St. John's Episcopal Church

St. John's, Centreville
John 9:1-41, Psalm 23
March 22, 2020
4 Lent A
     God of new beginnings, meet us where we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
     "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me." In the 23rd psalm, the image of the shepherd caring for his sheep is a comforting one. It has comforted millions of people when they are going through hard times, when they are grieving the loss of a loved one. "Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." No matter what happens, God is with us and we need not be afraid.
     These past few weeks have been very unsettling for all of us. Our daily routines have been altered. We can't gather in large groups, which is why you are watching this service by yourself in your home. Churches and stores and restaurants have closed. Gyms and malls have closed. Schools and colleges have closed. We are living with "social distancing" and we can't do many of the daily activities that we normally do. The corona virus is disrupting our lives. We have never experienced anything like this before. And we don't know how much longer it will last. The Presiding Bishop has told us that all services of public worship will be suspended through Holy Week and Easter. For Christians everywhere, that is devastating. We want to be together. We want to sing those resurrection hymns. We want to see and smell the Easter flowers. But we can't. We can't celebrate in this way. We will find a way to celebrate the resurrection, even if we have to watch a service online. It is putting the greater good of the community ahead of our own wishes. It is sacrificing what we want in order to keep everyone else, particularly those at highest risk, safe and healthy. We are bound together by the Holy Spirit in love, even though we are not physically together.
     This pandemic is affecting everyone - not just those who are sick, but those who seem to be healthy. People are fearful of getting the virus and fear can be disabling, if we allow that to happen.
     "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He revives my soul."
     In time of anxiety and uncertainly, we need to put our faith and trust and hope in God. God alone gives us the peace that the world cannot give.
     But as humans, things are happening that are beyond our control and that is hard for us to deal with. Grandparents may have to miss the birth of their grandchild. Sports seasons have been cut short or eliminated. Senior year traditions and rituals that bring a high school or college career to a meaningful end may be curtailed or eliminated. Weddings which have been planned for a year are being put on hold. Burials can happen with a small group of family members, but the celebration of their life will have to wait. Long planned trips are suspended. We grieve the activities and the close relationships with family and friends that we so enjoy that we can't participate in right now.
     People are scared, anxious, disappointed, sad and uncertain. Some people are losing their jobs. Hourly workers are losing their income. The stock market is not doing well and people are losing money. Children are at home rather than at school and they can't get together with friends. Life has changed and some of us grieve for things that we have lost.
     It is my hope and my prayer that something good will come out of this difficult time. Families will be able to spend more time together. The pace of life will slow down. There will be more time to pray, more time to deepen our relationship with God. There may be more opportunities to help our neighbor, particularly those who are elderly, those who are most vulnerable to this disease. Perhaps we will become a more caring people, that we will come to realize that we are all in this together, that we are a part of a world-wide community, that we are dependent on one another.
     This disease doesn't care if you are rich and famous. It affects rich and poor alike. It doesn't care if you are an hourly wage worker or the head of a large corporation. All are susceptible. None are immune.
     But the good news is that we are not alone. We are all in the loving hands of our Almighty God, who loves us, and cares for us. We don't know what lies ahead, what the next few weeks and months will be like. But God is with us, holding us up, helping us to move forward.
       Jesus is the good shepherd. He takes care of his flock and gives them comfort. He will help us with the fear and uncertainty that we are experiencing. He will help us with the isolation and loneliness some of us may have. Jesus walks with us. Some of us may get sick, others will not.
     But God is with us no matter what. That is what our faith tells us in the depths of our souls. And because we know that, we do not need to fear the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
     We don't need to be together in this church to pray to God. We don't need to be together in this church to sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving. If you don't have a Book of Common Prayer or a hymnal at home, and you would like one, please feel free to come by the church and borrow one. We have extras.
       Psalm 23 ends with this: "Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." God dwells with us now and forever, holding onto us, loving us, and caring for us, like the shepherd cares for his sheep. May we know we are supported in this difficult time by the almighty hands of our loving God. Amen.

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