Now we watch for another reason — the joy of the daily vaccination numbers. I want to cheer every time… and I head off to bed more hopefully.
But hope is tempered by the knowledge of those not yet offered salvation. Not just among our loved ones… but across our world.
Hope is tempered by UN Secretary General António Guterres when he says that three quarters of all vaccinations have taken place in just 10 countriesthat a hundred countries have not yet received a single dose.
Speaking on this programme yesterday, Dr Richard Hatchett, of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations — not a title that’s going to go viral — said the longer we take to vaccinate the world, the longer the pandemic will be with us.
Or as Martin Luther King put it more than fifty years ago, ‘No one is free until everyone is free.’
Our world has shrunk since then. We are all closer neighbours than ever and all our futures are bound up together. Our global supply chains don’t simply carry goods and services… they can also carry solidarity, friendship and mutual obligations.
Politicians talk of ‘building back better’ after the pandemic, of not returning to ‘business as usual’. But a more elegant expression is found in the Jewish rabbinical tradition. This is the expression tikkun olam which can be translated as ‘to repair the world’ or ‘to mend the world’.
Acting urgently to distribute vaccines in all countries is not just an act of global safety and security, it is a sign of the world we choose to live in.
A sign that we want to repair our broken world.
Because none of us are saved until all of us are saved.
(The text of ‘Thought For The Day’ delivered on BBC Radio 4 on February 20th)
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Previously on Thought For The Day: On ‘missing home’ and the ‘bright sadness’ of lockdown life.
And even more previously, on greeting our nearest neighbours, ‘I Can’t Speak For The Tree.’