Welcome to our members and friends of Streetsville United Church, and all others who may have found this video on line. I am John Tapscott, the minister of the church. We are glad that you have joined us today. This is how we will be sharing God’s word for the next few weeks, but we certainly hope and pray that we can gather as a worshipping community again in the not too distant future. If you would like to be in contact with us for any reason, you may reach the church through the contact information provided on our website.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Most of have found this past week to be rather unnerving. In order to help stop the spread of the virus, the government sets out a new list of closures and restrictions almost every day. Empty grocery shelves are something new and surprising in this abundant land of Canada. We must be thankful to the workers in stores who are working so hard to restock the shelves. We are grateful for all the workers who are keeping basic services going, water, hydro and garbage collection. And we are holding in our thoughts and prayers all the medical personnel who are working very long hours under increased stress.
Life has been thrown into turmoil and it’s very understandable if you feel the ground shifting beneath your feet. It’s difficult but I am trying to restrict my time on the internet news sites. That has seemed to help. At home I have been watching some of my old favorite movies which gives my mind and spirit some relief from the heaviness, at least for a time. Recently we were advised to sing Happy Birthday twice as we washed our hands in order to make sure they were thoroughly clean. Well, rather than singing Happy Birthday I’ve taken to saying the Apostles Creed or the Lord’s Prayer as I wash my hands. They are just as long. It is always helpful to remember and speak the essential truths of our faith.
Earlier this week I read about a 6-year-old girl named Cameron sharing a Bible verse with her seven-year-old brother Brandon, who suffers from autism. Noticing Brandon becoming tense and agitated as he listened to the news, Cameron stood in front of him and took his hands. Then she had him repeat after her a verse she had recently learned in Sunday School. It was from Paul’s second letter to Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind.” After saying the verse the siblings hugged one another and the rest of the family said “Amen.”
Their mother said, “That moment changed something for the family. Just from the mouth of a child to another child, it transformed the way I looked at it. We don’t have to be afraid of this. There’s been worse. We just have to rely on our faith, take the precautions we need to take and continue to live our lives.”
Well, I do think that is good advice. Of course, it’s natural to feel some fear. I do, from time to time. We don’t know how long this will last or how it will affect our future plans. It can be quite wrenching just thinking about it all. But God has not given us this spirit of fear. The spirit of fear comes from another place. Make no mistake, the power of evil is behind this corona virus. It’s an attack on God’s people, God’s creation and on God himself. The evil one loves to make people fearful. We know that because Jesus, who came to overcome the devil, so often so often said to people, “Fear not.” “Do not be afraid. Only believe.” To his disciples he said, “Let not your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
Paul writes, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.” It’s a good text for the present situation.
God has given us power to stand in these turbulent times.
We stand on the solid rock of Christ, crucified and risen, knowing that he has overcome the worst attacks of the enemy. We know that this corona virus will have its run and cause lots of damage, hardship and death. But it cannot prevail. Its ultimate power was defeated along with all the powers and principalities in the cross and resurrection of Christ. We are not helpless. Christ is our refuge and strength. We may wobble but assisted by his power we can stand. He is with us. He is still Lord. And all Christians should be praying in his powerful name for an end to this virus and its effects.
God has given us a spirit of love.
The Bible tells us that “perfect love casts out fear.” Perfect love is found in Jesus and so He casts out our fear. Because of his victory, no power or principality, nothing in life or in death or in life beyond death can separate us from the love of God. And God pours his love into our hearts and tells us to love one another. Now it’s rather ironic that the best way to love your neighbours these days is to stay at a proper distance from them. It is sad that we have to be so suspicious of one another, even if we’re healthy. But we still need one another, we really do, and I can tell you that already I miss the fellowship of our congregation. We don’t know when we will be able to gather as a group again, but it will happen. And until then we can pray for one another, stay in touch, encourage one another and provide for those in need, even if it means dropping supplies at someone’s doorstep. Fear grows when we are apart, but God works to overcome our fears through our love and care for one another. The evil one sows seeds of division and distance, but God provides loving fellowship and community.
God has also given us a sound mind.
With all the negative news we hear these days, it’s easy to let our minds work overtime and to feel overwhelmed. But God helps us to keep thinking clearly and realistically. Don’t panic and don’t hoard. Every day cows are still giving milk and hens are still laying eggs. Fruits and vegetables are still growing. Grocery stores are open. Trucks are making deliveries. There is enough for our needs. Count your blessings. Look at your personal resources. Make a realistic plan for the days and weeks and perhaps months ahead. This situation will be over one day. People will return to work. Businesses will recover. Let us keep remembering that. Let us keep in mind what we’ve been told to do by the experts, and do it. It is most important that think clearly using the sound mind that God has given us.
God has not given us the spirit of fear. That spirit comes from another source and we’ve already had more than enough of it. Instead, God has given us a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. Let us pray for this spirit to take hold us of more fully, and to grow within us each day.
Prayer: “Lord our God, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. And so we look to You in this time of trouble, seeking your help, your wisdom and your guidance. Through your Son, you have gained the victory over the powers and principalities, and as we turn to you in faith, we find may peace in the midst of the storm. Help us to be still and to know that you are indeed God. Raise your mighty arm against this virus O Lord, and by your power bid it cease. Bless and give wisdom and increased strength to all medicals personnel and caregivers during this time. Bless and protect them Lord and all of us. Keep us in your loving care; open our eyes to the light which the darkness can never extinguish, Jesus Christ our Lord and help us to in these days to be filled wit the faith and the hope and the love you give us through Him; we pray these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.