As I walked into my Dad’s retirement home this week I was greeted by a friendly attendant, clipboard in hand. She asked me questions regarding recent travel, my health condition, and took my temperature. Only then was I permitted to visit my Dad. At this time one week ago there was one confirmed case in Alberta, as of the writing of this note there are 29. By the time you read this note, there will likely be more. How are we to respond? Certainly we are not to panic! Our scriptures are full of promises, assuring us of God’s sovereignty and providential care. We who belong to Christ have the indwelling presence of the Comforter, the one called alongside to help in our time of need. One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 46. May these familiar words speak peace to your hearts during these anxious times. I was thinking of just stating the reference. Instead, I encourage you to take a few moments right now to read it.
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8 Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
As a church family we need to be much in prayer and take necessary precautions to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and other Calgarians from this deadly outbreak. Please follow all guidelines from Alberta Health.
We are working on a plan to promote online fellowship and prayer over the next few weeks.
Remember that if you are afraid, you have a place to go, Matthew 11:28-30. And remember, even if you are not afraid, someone you know is. Offer to pray for them, even if they are not believers. This is an opportunity for us to practice 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Pray in particular for all levels of government, front-line health care workers, and those who are most vulnerable in our community.
If you are aware of someone unable to shop for groceries, or pick up prescriptions, please offer a helping hand. Think creatively. Perhaps there are other ways we can serve one another. I recognize that some will think that the crisis facing us is exaggerated and that we are over-reacting. To any who feel this way I would say, “I truly hope that you are right, and that this will go away quickly.” On the other hand, I would far rather err on the side of caution, viewing any measures or inconveniences imposed on us as an opportunity to practically demonstrate the Biblical imperative to love our neighbors as ourselves. I would like to close with a prayer written by a pastoral colleague who serves as lead pastor of Westlife Church, a Christian and Missionary Alliance church in Calgary. It is well written, Biblically sound, and I recommend it to you as we seek God’s enablement to serve Him and our neighbors in the days and weeks ahead.
Gracious Father, we come to you as people in the midst of a crisis. If we are honest, our hearts are filled with fear and uncertainty for our future. We are scared for ourselves, our families, our friends, our church, our community and our world. We honestly don’t know what to do and how to respond; the illusion that we are in control of our world is shattering under the weight of this reality. Although fear, in itself, is not a bad thing, we reject any spirit of fear that begins to take root in our lives and causes us to act with ambivalence to our neighbours, hoarding of resources for ourselves or reactive decisions. Instead, we profess Jesus as Lord and, as such, love our enemies, give generously to those in need and respond to circumstances and situations with faith and peace.
In the midst of this unique and challenging season, we recognize Jesus as our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.
Because Jesus is our Saviour, we know that, in Christ, we have an eternal hope and therefore the fear of sickness and death is overshadowed by our hope in Jesus. As a result, we enter into our future with an eternal hope that is secure and that no virus can threaten or pandemic extinguish.
Because Jesus is our Sanctifier, we ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to love our neighbours and live in right relationship with them. As a result, empower us to care for the sick and the vulnerable, to give to the needy (even at personal cost to us) and to grieve with those who grieve. This is the time for a love that is sacrificial and practical. Empower us to be a church that, like a city on a hill, beams the light, love and hope of Jesus to a world covered under a shadow of sickness and death.
Because Jesus is our Healer, we pray and care for the sick among us. For those of us who are sick or will become sick, we pray for healing and trust in Your loving embrace as the Great Physician and the Good Shepherd. We pray for Your healing in people’s lives. For those who are grieving, we grieve with them and proclaim the truth that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
Because Jesus is our Coming King, this pandemic will not win. We know the end of the story and Jesus has full and complete victory over sin and death and we wait with expectation and hope for King Jesus’ return. As we are reminded of the fragility of life, we embrace the truth that our future is certain and in the hands of the Living Hope, Jesus Christ Himself.
We pray also for our world and those who lead it. We pray for our government and health professionals who are making important decisions on our behalf. This is a time to pray earnestly for them and we do so with hope. Give them the wisdom to steward resources and strength to persevere. We also pray for the safety of the many health professionals who enter into a micro-organism warzone to care for the sick and dying. Give them wisdom, strength, compassion and safety as they care for the sick among us. In all of this, we confess that we are overwhelmed, fearful and deeply worried.
We profess Jesus is Lord. Give us Your peace as we trust in You as our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. Give us Your wisdom and strength as You empower us to love you fully and love others freely. May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.
Written by: Rev. Dr. Bryce Ashlin-Mayo, Lead Pastor of Westlife Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.