March 21, 2020 Devotional

We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until. And not only creation, be we ourselves,… (Romans 8:22-23)

I sent an email to a friend who is fellow pastor in New York City yesterday, asking how he and his family were doing and how I could pray for him. I got a response today conveying the challenges he is facing there in the city. Kirk’s church is small, numerically about the same size as Grace, and is perhaps the only evangelical church in Greenwich Village. If you have been following the news, you know that the coronavirus epicenter has shifted from Seattle to New York, and the city is on all but lock down. Even now, hospital resources are being stretched to the limit and people are panicked

These are not easy times. News reports out of Italy are grim, the stock market has dropped over twenty-five percent and the world economy is disintegrating as we speak. What do the next few days hold, the next few weeks, the next year? And it has all happened so suddenly. I’m not sure we have seen anything of this magnitude since the days of WWII.

But we have to recognize that while a pandemic of this nature is new to this generation in America, it is not unheard of, especially when we consider the history of the world. I mean there was the 1918 Spanish flu and the Bubonic plague. And yes, let’s not forget more recently the Ebola crisis in Africa. It really does seem as if the whole world is groaning.

If we live by the common philosophy of the day, as painful as this may seem at the moment, isn’t this really a good thing? After all, isn’t “survival of the fittest” our rule of thumb? Perhaps mother nature is just doing a little blood-letting. Maybe we just need to suck it up. Of course, that doesn’t begin to answer the question why we get so distressed or why we invest so much energy, not to mention money, into coming up with a cure.

Well, we as Christians have a different take on things. The Bible tells us we have coronaviruses because sin entered into the world on one catastrophic day. And since that day the whole world has been groaning. Yet it’s into this that God has brought the gospel. Jesus was not afraid to enter into a crowd for fear of being contaminated, nor was he averse to laying his hands on lepers though they were contagious. He had a level of compassion on the sick and the unclean and the destitute that caught everyone by surprise.

Enter the church. I’m not saying that we should march into the ER without a facemask and suck in great gulps of contaminated air. I’m not saying we should forgo washing our hands or even carrying bottles of Purell in our pocket or purse. I’m not saying that we should even pack out the sanctuary of Grace Church tomorrow just to prove how much faith we have in contradiction to the orders of our governor. Christ calls us not to act foolishly but to be the savor of the gospel.

How? The first and perhaps most important way is by reflecting a demeanor of trust in our Savior. There is a hymn in our hymnal, His Eye is On the Sparrow. The repeated line captures it well: His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me. Do we really believe that? It will show.

There are many other things, both large and small that we can do to be the savor of Christ. Check on your older neighbors. Call on the phone to see how they are doing. Perhaps pick up some extra groceries when you get some for yourself. A little ingenuity. But most of all pray.

Pray, pray, pray.

Pray for one another. Pray for those who are sick. Pray for New York City. Pray for our nation. Pray for our leaders. Pray for the world. And by all means pray for our doctors and nurses.

That said, Charleen, Ian and I will miss you in worship tomorrow (probably today, by the time you read this). We will be worshipping at home as I trust you will too.

Last Sunday we closed our small informal service by singing, Children of the Heavenly Father.

Children of the heavenly Father safely in his bosom gather;
nestling bird nor star in heaven such a refuge e’re was given.
God his own doth tend and nourish, in his holy courts they flourish;
from all evil things he spares them, in his mighty arms he bears them.
Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord his children sever;
unto them his grace he showeth, and their sorrows all he knoweth. ….


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Grace Church Congregational

1055 Williams Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201