Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are now at a juncture with COVID-19 to adopt major changes at home, at the workplace, and at church. Let’s consider the following as they relate to returning to congregational worship on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays.
Fear is a universal natural instinct. It arises with the threat of harm, either physical, emotional, or psychological, real or imagined. We fear natural disasters, thunder & lightning, heights, flying, the oceans, darkness, crowds, pain, diseases, and viruses like COVID-19. When it comes to COVID-19, we are nervous and anxious about symptoms like headache, fatigue, sore throat, nausea, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Our anxiety becomes more heightened if we have been diagnosed with medical vulnerabilities (i.e., chronic medical conditions like autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) because medical science indicates that people with the aforementioned illnesses are at the greatest risk for severe disease if infected with COVID-19.
But now, we are all knowledgeable about the best ways to protect ourselves from this coronavirus (and other viruses) which include: washing your hands frequently with soap and water, not touching your face, practicing social distancing, and especially avoiding close contact with people who are sick, coughing and sneezing. We can avoid spreading germs by coughing into the crook of our elbow and staying home when we feel sick. Here are some truths that I feel comfortable sharing with you at this time:
- All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be safe and effective at preventing COVID-19. Get vaccinated as soon as possible!
- Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine also helps keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. Get vaccinated; it won’t hurt you.
- Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (Center for Disease Control and Protection, May 2021).
FAITH OVER FEAR
Faith is the assurance that the things revealed and promised in the Word are true, even though unseen, and give the believer a conviction that what he/she expects in faith, will come to pass. Faith is an active trust in God, a belief in what God says is true that results in action. Our faith allows us to trust God and ask Him to lead in the affairs of our lives. In times of crisis, it means everything to be able to trust God…not your own knowledge or strength. It is comforting to feel the strength of the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 12: 26-27) and to know that you are not alone.
Faith makes it possible to accept that nothing happens outside the knowledge and permission of an omnipresent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God. During a crisis people often ask, why? Why do things like this happen? More pointedly, where is God in all this? In the Old Testament you find lots of scriptures crediting or blaming God for their suffering. For example: “It is good that a person should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of Yahweh…For the Lord will not cast off forever. For though He causes grief, yet He will have compassion according to the multitude of His loving kindness” (Lamentations 3:26-32). The aforementioned passage indicates that, people of Israel believed in the sovereignty of God over all creation. They believed that, since God all-powerful, nothing could happen apart from God’s dominion. This led them to believe that, if you’re hurting God, that must have caused it, either to punish you or teach you a lesson. Is there a spiritual lesson you learned from COVID-19?
Faith is absolute reliance on God. In the New Testament, when Peter walks on the water toward Jesus--a demonstration of solid faith, but his faith wavered in sight of the great waves and he sank (Matt. 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21). We learn from this story that life is a product of thoughts and thoughts reflect our faith. The way of faith is the supernatural way—it is trusting, obeying, and relying on God. Peter failed when he started to trust in sight, senses, human wisdom and strength. Join me in trusting God with our lives—in all things. Don’t be afraid! Faith makes it possible to believe what seems impossible. “Imagine never letting a bad moment ruin your day ever. Imagine being so resilient that finding the silver lining in any given situation becomes second nature. Imagine switching out feelings of panic and stress with feelings of confidence and capability” (Social Media).
Fellowship is a relationship of inner unity among believers expressed outwardly. Our fellowship with others is only as good as our fellowship with Christ. No matter where we are in our faith, fellowship provides us with strength. Being around other believers gives us the chance to learn and grow in our faith. Fellowship is doing God’s will together. It’s time to return to church, if you are physically able to do so. Some people have been away from church for more than a year. What are your lingering fears to return to congregational worship? Somebody writes, “It was a wonderful experience to return to church after being away for more than a year. There was just something about being there that calms me down, makes me feel connected and whole, and simply allows me to breathe again.”
Rev. Dr. Peter E. Grinion, June 2, 2021