Saints: Called to do the Impossible*

On this day the Church throughout the world celebrates the saints of God.  While we know from scripture that all of us – every baptized believer – is called to be a saint, set apart and equipped for the service of God, on this day we take encouragement in those who have gone before, those who are now at rest and who have joined that great cloud of spectators, praising God and cheering us on as they eagerly await the time when God will make all things new.

Of course, the Church remembers hundreds of saints throughout the year. If you have one of the lovely church calendars, you see that, most days, there’s the name there of someone who, while certainly not perfect, served God faithfully, repented when they missed the mark, and left a legacy of faithful service for the Church to follow.  (In fact, if you haven’t done it before, I encourage you to Google those names; every one of them is an encouragement, as each of them shows us an example of what it means to follow Jesus in the midst of a messy, broken world.)

But this feast of All Saints makes the point that it’s not just the recognized heroes of the faith who are part of that great cloud of witnesses.  No, the vast majority of the saints of God are ordinary people like you and me who sought to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and flowing out from that, loved their neighbour as themselves.  The great news of this day is that it’s not just Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that are at rest, praising God and cheering us on; no, every faithful Christian: that caring, Christian Grade 2 teacher who patiently spent the time to set you on the right path; that faithful, cheerful old man who always made time to speak to you, to let you know that you mattered, and to give you a word of encouragement; that stranger, in your life for mere moments, whose actions showed you God’s love and mercy at the exact moment you needed it – though they had no idea the impact it made; even that faithful, prayerful great aunt, raised in the depression, who kept her tables covered in plastic,  lovingly covered every chair to protect the fabric, and insisted that you always use a coaster, who taught the whole family, by example, to really know that every single thing you have is a blessing from God: all of them are saints at rest. 

Today we celebrate, and focus in on the examples and encouragement they are to us who are still running our race, and we thank God for those who, in every age, show us what it means to live by grace and to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

How do we follow their example?

First, let me offer this brief statement.

Saints are called to do what is humanly impossible,
not to earn a reward,
but to imitate Christ
with their abundant, over-flowing life.

Saints are called to do what is humanly impossible. 
And we are all called to be saints.

I think it’s important, especially in extraordinary times like these, to be clear about this. 

As we know, this pandemic isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon that we started running without even knowing where the finish line might be.  Are we nearing the end?  Are we only half way?  What surprises lie around the next corner?  We just don’t know.

Some have the instinct, the gut reaction to feel the adrenaline pumping and jump into action, caring for those around them; some have the instinct to retreat and conserve emotional and physical energy, not knowing what the future holds.  But listen to this: as Christians, as those called to be saints, we are called to do what is humanly impossible.

Jesus said “give all that you have and follow me”, and the disciples, like the rich man, got depressed and said ‘Lord, are you sure?  That’s a hard saying.  What’s the point?  Who can even be saved?’  But Jesus looked at them, calling them away from focusing on their own weakness, and said “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.[1]

The saints aren’t those who have mustered up all their own strength to serve God. 

The saints aren’t those who are ‘trying their best’ or ‘giving their all’ in a difficult situation.

No, the saints recognize, right off the bat, that the task in front of them is absolutely impossible. 
The saints are those who know, right from the outset, that there’s no way I can do this. 

The saints are those who see what needs to be done, who sees the road laid out before them, and instead of taking a deep breath and giving it their best, they know, they even embrace, deep down, that ‘with man, this job, this task is going to be impossible; so it can’t be me, it’ll have to be God working in me, for with God, all things are possible.’

So much of the Christian life is simply and absolutely impossible on our own.  It’s not natural for the poor to feel blessed, for the meek to inherit the earth, for those who seek righteousness to be satisfied in an unjust world, for those who are persecuted to rejoice and be glad.[2]  With man these are impossible.  You’d wear yourself out trying, and wind up bitter, anxious, and depressed.  It’s only with God’s help that we can follow in Christ’s footsteps.

And, you know what my friends?  Thanks be to God, we’re doing the impossible!

Let’s be honest: we’re a small church filled with grey heads and little kids.  This time last year, we had just started our Kids’ Club and Community Dinners, and a lot of those parents who were reaching out were asking “where’s the Anglican Church?”.  Young people, parents living in this small town had never even noticed that we were here.

