Do Not Worry, Do Not Be Afraid
The Word of God says to us this very morning: "Do not worry," and "Do not be afraid!" How we respond in new situations and times of crisis says a lot about our faith. As Christians, you and I do not want to spread a public sense of panic, worry, impatience, or hasty misinformation based on fear. We believe God works, in all things, for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). On the other hand, we must not be careless. We believe in the sanctity of all human life, and therefore, should be quick to remember that, when it comes to the spreading contagion of the Coronavirus, preventative measures do play a critically important role in the fight to save some of the most vulnerable human lives. You may have heard that events are being canceled all over the state of California, especially gatherings of 250 people and more for the sake of public safety, and schools are closing temporarily as part of a larger effort to limit and contain the spread of the virus. Just recently, the board of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Hemet (where we worship on Sunday mornings), decided to cancel services this weekend and to review that question weekly, following the advice of their district leadership in tandem with Loma Linda hospital. Out of respect for their board's decision, and after a conversation with their pastor and our board leaders, I plan to follow suit and cancel our Sunday service and classes this weekend--a decision we do not make hastily and plan to review again in conversation with SDA next week. It's not just about the risk of gathering on Sunday (which for myself and many others might be relatively small); it's also about respecting the "house rules" and hospitality of our friends at SDA--not putting them in a bind with regard to cleaning and liability for the facility. In the meantime, let's keep on thinking of creative ways to be the Church and follow Jesus in the here and now, remembering that you are the Church, the Body of Christ, whether or not we meet in the same place on Sunday mornings. Just because we don't gather under the same roof doesn't mean we can't work and pray together. It doesn't mean we can't study God's word, fellowship together, feed the hungry or visit the sick, as long as we take reasonable care to do so wisely. There is Christian work to be done in these days and risks that ought to be taken for the sake of love.
This weekend, I want to specifically request that you not treat this Sunday as a "day off" from prayer and worship, but take some time for intentional prayer and worship with your loved ones if possible? May I recommend Psalm 136 as a guide for prayer this Sunday, and remind you to please go on and pray for those affected and those working around the clock to heal those affected by the Coronavirus? To pray for schools and hospitals and parents? To pray for your local church and small groups? Perhaps we can all pray wherever we are with whomever we are at 9:30 tomorrow morning, and conclude with the Lord's Prayer as a sign of our real communion with believers everywhere in the Holy Spirit.
You may hear more from me by email or phone or social media this week. Feel free to call or email the church office as we will be open. Please do patient with us. As a friend of mine recently posted, we've never really pastored through a Coronavirus pandemic before! But, God is with us, and remember, we are his.