Lent 3 “Pandemic”
March 15, 2020 – Romans 5:8
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Pandemic. One of the things I learned in my undergrad was the Greek language. When I learned Greek it was usually in the context of old mythology, with beasts, old houses, and basic things happening like a god sending down a lightening bolt, or a person simply walking. As you study Greek you realize how many of the English words we use today find their roots in Greek. For example, “Chardi” is Greek for ‘heart’ and “graphos” is Greek for ‘writing’. So, an English cardiograph is a picture, or writing, of the heart – usually found in graph form.
One word that is simple, hard to forget, and found combined with a bunch of others words is ‘pan.’ The Greek Pantheon in Rome was a temple for all the gods. Pandemonium is what we use to describe an outbreak of wild noisy confusion and uproar. Literally, it translates as ‘all the demons’ like a place of chaos where demons run wild.
Of course, the ‘pan’ word we’re hearing a lot of now is pandemic. Pandemic describes something that affects all the people. A pandemic disease runs through the whole world and can cause a lot of problems.
Many of you are experiencing the problems this recent pandemic has been causing. School trips cancelled, tournaments postponed, important, or not-so-important meetings cancelled. Travel plans ruined, borders locked down, sporting-events seasons interrupted, there’s even a run on toilet paper at the stores! Like it or not, this pandemic has been causing a lot of problems and most of these problems are simply unfortunate side-effects of trying to fight off the wide-reaching attack of the virus.
Are you sacred? Are you worried for when this virus finally hits NW Ontario? Are you scared for yourself or maybe your loved ones? Who knows, maybe God will spare us and keep everyone here safe from any harm. Maybe this new and mysterious pandemic will turn out to be nothing more than another scare.
Unlike this pandemic, we have a more serious pandemic that takes not just a few percent of all who are affected like this one we are focused on now. There is a pandemic that takes 100% of all who are affected by it. At this time, this pandemic I’m talking about has affected 100% of all people alive today with a 100% fatality rate. It is sin.
Sins’ effects disrupt our day constantly with problems. Have declining health? Sin. Can’t always think so clearly anymore? Sin. Have a fight with someone recently? Sin. Have you been hurt by what someone did to you? Sin. Have you heard of anybody dying or are you struggling with the loss of someone you loved? Sin.
Sin affects everyone. Sin kills everyone! It does not matter how much Lysol you use, or how much hand sanitizer, washing your hands, self isolation you do, or toilet paper you stock up on you are already infected and sin is going to kill you. 100% guaranteed.
So what do you do? What do you do when there is nothing you truly CAN do – like with sin?
What do you do when there are some things you can try to do to limit the chances of being affected or affecting others – like with the corona virus?
Do you fear it? Fear is usually a healthy response to most dangers. Do you fear it more than God Himself? Do you fear it more than the one who gave you life itself and has the authority to put you eternally in heaven or hell?
The very first commandment is to have no other gods. What is a god? A god is anything that you fear, love, or trust in above all else. Do you fear this virus more than God? Do you trust in your hand-sanitizer to save you more than God to save you? Don’t hear me wrong here. It is a good use of the reason God gave us to protect ourselves from dangers by washing our hands and keeping good distances from each other. It is not wise to test God by misguidedly thinking he will protect you from any danger just because you think he should. He gave us our mind and reason for a purpose, but that purpose was not to drive us away from Him. That purpose was to use it well and even to be drawn to God in our sufferings.
Paul writes that our suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and our character produces hope in God’s sure and certain love for us. You see, there are people right now suffering and paralyzed by this virus. There are people who have no hope of life after death. There are people who are panicking over this virus and there are people who are panicking over their sin.
They have this pandemic and they do not know how to see past it. These pandemics are so all-encompassing and overwhelming it is hard to see a cure. There are people right now who so desperately need to hear about Jesus. They need to hear that there is a cure. They need to hear that there is life after a virus that can kill. They need to hear that there is life after the suffering and death they experience in this life. This suffering can be the start of their hope in God’s love for them.
There is another ‘pan’ word found in the Gospel about Jesus written by John. It says that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that ‘pan’ (all) who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. God has come to all of us. As 1 Timothy says God wants “pan” (all) people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. And Jesus gave himself as a ransom for “pan” (all) (1 Tim 2:4-6).
Just as the pandemic that infects us is widespread to all people, the cure is for all people too. The cure comes to us in the telling of the Gospel. The cure comes to us in the body and blood our Lord gives to us here at this table, not for our detriment, but for the forgiveness of our sin as He commanded us to receive it. The cure comes to us in the words “I forgive your sin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This pandemic cure is for YOU and everyone else in this world right now struggling with the effects of this corona virus and of sin in general.
God does not wait for us to find the cure and fix ourselves. He jumps into our mess and saves us in our sin – “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We merely need to be told. We are merely told, and not deny, that Jesus “is indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).
The Gospel has Jesus and a Samaritan woman talking about it another way. Jesus talks about giving the woman living water. Water that whoever drinks of it will never be thirsty again. Jesus is offering this woman the cure for thirst. Jesus is offering the cure from suffering in this world. Jesus is offering the cure to sin; baptism of water and the spirit which forgives all the sins of a person. Not just some sins, not just some of your thirst, not just some of your death. All of it is forgiven. Eternal life is given. This pandemic cure – of Jesus – is for all diseases, all sins, and is for all people. Especially… you and your neighbour. In Jesus name, Amen.