And now – in a pandemic – we’re doing the impossible. Bellies are filled.  Walls of isolation and despair are broken down.  Mountains of crippling debt that keep people enslaved are cast down as they access the money they are due.  People are finding the support they need.  People are finding hope in a time when it’s easy to give up.

The Saints are called to do what is humanly impossible – because it’s not us. 

Seriously, we’re having trouble meeting our budget.  We can’t feed the poor, we can’t free people from debt.  For us, that’s impossible.  But with God – all things are possible.

You know, that’s something I wish I could tell more people, but those who aren’t Christians just don’t get it.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear “wow, I don’t know how you do it.  Where do you get the time?  Do you ever sleep?  I barely have energy to get out of bed”.  But learning to be a saint isn’t about being a hero, or pretending to be perfect.  It’s not about drumming up energy and drive and purpose within ourselves.  It’s the exact opposite.  God presents an opportunity and we say, “I don’t think we can do that”; but if it’s God’s will, he will make a way, and before you know it we are doing the impossible. 

The Saints are called to do what is humanly impossible…

…but not to earn a reward.

All of the saints throughout the history of the Church point to this one reality: they – and we – don’t love God and neighbour to earn God’s blessing or the hope of heaven.  No, we just don’t have it in us to earn God’s favour; the second we start doing good, our pride kicks in, and suddenly we’re not serving others, but ourselves.[3]

No, as we read this morning, the saints at rest aren’t singing and chanting “we did it, we did it”.  Not at all.  It’s the opposite.  The saints are singing and cheering “salvation belongs to God.”[4] It was impossible, but God did it!  To God be the glory, great things he has done, and thanks be to God, he even let someone like me be part of his plan.

We don’t do it to earn a reward…
…but to imitate Christ

Jesus said to all the saints: “take up your cross and follow me”, “if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it; if you lose your life for my sake, you’ll save it.” 

It’s only as we lay down our dependence on ourselves, as we lay down our worries and anxieties – and even our hope and dreams – about tomorrow, and commit to simply live faithfully here and now, we find that the cross – the burden that demands our everything – is so much lighter than the load we were carrying before. 

The saints don’t do the impossible because of their heroic strength or courage or self-lessness.  God does the impossible through them simply because they’re willing to follow in the footsteps of Christ. 

Even our tiny-but-growing church can produce great things if we’re willing to just follow where he leads, instead of trying to predict the future or direct the path ourselves.  We know, and can trust, that whatever we do for our neighbours in Jesus’ name – a meal, mitts for cold hands, an encouraging word, an invitation to come and see what God is doing – is done for Christ, serving him to his glory. 

And, as we serve God that way, as saints doing what is humanly impossible, not to earn a reward, but to imitate Christ, we find that our who life takes on a different shape.

God didn’t say “serve me, try really hard, and fall into bed, wiped out at the end of the day”.  No, that’s the world’s message.

Jesus came to bring abundant life; the message of the Gospel is that our cups can run over, as God’s love for us spills over into our love of God spill, and that spills over into love of our neighbours.  The “blessedness” of the beatitudes, the freedom from hunger and thirst and the weariness of the heat of the day isn’t just something that awaits us when we die.  No, the saints learn that, as we imitate Christ in worship and giving and serving, we find ourselves with more, not less. 

In my own life, on the busiest days, the days with the least time, the more I stop and pray, the less I have to be anxious about… and it all gets done, to God’s glory. 

When I’m tired and want a break, when I offered my tired self to God instead of dwelling on whatever real complaint I might have, I find rest, and might even find the energy to get away, get outside, and get some fresh air.

And, when I know there’s simply nothing more I can do, that it’s impossible for me to help those around me, and instead of trying my hardest, instead of cooking up a solution, I simply offer myself to God’s service, suddenly, God does the impossible.

With God, all things are possible.

In these absolutely tiring, anxiety-causing times, we praise God for the example of those who have gone before us.  None of us have walked this path before.  But, thanks be to God, countless saints have served God through plague and pestilence, and have given themselves, allowed themselves to be used to God’s glory in times far worse than these.

It’s my prayer that, through this, generations will learn anew what it means to trust in God, to simply give up trying our best, to give up trying to earn God’s love, and simply follow Christ and let God use us to do more than we could ask or imagine.

To God be the Glory, now and forever more.  Amen.

