Summary: Examining God's Word in light of the Coronavirus, and finding hope, peace, security, and comfort therein.
A Mighty Fortress is our God
Text: Psalm 91:1-16
Well, I have to say, that I was going to have us go back to John’s Gospel this morning, but a lot has happened since last Sunday. You all know about the Coronavirus that’s sweeping across the world, that’s why our numbers are down this morning, and it’s caused us to change things up a little here at the Church. It seems like new developments come out every hour about this virus, and we’re getting a lot of information, and a lot of misinformation, and it’s difficult to sort through it all. As of Saturday (March 21, 2020), there are 275,434 confirmed cases of Coronavirus world-wide, and 11,399 deaths. That’s nowhere near what we saw with H1N1 in 2009. In just the U.S. alone, there were over 60 million confirmed cases of H1N1, and more than 200,000 died world-wide from that virus. And really; it’s not even up to the levels of Influenza yet… Every year the flu – Influenza claims between 20,000 – 60,000 lives. And the reason I’m giving you those numbers (which by the way are coming from John’s Hopkins University, the CDC, and the WHO), is because I want you to get things into perspective.
As Christians; we are NOT to be people who are prone to panic, hysteria, or knee jerk reactions. Instead; we as Christians are people who serve an almighty God, who is in control of everything throughout all of creation. Our God is Almighty, He is Sovereign, and He loves His people with an everlasting love. As Christians; THAT has to be the lens we look through first. And that doesn’t mean that as Christians we will somehow miraculously be immune to COVID-19, or that if we did catch it, it won’t make us sick, or that we wouldn’t die from it. What it means is that we trust in God’s good plan. And you all have heard me say this many times before. The old African proverb – “If God is not finished with me I cannot die!” And that is true! Even though it tends to drive the more fearful among us crazy when I say it, it’s true.
So what I want to do this morning, is lay out for you all a few examples of how we can face this as followers of Christ, who trust in our Good and loving God, and who trust in His unchanging Word. We’re first going to look at a couple of examples of how God’s people have dealt with things similar to this, and then we’re going to go directly to God’s Word.
So… let’s go back in time to the year 420 AD, and the barbarians have invaded the City of Rome. The Roman Empire is on its heels. The entire civilized world at the time was collapsing, and falling apart. If you had been alive at this time, everything that you would have known was being turned upside down, and destroyed. And the fall of Rome is going to eventually lead to the Dark Ages, and a long period of just horrible, horrible times. And during this time – in 420 AD. There were two Church Fathers who were very influential. One was Jerome. He’s the guy who had written the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible… and the other guy was Augustine. And as the Barbarian’s stormed the city of Rome, Jerome, was so distraught, and so upset, and so beside himself, he went into isolation in a cave, and basically died of depression. Because society, civilization, and culture as he knew it, was basically over. He fell into deep depression, and despair, and basically gave up. The other Church Father, Augustine, wrote a little book… 900+ pages, called City of God, and in that book he takes an entirely different perspective than Jerome. Augustine basically says, “There is the City of Man, which is shifting and changing all throughout human history. Empires rise and fall, economies grow large and robust, and then collapse; time marches on, but the City of God endures forever. It is eternal, and it’s the goal of every believer.” Augustine went on to live for 10 more years, before dying at the age of 75. He went on teaching, preaching, evangelizing, writing books, and making a difference for the Kingdom of God here on earth.
The difference between Jerome and Augustine was their perspective, and their view of God and His sovereignty and goodness. And the main difference between the two men was where they had placed their hope.
Fast forward to the 1500’s. The Bubonic Plague was spreading across Europe. Before it was finished, it would end up killing close to 60 million people, and wiping out nearly 2/3rds of Europe’s population. And around 1527 or so, it hit Germany. People knew it was coming, and they began to panic. And they began to flee in mass. Hysteria, fear, panic, concern… it was all very real during this time, and… let’s be honest… it was justified. Nearly 60 million dead, with no cure in sight. I mean… if you caught the Black Plague, you were a goner within a week or two. And so; like I said, people were in a panic, and they began to flee in mass… almost like a stampede. Now… there’s a World Heritage Site in Alberta Canada called “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”, and it’s a pretty interesting place from what I’ve read about it. It was a slaughter site for the Blackfoot Indian Tribe. And basically what would happen is that on a nice day, a group of Blackfoot on horseback, would come riding into a buffalo herd, whooping and hollering, and they’d get the herd to panic. As the buffalo began to run, the Blackfoot would direct those few bulls that were in the lead, toward a cliff – “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”. And it’s interesting, because they only had to direct the few buffalo that were in the front of the stampede. The rest just blindly followed, and all they could see was the buffalo in-front of them. And you can probably figure out what happened. Over the side of the cliff they went. It was a hugely successful hunting strategy for the Blackfoot… not so good for the buffalo though.