17 March 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Please read this message, as things have developed so quickly over the last few days. I am a person who likes to reflect and pray about decisions, not to make them in a panic. So here are my thoughts:
Fear. It is powerful emotion, a force that can paralyze us, or cause us to act irrationally. It is a natural emotion, God-given, and intended to alert us to danger. But it can easily dominate and destroy us. Sometimes instead of facing our fears, we "cover" them with anger. Right now the world and our nation are dominated by fear and, yes, anger. Things seem to be spiraling out of control. Yet, the Bible tells us that we, who trust in Jesus Christ, are children of God and that we are not to be ruled by fear. Furthermore, God IS in control. John the Apostle wrote:
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (I John 4:17-18)
There are many other Scriptures that deal with our human fears. I have always found the Psalms extremely helpful, especially Psalms 23, 91, and 46. The apostle Paul reminded his protege, Timothy, "For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control."
That doesn't mean that we should dismiss the Covid-19 (Coronavirus). The Bible also speaks of being wise. So we wash our hands, don't touch people, and for now, stay away from groups of more than a few folks. Even so, we are told that most people will get the virus. There is good news, though. The virus is already waning in China and India. Most people not only recover, but most have rather mild symptoms. But, we need to be considerate and empathetic for those at risk, i.e. the elderly, and those with weak immune systems.
But what about church services? That is a tough one. A few days ago I did not want to cancel services, and I wrote the following:
The word "Church" means the "assembly" of God's people. While we are made members of the Church by being born anew through faith in Jesus Christ, we are not merely individuals in relationship to Jesus. We are a Body. Jesus promised that "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) He also said, "as often as you gather, do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) That is why Christians have gathered weekly for two thousand years to celebrate the Lord's Supper, in spite of hardships, persecution and other potential threats.
Nevertheless, our government's leaders have asked our help in combating the spread of this virus by not assembling in large groups. Texas Governor Abbott has issued a ban on groups of more than fifty persons. President Trump has asked that we avoid groups of more than ten. Therefore, this Sunday, and the next, we will not have regular worship services. Instead, we will livestream a service of Morning Prayer, with contemporary music, sermon, and intercession, at 10:45 a.m. So, please join us. You may access the service on our youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7K-OISkRPoekvY-A_6No6A
In addition, we are cancelling the Wednesday Lenten service. Instead, we will livestream a service at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow as a test for Sunday. Again, please join us at the link above. You may also access our Youtube channel by searching for "The Church of St. Clement."
As of now, our next regular Church services will be Saturday, April 4th and Palm Sunday, April 5th.
Finally, starting tomorrow, the clergy will be sending out daily email devotionals.
If you are feeling afraid of this virus, commit yourself to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and trust that He is with you and will protect you. Even if you get sick, He will not leave or abandon you. He loves you. If you are concerned about being exposed to other people, isolate yourself. But isolation has its own dangers. Stay in touch with people by phone or in small groups. If you would like to talk to a pastor, or for one of us to visit you, we are available to you. Please call the church office or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, which goes directly to the clergy. We want to help.
How long will this go on? We don't know. Weeks, perhaps longer. Please pray for our nation, and all nations, as we go through this trial. Ask our Heavenly Father to give us all grace, not only to be physically healthy, but to be free from the greater spiritual enemy of fear. God is able to bring good out of this very difficult situation, and He promises to do so for those who love Him! (Romans 8:28)
A request: We know that this will be a difficult time financially for many, especially those without a lot of resources. Please remember that the Church of St. Clement is dependent on you, even in hard times. You may give online here. Thank you in advance for your faithfulness.
Yours in our Lord Jesus,