In Sunday School, Liam listened intently as the teacher told the story of Eve being created from one of Adam’s ribs. Later in the week Liam told his mother he didn’t feel well. “What’s the matter?” His mom asked. Liam responded, ‘I have pain in my side”. “Oh”, said his mother, “Did you eat something bad?” “No”, said Liam, “I think I’m going to have a wife.’
This week, across Canada, and especially in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, health care officials and workers are ramping up for a large wave of Corona Virus patients. I don’t know about you, but every time I sneeze (which apparently people do at least once a day) or cough (which for me is frequent because I’ve had a chronic cough for about 30 years) I wonder if this is it. Have I contracted CoVid 19? What will happen if I have? It is easy to get sucked into the vortex of fear. I have a friend who, because of her faith in Christ, believes that she is protected from this illness. However, being a Christian doesn’t give us a “cloak of invisibility” keeps the virus from finding us or a magic spell that keeps us from getting it. If the virus teaches us anything, it is that we all share a common humanity. So how do we as Christians respond to this crisis?
Throughout scripture we are told not to fear. Not because we won’t die – one way or another, we all will – but because death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to one who puts their faith in Christ. I was reading of a woman in Nigeria who lives with her husband and 4 children in a one room apartment, where her 20, closely – packed neighbours share 1 bathroom. She lives day to day selling fruit and cannot afford to be in isolation because her family will starve. She said, “Death is death – what difference does it make if we die of corona virus or we starve to death?” It’s hard to relate to such dire living conditions. No wonder life has left her with such a bleak outlook. While “death is death” and does come to us all, none of us can live without hope. As Christians our hope is based on the resurrection of Christ and a promise of eternal life.
The apostle John reminded the early Church, that because of God’s saving love,
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. 1 John 4: 18
To not fear is not enough. Not fearing is a passive expression of faith; we are called exercise our faith actively. Jesus called his followers to a life of love. Perhaps that’s why the next statement out of John’s mouth is, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
As we’re reminded in this Lenten season, the greatest expression of love is sacrifice. There are many front-line workers who are literally risking their lives each day – from EMT’s, nurses, nursing home and senior residence staff (some of whom I’m proud to say are in my congregation). As well as technicians, doctors, police, fire fighters and researchers. Let’s not forget grocery, hardware store and liquor store clerks, our delivery people and drive-through workers. One of the most touching stories I heard this week was of a Christian Organization called the Samaritans Purse, sending workers from Canada and the US to construct a 68-bed field hospital in Cremona, Italy. The hospital will aid the local medical infrastructure which is overwhelmed from the pandemic.
It is a conflict for many Christians to physically isolate ourselves, particularly as we’ve been instructed to suspend worship services. We’re caught between being responsible to the larger community and being responsive to our God. In this situation, isolation is an expression, not only of self-care, but of love and that too is a response to God’s love for us. Many of us are using technology to bring worship into the homes of our people all of which keep us united in a bond of love. There are many other active ways we can love one another. It’s heartening when people offer to pray or share their favorite hymns, a crossword (see I spelled that right) or a video, these are loving acts of encouragement for one another. While social media keeps us connected, we can’t underestimate the impact of picking up the phone. Who doesn’t feel loved when they are remembered so personally. And don’t be shy about calling or receiving a call from someone you don’t often speak to. It may seem awkward but it’s appreciated.
Sharing, rather than hoarding, life’s necessities is yet another expression of love. Or you may know a family whose income has been hard hit – meeting their practical needs by having groceries or a meal delivered. Those who are able to sew, can make face masks for your family or friends. If you get carried away, drop them at the church and we’ll hand them out to neighbours. And although I don’t know of anyone personally who has died of the virus, there are people in grief who need to know they are thought of and upheld by your love.
When we see the global impact of this illness, many of us feel powerless to make a difference. It was great to hear that Les had dropped a meal off to the one room diner – while we can’t go in to prepare and serve, they are still feeding people and need the support. There are many Christian organizations that can alleviate suffering, if they have financial support. And child-sponsorship programs will be overwhelmed caring for children whose parents have succumbed to the virus when this settles down.
And let us never underestimate the power of prayer to tap into the love of God, so that it can pour into a world in fear and anguish. Through prayer God will also inspire us to reach out to others and share the love of Christ.
Fear causes us to look out for ourselves, when we love we banish fear. We love because, God first loved us. Now more than ever, people need to be assured that God loves them with an everlasting love; a love that is stronger than anything this world throws at us.
Prayer: God of Love, you showed your love to us by sending Jesus to live with us, die for us and conquer death for us. In these trying times move us beyond our fear so that we can love others as you have loved us. Assure us that nothing can separate us from your love for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.