[1] Matthew 19:23-37

[2] Matthew 5:1-12

[3] Article XIII of the 39 Articles of Religion

[4] Revelation 7:10

Eyes wide open — to see what matters

Open our eyes, Lord… we want to see Jesus.

Scripture has a lot to say about blindness: one of the promises revealed by the prophets of old was that the Messiah would come to give sight to the blind; in fact, the whole purpose of God revealing himself through his covenant with Abraham was so that his chosen people would be a light to enlighten the nations; a great light for those who were walking, living in the dark.

Jesus Heals a Blind Man

Even if we’ve heard these readings a thousand times, though, it’s absolutely critical that we allow ourselves to hear them again with fresh ears… to read them again with fresh eyes, eyes that are opened to see Jesus at work.  After all, no apostle or missionary risked life and limb for the sake of a history text of what Jesus did… No, the good news of the Gospel is alive, and the one it proclaims – that Lamb who was slain who now reigns in glory – is not just a figure of history to teach us good moral lessons.  He’s at work, even now, as that good news goes forth into all lands, even as Christians around the world are gathered in their homes; he’s at work today, as eyes are opened and light begins to shine in the darkness.

Who Caused this Blindness?

We know how this healing goes.[1]  The man who has been blind from birth is sitting along the road, minding his own business.  Then, the disciples start to talk amongst themselves, pretty embarrassingly, wondering “why is that guy blind?”.  It’s kind of like when you take a young kid out to the grocery store… you know, the first time the child really notices someone without an arm, or with a scar on their face.  You, the parent, try to answer them as quickly and quietly as possible, hoping, praying that they’ll just be quiet and that the person in line in front of you somehow didn’t hear.

…But that’s the scene: the disciples, walking down the road, talking amongst themselves about why this guy is blind.  And, we might say, they offer some common, but childish suggestions:  ‘Jesus, he was born blind because his parents were sinners, right?’  ‘Oh, Jesus, I think he was born blind because his father broke the commandments!’  ‘Well, I think it’s his own fault; I think he sinned while he was a baby’.

And Jesus patiently settles them down, and then sheds light on the situation: ‘guys’, I imagine him saying, ‘that’s not how it goes’.  No one’s sin caused this; it’s not like he somehow got what he deserved.  Blindness, sickness, plagues, even pandemics are just part of the reality of a broken, fallen world; a world in which people have the freedom to choose love and sacrifice over pride; free to choose to worship the God who made it all, or free to live under the illusion that we are somehow in control.

No, Jesus says, this man being born blind, like so much of the illness and brokenness in the world, isn’t caused by anyone.  But, in every broken situation, there is an opportunity for God to work even the worst situations together for good for those who love him, as he works out his eternal purpose of calling us to share in his eternal life.[2]

And then, without even asking the man minding his own business on the side of the road, Jesus spit on the ground, wiggled his finger around in it, made some mud, and wiped it on this guy’s face… so much for hand sanitizer and social distancing! 

Then he tells the man to go wash his face; and suddenly his eyes were open.

It’s remarkable; sometimes God wants us to ask for healing, like the paralyzed man lying for years at the pool, where Jesus stopped and asked the man if he even wanted to get well, before telling him to simply pick up his mat and go.  But, this time, the gift of God came without any request or act of faith on the part of the man, other than washing this stranger’s spit off his face, which I’m sure he would have done anyway.

God just did it, while the man simply washed his face, as he was expected to do.

And, I think that’s the point.

The brokenness, the blindness, the illness, the pain, the injustice are part and parcel of life in a fallen world.  Any relief from physical suffering is, by nature, only temporary until that day when God restores all things and makes them new, sharing his life and light with those who have chosen to call him Lord.

Jesus never promised to protect and keep us from physical pain or suffering.  The blind man went on to have other pain and struggles.  Even the people that Jesus raised from the dead went on to die again when their bodies wore out. 

Spiritual Blindness

You see, as good as sight is, the point was never about physical blindness.

Jesus said to him, “do you believe in the Son of Man?”  Confused, the man who is just seeing the world for the first time in his life says, “who is he?  Tell me so that I can believe”.

Jesus looks him in his now-opened eyes and says, “you have seen him”.

Just like that, the purpose of this healing comes into view.  Why did Jesus open this man’s eyes?  Was it to make his life better, to ease his suffering as a beggar on the road?

