I have never lived through a time like this, and I imagine that you haven’t either. So much illness. So much death. So much anxiety about when this pandemic will end and when life will return to normal. I knew that I was going to retire this year. But I never dreamed it would be under these circumstances. I will not get to preach to you again in a normal worship setting before Pat and I leave. But there IS good news in the midst of all this. I have met your new pastor, Rick Gillian, and you will love him and his family. From speaking to him, I know that he is going to love you and care for you as God’s people, and I pray that you will care for him as you have cared for Pat and me in these short two years of ministry.
I do want to talk about God’s presence in the midst of the Coronavirus. I’m sure I’ve told you this before in my time in the pulpit, that I believe the hardest book in the Bible for me to read is the book of Lamentations in the Old Testament. God’s city, Jerusalem, had fallen to the Babylonians. Many were killed, many were exiled, and those who remained in the city were under siege by the Babylonians. There was no food, even to the point where mothers were killing their children in order to survive. Jeremiah, who authored this book, was so immersed in grief that he wrote, “And it came to pass, after Israel had been carried captive, and Jerusalem became desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lamentation over Jerusalem.
In the midst of the most horrific book of the Old Testament, there comes these verses – Lamentations 3:22-23 – “Though the Lord’s mercies are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” In the midst of this terrible situation, Jeremiah KNEW that God was faithful.
Can we do the same? I have the bad habit of spending my earliest hour of the morning glutting on the news stories. You KNOW it’s not going to be good, but there’s the desire just to KNOW what is going on in the world. There needs to be time to pull away from the boob tube and connect ourselves to the peace of God.
As your pastor (for a little while more) I don’t have all the answers, but I DO have scripture I can share. You can look at my sermon file and realize that I LOVE the Psalms. They have been a great source of encouragement for me, and I hope for you, as well. Psalm 46 talks about God’s presence in the worst of times:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even tho the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” WE WILL NOT FEAR.
We can’t run around the way we did before the virus. But that gives us the opportunity to sit quietly in the presence of the Lord. Scripture is FILLED with the admonition to do this in times of devastation:
“Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)
“You need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14)
“Be still, for this is a sacred day” (Nehemiah 8:11)
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.(Psalm 37:7)
“Be still before the Lord, all mankind.” (Zech. 2:13)
“Peace! Be still. (Mark 4:39)
Stay Safe/Spend Time with God,