A CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE IN TIMES OF WIDESPREAD SICKNESS AND RUMOR OF DEATH

First, a word to those who don’t know Christians very well…

Christians are not conformed to the world’s anxiety and fears (Romans 12:2). We believe that God loves us (1 John 4:9). We believe he sent his Son to be our brother according to the flesh (John 1:14). We believe that having made sacrifice for our sins through his death, our Lord Jesus rose and ascended to sit at the Father’s right hand (Romans 8:34). This changes everything. The eyes of faith see the world for what it is. No virus, stock market crash, or panicked media reactions can rob Christians of their hope that Jesus will give his victory and dominion over sin and death to all who believe in him (Romans 8:37). When Christians get sick and are dying, they haven’t lost God’s blessing. Rather their confidence is strengthened (Romans 5:3). Sufferings teach that nothing in this world lasts. God’s love for us in Christ, Christians discover, will endure forever. For those who have been baptized into God’s name, he has promised resurrection and eternal life. This Word of promise will not fail. God is faithful.

When sickness and death test the foundation of Christian trust in God’s mercy, the the Scriptures teach a four-fold attitude of faith, prayer, compassion, and mercy.

 

Faith – Trust in God’s Salvation, Kindness, and Fatherly Care

Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 37:40 – The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 91:2-3, 5-6, 9-10 – I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence….You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday…. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

 

Prayer – Seeking God’s Favor According to His Promises

Psalm 40:17-17 – But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

Psalm 38:21-22 – Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

Psalm 70:1 – Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!

James 5:14-16 – Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Psalm 91:15-16 – When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving leg your requests be made known to God.

 

 

Compassion – Having A Heart Open to Your Neighbor

Matthew 14:14 – When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Luke 10:33 – But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.

 

1 John 3:17 – But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Colossians 3:12 – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

 

Mercy – Loving Your Neighbor As You Love Yourself

Luke 6:36 – Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Matthew 14:14 – When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

John 13:35 – By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

Psalm 41:1-3 – Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in illness you restore him to full health.

 

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As rumors of the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, the anxiety gripping the hearts of our neighbors can threaten to overcome our own. Rather than submitting ourselves to extreme measures for the sake of emergency, we should examine our hearts, be instructed by God’s Word, and fulfill our obligations to one another in love.

First, everything that robs this world of comfort and ease reminds us to repent. This world will pass away. God’s kingdom will not. In other words, disasters force a Lenten piety on the church whether it’s time for Lent or not. So, take out your Ten Commandments, read them slowly and out loud. Go to your pastor and confess your sins. In the absolution he preaches, you’ll discover a greater kingdom than can be found in this world. You’ll discover your Father’s unconditional love bought with the price of Jesus’ blood.

      Second, continue to seek God’s mercy in his promises. For close to two thousand years both the church and Christians have survived countless plagues, famines, persecutions, and the fall of civilizations. Neither the Gospel nor the Sacrament needed to be curtailed and sacrificed to survive past disasters. Therefore, we should continue hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament for our comfort and salvation. If you do not pose a risk of infecting others, as you are able, continue to attend the divine service and receive the Lord’s Supper with confidence. If you received the common cup in the past, take comfort in the fact that both the alcoholic content of the sacramental wine and the precious metal of the chalice mitigate the transmission of germs. Another great advantage of continuing to meet together is being able to pray in the presence of your fellow Christians for the afflicted. God has promised to hear these prayers and for the sake of the faithful the Lord will answer according to his good and gracious will.

            Once our hearts have been set at peace, we can consider how to best serve our neighbors. There is a two-fold danger of recklessness on the one hand and debilitating fear on the other. The Christian avoids both by faith. Reckless behavior – not washing hands, intentionally exposing yourself unnecessarily to infection, etc. – tests God and makes light of the means by which the Lord intends us to protect ourselves and others. On the other hand, running to the store and clearing out the shelves with more than you would normally need robs your neighbor of the necessities he and his family need to get by. Use your best judgment in changing habits that might contribute to the transmission of disease. There’s no law that you must shake hand. So if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, don’t do it. Follow the guidelines and direction of both government officials and the medical experts.

The life of the church will continue. If you are sick and must stay home, contact the church and one of our pastors, who has been designated to visit the sick so the other may remain well, will come and visit you. No doubt, the severity of the epidemic may require the good works of the church toward the community in ways in which we haven’t predicted. As opportunities arise, we should welcome the chance to serve our neighbors bodies as well as their souls.

The Lord is testing our faith and love with this rumor of pandemic. Thanks be to God! The Lord grant us his Holy Spirit so that our faith may not fail and we are drawn closer to our Lord by this holy cross.

   

 In Christ,

  

 Pr. Flamme                                       (Immanuel Lutheran March 10, 2020)