No, as much as we might wish that was Jesus’ mission.

He opened the man’s eyes so that Jesus could reveal himself.  And then, coming face-to-face with the one who blessed him, who changed his life without even asking, the man says the most important words of his earthly life: “Lord, I believe”.

Suffering, pain, plagues, pandemics, and even death itself are our lot in this fallen world.  God is at work not to give us a life full of sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops; no, God, in Jesus, meets us in the messiness of this world, literally in the mud of the dirty roads, in the fear and uncertainty and masks and gloves and hands raw from sanitizer not to whisk us away, but to show us that when we say “Lord, I believe”, then, whatever we face, we have no reason to fear, for even in the valley of the shadow of death, a valley we’ll all walk, his rod and staff are there to comfort and guide,[3] and what a comfort it is once our eyes are open to see that the same Lord who meets us where we are is the one who has conquered death and the grave and even now has prepared a place for us.  (If it wasn’t Lent, I’d shout Alleluia!).

Eyes to see the Light

But that’s not all. “For once you were darkness, but now you are light.  Live as children of the light”.[4]

If you’ve ever known someone born blind, there’s something remarkable: they don’t think of themselves as being “in the dark”.  What we call “blindness” is simply all they’ve ever known, as their minds and bodies adjust in absolutely incredible ways to interact with the world around them.

Jesus is the light of the world; the whole purpose of God’s revelation is to shine light into the darkness; we’re called to be a well-lit city on a hill guiding travelers in, a lamp lifted high in a dark room to shine into every corner.

But here’s the thing about light.  Light doesn’t change what was there in the darkness.  Light just makes it visible.  Light lets us see things as they really are.

As a kid I can remember waking up, scared in my bed as a terrifying shadow with horns and claws appeared on my wall.  In the dark, it was absolutely horrifying.  But, once the light let me see things as they really are, that life-threatening monster was a pile of laundry with a Power Ranger action figure lying on top.

Jesus said, “for judgment I have come into the world, so that the blind will see and those that see will become blind”. 

In our circumstances, even in a pandemic, God gives us opportunities to let the light illuminate the darkness; to let Him open our eyes so that we can get beyond the shadows that we think we understand, and instead see things as God sees them – see things as they really are.

And, if we’re willing, it’s eye opening.

This week, with reacting to the news, the uncertainty of how things will play out, the work of figuring out what it really means to be the church when the doors are closed, God opened my eyes.

Delivering newsletters and public health notices hanging from the doorknobs of those without email, I saw for the first time just how disconnected our world has become through technology.  Having to adjust to the school, the arena, the pool, and the library all being closed, my eyes have been opened once again to just how addicted I can be to “things to do”.  And then again, with no runs to bring the kids home at lunch, to the arena for skating, to the pool for swimming, my eyes were opened to realize that it isn’t the activity that I miss… I’m not missing my swim; I’m missing running into friends and neighbours, chatting to the guy named Danny at the rec centre counter for even 2 minutes.  In the midst of a pandemic, the fault of our fallen world, God has opened my eyes to see what really matters; and, like the blind man, face to face with the one through whom all things were made, at a time like this when — without our permission — everything changes, Jesus stands across from us, looking us in the eyes. 

And, as the light pierces through the darkness, letting us see things as they really are, not as we in our blindness think they might be, the time comes for us to say those most important words that we can ever utter:  “My Lord, I believe”.

He doesn’t need our permission to open our eyes… he’s doing it even now.

And, for those with eyes opened, this is an opportunity:
this is the time for us, too, to realize ‘I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.’

To God be the Glory now and forevermore.  Amen.

[1] John 9:1-41

[2] Romans 8:28

[3] Psalm 23

[4] Ephesians 5:8-14

Motivated by Hope

Endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…[1]

This morning we find ourselves gathered for worship, following through on a number of wise, science-based precautions, while many Christians in the United States, Europe, Asia, around the world, and even in our own country are unable to worship in person because of how very easily this new virus spreads when people are close together, and because of the overwhelming strain our health system would face if even one or two percent of the population required hospitalization.  Though the World Health Organization says that most cases are mild, in our case, if even 1% of our town’s population needed oxygen to help them breathe, that would be 25 people, well beyond the beds available in our little health centre.  We’re right to be vigilant.

