I hope that you and your family and friends are doing well on this Sunday morning, March 15, on the Third Sunday in Lent. Please continue to pray for our nation and all people around the world facing this unprecedented (in our lifetimes) medical crisis. Please pray for safety for all, especially the medical personnel and first responders who are on the frontline testing and treating people. Please pray for government officials everywhere for wisdom and understanding so that their actions will be prudent and wise.
I am writing this from my study at church. I thought it best to be here to greet anyone who did not get the message that we have canceled all activities here at least until March 21, and most likely longer than that. The roads were eerily empty this morning, and the dark, empty sanctuary and classrooms deafeningly quiet. I miss seeing you here, but I am convinced that the Session made the right decision to comply with the requests/mandate by our government and church officials to help stem the advance of this deadly disease.
If you find yourself missing your church friends this morning, let me make a few suggestions. If you miss singing hymns, go to Youtube, where you can find recordings of most all hymns. We were going to sing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing for our opening hymn today, I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say for the second, and Go My Children with My Blessing as the final hymn.
I was going to preach on one of my favorite passages, John 4:1-42, Jesus’ long and fascinating conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sycar. Like Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in last Sunday’s passage, Jesus and the woman were on different pages. Jesus was talking about spiritual matters, while the woman thought he was talking about physical, material things. Jesus was tired and thirsty from his journey and asked the woman for water, since he didn’t have a bucket with which to draw water from Jacob’s well. But the conversation quickly turned to Jesus talking about living (spiritual) water that he could give the woman, which would quench forever her spiritual needs. After several twists and turns the woman finally realized that she was talking to the Messiah and rushed home to share the good news with her neighbors, who then rushed to see Jesus for themselves.
Two main points I was going to make in my sermon are these: 1) Jesus crossed several cultural and religious barriers when he spoke with a Samaritan woman (Samaritans and Jews were enemies and Jewish men, especially rabbis, did not speak with women in public), and 2) one of the first evangelists (“sharers of good news”) was a Samaritan and a woman! At the end of the day, the chain of events that Jesus set in motion by violating some serious cultural and religion norms, caused this foreign woman to embrace Jesus as the Messiah and enabled her to convert her whole village. Wow!
Yesterday I was feeling out of sorts because I had done all the preparation for the sermon except writing it. Even though the Session had already made its decision, I decided to write the sermon anyway. My plan is to send it to you tomorrow.
In the meantime, take some time this morning to pray. Pray for our nation and for all nations. Pray for safety, good health, and wise and prudent behavior by all in order to slow the spread of this disease. Pray for the people we have been praying for at church lately. Pray for patience and good will for families who are quarantined or cooped up with each other at home. And above all, do not get discouraged by these events.
At the heart of our faith is God’s promise to be with us in all things (Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”). This is not only a promise, this has happened throughout history and in our own personal experience in the past. So keep the faith. Remain calm. This too, in time, will pass and life will return to normal. Until we are able to meet again, please know that you are in my prayers, and I ask that you pray for me as well. And, remember, wash your hands often, practice physical distancing, and with God’s help, and with each other’s, we will get through this. Thanks be to God!