Mid Week Devotion 03/25/2020 “What About Fear?”

Pastor’s Mid Week Updates 3-25-2020
How are you holding up? Have we gotten to stir crazy yet? Are you well past that stage?
As for me, I’ve been writing a lot, working on these video messages. I’ve spent time looking at the worship schedule for the rest of this year and beyond. I’ve worked on a beginners Bible Study I want to present this summer. I’ve also been making lots of phone calls.

As far as this “online church” we are providing, let me say that we are adhering to the state, presidential and CDC guidelines. Today, there is just Kevin Hinkle and myself and we are practicing physical distancing.

Let’s get to our announcements for today, sounds like the postponed General Conference may not be held until 2021. I don’t think anything is official, but that was the latest I’ve heard from Paul Black.

The April Messenger will be sent out through Centenary’s Email. There will be no hard copies since we will not be in the office. We will mail it out to those with no email.

Governor Pritzker has issued a shelter in place order until April 8. That would mean we need to cancel worship services here at Centenary on April 5. We have an Ad Council meeting scheduled for March 30 to discuss our plans, but it seems like the Governor has already taken care of that Sunday for us. I applaud him for making tough decisions for our welfare. We need to pray for all elected officials as we continue journeying through these strange days together.
After church leadership meets on the 30th, we will announce our new course. I will say this, if Holy Week and Easter are canceled, (and that is possible), we will still celebrate Easter Sunday whatever Sunday we get back together. I remind you that nothing in this world can stop the message of Easter.
I can tell you that Jacksonville has its first confirmed case of coronavirus at Passavant. My wife, Debbie, is not helping with this patient directly. There are, however, medical professionals working with that patient. Much has been made about celebrating our doctors, nurses, emts and others.
In regards to that, my wife has a message for you. If you really want to help her and others, stay home. The best thing we can do to help our medical people is to stay away from each other for as long as it takes to slow this virus down.
Let’s take a moment now, to pray together the prayer I shared with you last Sunday. To remind you, I name the prayer and we will say together in response: “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”

Those who have been infected.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For those who are at the most risk.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For Health Care workers. Doctors, nurses and others.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For other workers who need to be around people.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For pastors and church leaders.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For elected leaders.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For those recently unemployed or laid off.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
For the health if our Centenary families and their extended families.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
Help all of us with our lack of understanding.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
Grant us courage to face tomorrow.
“Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”
Amen

Let us turn to some scripture for our mid week get together. God has guided me to 2 passages of scripture today as we discuss fear. The title of this message is “Concerning Fear.

Gospel: Mark 4:35-41 Gospel: Matthew 4:5-7
“May God add a blessing to the reading and hearing of His Holy Word.”
Fear has been having a heyday lately. I am here today to remind you that fear does not get the last word. As Christians, we know that, but, we are still in the world, and fear has taken up residence with us. It is our job to keep its residency brief. We need to push back and not give into fear completely, if we do, it becomes the focus of our worship.
The question this morning is how do we combat against fear? Our Lord tells us the best way to deal with such things is with our faith. This is where the enemy can gain the upper hand. When we allow fear to take over, we believe we are losing faith. That somehow faith is in short supply. Faith is not like the medical items we hear about in the news are actually be in short supply. Faith is always with us, because faith comes from God, and God never leaves us.
Fear, however, when it takes our focus from God, that’s when we can get into trouble. Look at our first passage again.
Jesus is with the disciples in a boat, the Lord falls asleep, a storm comes up and the passengers become fearful.
Jesus waves his hand and the storm goes away. Then our Lord addresses those fearful would be sailors.
Jesus questions them about being afraid. Jesus doesn’t chastise them for their fear, but asks a question in a way that will make them think about being afraid. Jesus wants them to think about how much energy they have wasted on being afraid instead of looking for their Savior who was with them all along. Jesus is helping them build a pathway, one which they cannot see the end of yet.
These same disciples continue to follow our Lord, and their confidence will grow and ultimately after Jesus death, they will leave fear behind and take on the ministry of building the church. They can’t see that future from the boat, neither can we see the end of this current medical emergency while we are still in it. Have faith, Jesus would say. Faith is a lifelong journey and faith is our friend while we travel.

Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear, used as a Godly gift, can be beneficial. A good amount of fear tells us that there is a large, heavy dresser between us and the bathroom in the middle of the night in a dark bedroom. Fear tells us to slow down, navigate carefully, because the last time your toe hit that dresser, the dresser won.
Good fear tells us not to go into the woods unarmed and pick a fight with a Grizzly Bear. Somethings in this world can hurt and fear guides us. Fear tells us not to jump out of a perfectly good airplane with out a parachute. I remind you that Daniel did not go about looking for hungry lions to throw himself in front of. Yet, when he found himself in that terrible situation, God provided. I believe God has given us common sense, fear and other gifts so that we will not purposely seek out danger in the midst of a pandemic.
I think this is why Jesus lays the question out there for us all to think about. Why are you afraid? I want you to know it’s okay to be a little afraid. Yet, whether its common sense or fear you and I need to think long and hard how we are going to respond to the orders from officials about how to address the coronavirus.
Will we use faith as an excuse to prove we have nothing to fear and begin going about business as usual. I have heard such things from reports on the news.
That leads me to the second passage I shared with you. In this reading we find Jesus in the Wilderness faced with the tempter. Jesus is told to through himself off the highest point of the temple. Don’t have fear Jesus God will catch you before you break any bones.The Messiah reminds us that it is not good to put the Lord your God to the test.
We have been given common sense and fear as gifts to help protect ourselves and make the best decisions. This world was not given to us so that we could do whatever we want and God will clean up afterwards. Nor was this world given to us so that we would live in fear of it hiding away and never sharing the Good News.
This whole issue of faith over fear, at least for me, is this, while we are on and about attempting to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and bad things befall us, God will be there. I do not believe that God gave us faith so that we could deliberately put ourselves in dangerous situations to test God’s miraculous powers.

How often do we think that faith is only important in the big life and death choices we make. Faith is a friend for the whole journey, it helps with the biggest decisions and the smallest. Faith allows us to know when to be a little fearful and when to proceed bravely.
The corona virus is effecting everyone differently. I trust you have been counseling God on what your response should be. One other possible meaning of fear is respect. I don’t want any of you to retreat from life and live in abject fear of this disease. My wife, Debbie is not living in fear of this virus, but she is being very respectful of its power to cause damage. She does not want to be in the same situation of those medical professional in Italy, Spain and even New York. We all need to have a healthy respectful fear of it. God has protected us as we go about sharing the Good News. Speaking of the Good News, let us hear some more.
In the Hebrew Bible God speaks to Isaiah and the prophet share those words with us. Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God is with us my friends, God has placed in us gifts which we can use to help navigate through these days. I will remind you that even though fear can be beneficial I encourage you not let it become the focus of your life, if that happens then God is no longer your focus.
Fear has created the newest buzzwords, “Social Distancing.” I want to remind you to give your fear to God, let Jesus deal with it for now. I don’t believe Jesus is adhering to social distancing, Jesus is still inviting you to get close, to be in a prayerful, joyful state of mind and know that God is the God of all things. God never abandoned Daniel in the Lions Den, God did not abandon Jesus on the cross, and God is not abandoning us.
You and I may still be apart physically for a little while yet, and we will get through this. Please know that God is always with you, even when you fear.

May God bless you until we all meet again.