We gather today, following the advice of the experts in public health and disease control; experts who say that we, in our corner of the world, do not need to panic and hoard supplies, and are still low risk until cases of the virus arrive, though public events drawing large crowds with people who may have returned from infected areas out-of-town are wisely being cancelled.  We gather today knowing that, depending on how things play out, this may be our last large gathering for a while, though no matter what happens, daily prayer will continue here in God’s house, even if it means that your priest is here alone, ringing the bell to call this town to remember Almighty God, and faithfully praying for each of you on behalf of us all.

We’re right not just to be cautious, but to be concerned, and for that concern to lead us to be vigilant in caring for our families, for our neighbours, for the elders and those with health concerns, and for ourselves.  We follow the best advice and serve Christ in one another, even if it means inconveniencing the healthy for the sake of the weak. 

But, as Christians and together as the Church, there’s one thing that should not be found in our response: fear.

What’s our Motivation?

You see, as we find in scripture, sometimes our actions are simply neutral – they’re not good or bad in and of themselves.  Sometimes it’s our motivations, our intentions, our heart that makes an action right or wrong, good or bad, sinful or righteous, depending on whether not just the action, but the motivation, make us better imitators of Christ, or if they seek to protect and preserve ourselves, and thus miss the mark.

For example: we’re told to honour our parents.  But, if a child helps their aging parent because they want to protect their future inheritance, that help isn’t honouring them at all; the action of helping their parent becomes self-centered and sinful.

Or, as we heard in the Gospel on Ash Wednesday, we’re told to be generous and faithful in prayer, but if we write big cheques and come faithfully to church only to be seen by others, then those good actions are no longer faithful, and as Jesus says, “truly I tell you, they already have their reward”.[2]

And so, we must ask ourselves: as those who profess faith in Jesus, as those who know and firmly believe that trials produce endurance and endurance produces godly character, as those who know that the gates of death have been destroyed, and for those who die in faith, death itself is the start of a better, fuller life in Christ’s kingdom: what is our motivation.  What is driving our concern, our vigilance in these days?

If our actions are motivated by, and founded firmly upon wisdom, sober-mindedness, truth, and true love for the common good, then we’ll find that when faced by trials, that house built on the rock will stand firm.

But, that doesn’t come naturally.

The Problem with Fear

Rather, if we look around, and perhaps even if we look within, we find that all too often our actions aren’t built on a firm foundation, but on the shapeless constantly-shifting sand of fear.  And no matter the effort, any shelter built on shifting sand can only ever collapse, hurting those very loved ones it was meant to protect.

Fear, of course, is nothing new.  In Exodus 17 we heard once more of God’s chosen people who find themselves crippled by fear.

Of course, God had provided for their escape from slavery and had kept them safe and blessed them along the way, and God had just provided the sweet grain of manna to eat in morning and the tasty meat of quails to roast at night, but once again, they find themselves doubting and afraid.

Did they have reason to be concerned?  Yes.  They were travelling bit by bit through the desert, and now find themselves camping at an area without water.

But, did they have reason to be afraid?  No – after all, the Lord had provided everything they needed, and even more practically, it’s not like this was their destination… this was just a stop along the way.

But, as always happens with fear, rumors started to fly.  The rumors turned to mumbling, the mumbling turned to doubt, and then, like an angry mob fighting over toilet paper for fear of a lung infection, they lost their minds and were ready to stone the one person who was able to help.[3]

And, I have to be honest, there’s something in this story that I never noticed before today: of course, this lesson is about God’s provision.  But, in this case, Moses prays to God and says “what am I to do?  They’re ready to stone me!”, but God doesn’t reply with “I’ve heard your prayer” or “I’ve heard your grumbling in the wilderness… I’ll take care of you now that you’ve prayed”. 

No – remember, this wasn’t their destination; they were just stopped along the way. 

And God’s response is simply – ‘Moses… keep walking!’  Take the leaders of the people, keep walking on the path that you’re on, and you’ll find the water I’m providing for you. 

Was God leading them into the desert to die of thirst?  No!  Had he provided all that they needed, and would he provide water too?  Yes, of course.  But, what if the only reason they hadn’t found that water was because they had become bogged down, crippled by fear.

They were journeying, then rumors started to fly, then murmuring, then a mob-mentality took over, and the only thing that was accomplished by fear was stopping them from reaching the spring of water from the rock that was just up ahead on their path. 

