Jesus & COVID-19
Scripture: Isaiah 34: 1-4; John 3:16-17, Luke 22:20, John 5: 24,[John 5: 22, Matthew 25:31-32
Goal: What are we to do in the midst of global fear?
Title: Where is Jesus in the midst of global catastrophe?
Isaiah 34 Judgment on the Nations (The Message)
34: 1-4 Draw in close now, nations... Listen carefully, you people... Pay attention!
Earth, you, too... and everything in you. World... and all that comes from you.
And here’s why: God is angry, good and angry with all the nations,
So blazingly angry at their arms and armies... that he’s going to rid earth of them... wipe them out.
The corpses, thrown in a heap, will stink like the town dump in midsummer,
Their blood flowing off the mountains like creeks in spring runoff.
Stars will fall out of the sky like overripe, rotting fruit in the orchard,
And the sky itself will be folded up like a blanket and put away in a closet.
All those stars, shriveled to nothing, like leaves and fruit in autumn, dropping and rotting!
How does Isaiah’s warning strike you? A warning not only to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but this message of woe is for all nations around 600 BCE. Might this warning again apply to 21st CE nations?
Isaiah and a dozen other prophets not only warned the people of Israel and Judah to fear the Lord 2600 years ago, trying to scare them into returning to the Lord... whom both nations had conspicuously abandoned. Israel and Judah both abandoned the God who led them by the hand... out of slavery and oppression in Egypt. They became puffed up, living in a prosperous time and selfishly ignoring the Covenant their ancestors made with God at Mt. Saini.
God was repulsed by their attitudes toward God and their actions against one another. In spite of all God did for these people, and the many prophetic warnings... God followed through allowing both countries to be conquered, pillaged, with survivors taken off to either Assyria or Babylon. And went on to condemn not only Israel and Judah but condemned all mankind for living in ways that grieved the heart of God.
This virus of unknown cause... first appeared in China and currently, Italy and Spain have the highest infection and death rates. As the virus continues to invade most nations, I wonder if there is some connection with the warnings from Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Malachi.
Whether we call the Creator... Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, or God, is our Higher Power intervening now in world history with punishment or an invitation? Much like the ancient world... today moral and spiritual decay abounds. Rather than using invading armies, could God be invading nations with a novel virus?
It is worth noting... the angry God that Isaiah revealed... first graciously invited people to repent and return to Him. Has God graciously invited 21st CE citizens to repent and return to God? Are we like the people of Israel and Judah, not motivated to either change themselves or to change their friends and neighbors? Repent and change was... and still is... everyone’s hope of avoiding judgment.
So, can you imagine Isaiah’s biblical experience... somehow connecting to the current worldwide spread of Coronavirus? With researchers studying this virus... the underlying genesis has not yet been identified. Is God trying to get our attention... as God tried in the past? As God unleased Assyria’s invasion of Israel... and Babylon’s invasion of Judah, could God be unleashing a virus to invade the nations of the world?
So, Israel and Judah were invaded for turning away and offending God. And 600 years later God’s love overcame his anger with humanity... and sent Jesus... not to further condemn transgressors... but to offer wrongdoers an escape from mankind’s earlier condemnation. So, today’s question... is whether the presence and mercy of Jesus has any role in this current global pandemic?
[John 3:16-17], [Luke 22:20], [John 5: 24], [John 5: 22], [Matthew 25:31-32] found at bottom of page.
So, let’s consider both the most common consequence this virus has on people... and then the most extreme consequence.
The most common consequence confronts the very ground of our being. The world’s great wisdom traditions offer five ultimate realities, one of which is the human quest for connection. When we cannot spend interpersonal, face-to-face time with friends, family, coworkers or neighbors... people not only feel isolated from others... they also feel isolated from God. This rather sudden social isolation is like quitting smoking, cold turkey... causing both physical and emotional pain. Like many of you, I will struggle to avoiding people with whom I worship and socialize.
Can you imagine some fruit coming from our adversity? If we explore new or interesting activities... like painting, knitting, letter writing, or calling more of the people you care about. Or could this be a great time to read your Bible... with new eyes. If you struggle with the Old English language in the King James Version... consider a newer translation... like New King James Version or better yet, Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message. Getting a Study Bible of your preferred translation is even better... including a synopsis and footnotes explaining what difficult passages are saying.
While our worship is suspended, I am happy to make pastoral visits to our congregation. Give me a call and I will come to your house or this chapel... as you prefer. Or, every couple of weeks just give me a call... and let me know how you are doing.
Moving now to the most extreme consequence this virus presents... confronts life itself. Death among seniors exceed every other population segment... and our congregation is mostly seniors. What’s worse than death... is the suffering preceding death. This is when people challenge God... why is this bad thing happening to me... or my husband, father, child or dearest friend.
Most Protestant denominations, like Methodists, profess the Christian faith as contained in the Old and New Testaments. Jew’s reading the Old Testament, like Isaiah... could easily attribute one’s suffering or death to an angry God. Committed Christians, on the other hand, accept the words Jesus offers through the gospel writers. Jesus says none of us are judged until He returns in all His Glory. And despite our physical death... whoever believes in Jesus will not perish... but receive everlasting life. In the meantime, whatever suffering may occur... is not caused by God. To arrive at any other conclusion, one must give up their Christian affirmation of faith.
Should any of us experience suffering or death... from this virus... or any other cause, Jesus promises to accompany believers through the transition... like a bridge over troubled waters.
[John 3:16-17] Although God condemned mankind to perish... 600 years later, God’s love overcame his anger at mankind, so much so... that God sent His Son to institute the New Covenant... so the world might be saved. God’s New Covenant with all mankind provides that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish... but receive everlasting life.
[Luke 22:20] At his last supper, Jesus affirmed: This cup represents God’s New Covenant in My blood, which is shed for sinners.
[John 5: 24] According to John... Jesus also said, those who hears My word and believe in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but pass directly from death into their new life.
[John 5: 22] The New Covenant to achieve God’s desired behavior the Father transfers responsibility for all judgment... to Jesus, the Son.
[Matthew 25:31-32] The Son chooses to delay all judgment until His return... when skeptics, doubters and agnostics will gather to learn their destination... eternal life in the fires of hell... or in God’s glorious Kingdom... we all have the freedom to choose.