Message from Pastor Swanson (March 2020)
By the time you read this message the coronavirus pandemic will have grown. The scare over this new scourge is being compared to the influenza outbreak of a century ago. Except this time the fear is driven by a world that is much more closely linked by television, the internet, and a huge web of social media. The result is that the rumors and attendant fear spread as fast as the disease itself. There is a lot of information out there. The Center for Disease Control has issued multiple statements and has worked to provide accurate and reliable updates to the public. On the other hand, we have heard many false statements and plenty of unreassuring remarks from people who should know better.
It is a tough time to be a believer. A crisis like this can be a challenge to faith as we struggle to find where God is through all of this. Satan once tempted Jesus to jump off the temple, assuring the Lord that should anything bad happen it must be God’s fault for not lifting him up to safety. You can bet that Satan is lurking somewhere, ready to convince us that God has bailed out on us again. Satan loves fear and rumors. Anxiety and ignorance go hand in hand. The more we are kept in the dark, the more we fall prey to a sense of terror and foreboding. So, is coronavirus the end of civilization as we know it? Probably not. Will a lot of people get sick? Yes. Will some die? Yeah, that will happen too. But more people die from preventable illnesses like heart disease, because they eat fatty foods and don’t exercise. Yet, I still eat my share of pie and cake and never stop to consider the terror that I am killing myself. More people die each year in car accidents, but no one is calling for an end to motor vehicles. Once the problem becomes a common, everyday occurrence the fear fades into the background. That doesn’t mean we should be cavalier and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. No, I will still wear a seat belt, and try to cut down on unhealthy foods and I highly recommend following the good advice that we should wash our hands.
This strange new virus has become our latter day plague, a scourge that terrorizes the world because it has come from nowhere. The unknown is scary and uncertain; we can’t get a handle on what will happen next. Fear, en-flamed by rumors, makes matters worse. So, I bid you stop and think a moment. A little lesson from Catechism Class is worth remembering. Luther taught his students that in the middle of the Apostles’ Creed is the simple phrase, “Jesus is my Lord.” We confess those words every Sunday in worship. We say it from our own lips. We declare that Jesus is the Lord of all things. A lord is a leader, the one in charge, the boss, the overseer. Jesus is the one who oversees all of creation. And, if I remember rightly, he is also the one who has conquered death and all its power. Surely, then, he has the coronavirus under this authority as well. Which is to say that even if the world were collapsing under the weight of this dread disease, Jesus will still be Lord and master of all things and has promised to deliver his people from every calamity and bring them into his presence forever. “There is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”. Nothing. And that, my friends, is news of which we can be certain.