If only they had kept walking, not slowed down by fear, God would have revealed it – but, motivated by fear, they expended a whole lot of energy accomplishing nothing of any benefit whatsoever. 

The same is true with us. 

Yes, fear is a natural response, but what hero has ever accomplished anything of any benefit with fear as the motivation?  No, we’re called to overcome fear, and as those baptized and commissioned to be the mouth, hands, and feet of Christ in a confused world, we’re called to act as those whose faith is built upon the solid rock, the source of all wisdom and truth, as we must believe and proclaim that even the most recent medical advice – if it’s true in any sense – is built upon the one source of truth that is Jesus Christ our Lord.

And we must be vigilant, because fear is contagious.  And worse still, fear is addictive.  Once we’ve become fearful, we become addicts, who can’t get enough.  You only have to watch the news: it becomes all we can talk about, all we want to talk about, and suddenly we’re committed to finding new things to be afraid of under every rock and in every dark corner.

At times like these, we are to take to heart the words of St. Paul to Timothy during a time of great difficulty and confusion: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God … for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.”[4]

Not fear.  No, be not afraid.  Even in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. 

So, then, what does it look like not to be motivated by fear in times like these?

The Christian Alternative

Well, God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.

With wisdom and truth as our motivation, our concern and vigilance in this pandemic will be confident.  We don’t worry about tomorrow because we know the one who holds tomorrow in his hand. Does that mean we don’t take preparation seriously?  No – the opposite; we prepare as those who know that God is with us, to strengthen, to guide, and to comfort, no matter what happens, even when the day comes that each of us will breathe our last and meet him face to face.

And, in that confidence, we have hope.  Our epistle from Romans 5 said it perfectly: we’re not crippled by fear; rather, we can even “boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”[5]  God is in control, so much that, in spite of our rebellion and sin, before you were even born, he sent his Son to redeem not just the world, but you, personally.  God will see us through… but, if we’re stuck mumbling and fighting on the path, we’ll miss out on the great provision God has for us just up ahead.

And, fundamentally, in times like these, a Christian response, motivated by wisdom and truth, is one that is not self-serving. 

And that looks different depending on where we are on our journey.

The best wisdom that we’re receiving from medical professionals – by the grace of God, I’ll add – is that, once the risk of infection becomes moderate or high, there are further precautions we must take, not just for ourselves, but for the common good.  And the Christian response is to serve the common good, to serve God in all persons, even when it limits ourselves.

Those who are 70 and older, or who have health issues or weakened immune systems will be told to stay at home at some point.  We should do that.  Not out of fear, but out of wisdom, as even those of us who think we’re strong need to heed the truth, for the sake of those who might need a hospital bed or oxygen tank.

Those who are low risk, for whom the symptoms wouldn’t be much more than the common cold, might also be told to stay home.  We should do that, not out of fear, but because if just being angry and holding a grudge is, in God’s eyes, equivalent to murder, how much worse is it if, by our stubbornness, the vulnerable in our community become infected and die.

For all of us Christians, this is a time of sacrifice.  The time may come when this congregation sets up a phone tree to check on those living alone; the time may come when those who are healthy and low-risk are called to pick up groceries and do errands for those who, for the common good, must stay home even if they are well.  We’re all called to sacrifice: those older or at higher risk will sacrifice their pride and independence, while those who are younger will be called to sacrifice their time and strength. 

This is the Church’s moment.  This is when, each of us, in our actions as appropriate to our place in life, acts in such a unified way that the world around us says, “see how they love one another”.

And, finally, if we live as those who turn from fear and walk in truth, who live in the confidence and hope of a sure and certain faith, together with confidence and hope, we’ll be faithful.  Faith overcomes fear.  Turn off the news, and pray.  Lay down your phone, and pray.  When the virus reaches our community, pray.  When your friend becomes infected, pray.  If a state of emergency is declared, pray.  When the first death is recorded, even in the isolated North, pray.  And pray not as those who have no faith; but pray that our wills would be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ, so that each of us will be at peace, and will have the grace to do what is best not for ourselves, but for this Body of which we are all members, and for the world which we are called to serve.

Endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.  Amen.

[1] Romans 5:4-5

[2] Matthew 6

[3] Exodus 17:1-7

[4] 2 Timothy 1:4-7

[5] Romans 5:1-11