April 1st is quickly approaching. During any normal year, April 1st would mean practical jokes and laughs. However, what we’re going through this year is anything but a joke. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought life as we know it to a screeching halt. In this time of uncertainty, there is something we can know for sure: this, too, shall pass. Life as we know it may never quite be the same again, but this crisis will pass and we will go on.
One thing that I keep thinking is, when this passes, how will the church’s response to COVID-19 be viewed? Will our neighbors, our community, our nation, and, for that matter, our world be positively impacted by the people of God? As Jesus’s followers, we’re called to follow the example set by the self-sacrificing Jesus himself. Jesus’s words to His followers were to “love the Lord God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.” He followed that statement with this, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37:39.
Paul echoed Jesus’s deeds and words when he wrote Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Paul describes what the qualities of the believer’s life, qualities that should be displaced each day, but especially in times such as this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
In AD 249-262, Western Civilization was hit with one of the deadliest pandemics in its history. During this pandemic, the church’s response was incredible. A century later, the emperor Julian attempted to curb the growth of Christianity after the plague by leading a campaign to establish pagan charities that mirrored the work of Christians in his realm. In an AD 362 letter, Julian complained that the Hellenists needed to match the Christians in virtue, blaming the recent growth of Christianity on their “benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives.” Elsewhere he wrote, “For it is a disgrace that […] the impious Galileans (Christians) support not only their own poor but ours as well.”
During the plague, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, reminded believers to serve not only fellow Christians but also non-Christians during the plague: “There is nothing remarkable in cherishing merely our own people with the due attentions of love, but that one might become perfect who should do something more than heathen men or publicans, one who, overcoming evil with good, and practicing a merciful kindness like that of God, should love his enemies as well […] Thus the good was done to all men, not merely to the household of faith.
Church, may our response to this pandemic be one of love, mercy, grace, kindness, and self-sacrifice. In a time of crisis, the world needs a calming presence. Who better than the church can model peace that surpasses all understanding?
I want to encourage each of you to go out of your way to be kind and compassionate to those you encounter. As scripture says, let your conversation be seasoned with grace. I also want to encourage you to look for ways to serve others. Make that phone call. Write that note. Send that text. Check on the elderly to see if they need anything; offer to make that grocery/pharmacy run. If you know of any needs that the church may assist with, please contact the church office at 573.265.3465.
During this time of social distancing, we will continue to make good use of social media. Currently, our children’s ministry is doing Tuesday and Thursday evening broadcasts on Facebook at 6:30. Pastor Zach is leading student devotions on Instagram Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 3pm, and he’s leading a Wednesday night Bible study at 6:30pm via Zoom. Our Sunday services will continue at 10am via Facebook Live.
We will continue to hold our scheduled Board and Council meetings via Zoom. If you’re on one of these boards or the council, watch your email for information.
In closing, pray, pray, and pray some more. God is still on His throne, and His steadfast loves endures forever.
Until the storm passes over,