A Sermon on the Coronavirus: Christ is our Hope and our Life!
Dear members of Grace:
May the Lord bless you with His peace and grace during these challenging days of the coronavirus pandemic. The following is my sermon for you which I preached on Sunday, March 15, 2020. If any of you would like to talk to me for any reason or would like a pastoral visit please call me at the church number or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text: 1 Corinthians 13:13, Third Sunday in Lent
Intro: The coronavirus is all over the news these days, everything you read and hear seems to be about this virus. What it is, and as Christians how do we respond to it? While the news could bring us to despair it is our hope in Christ that makes the difference for us.
We begin with what is the coronavirus?
The coronavirus is an infectious virus that causes respiratory illness (affects the lungs). You can think of it as a type of flu but the typical flu mortality rate is 0.1%. The American CDC is working on the mortality rate of the coronavirus, and there are lots of numbers out there, but recent reports are indicating it is about 0.7-1.0% which makes it 7-10 times more deadly than the flu. Individuals who are over sixty years of age and have underlying health issues are most at risk. Kids, the good news for you is you can rest easy, children seem to rarely become very sick from it.
The main symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The CDC says the coronavirus is thought to spread mainly between people who come in close contact with each other (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also survive for a time on surfaces but it is unknown how well the virus spreads this way.
Some medical researchers are reporting that people with the coronavirus may become infectious and be able to pass it on to others before they have any symptoms of the virus, but this has not yet been scientifically verified. The incubation period is thought to be 2-14 days with an average of 5 days.
Initial data from China says an infected person on average passes the virus on to 2-3 people which makes its spread exponential. Currently worldwide, the number of cases of people being infected is doubling every seven days. For some 85% of people who get the coronavirus they will have minor symptoms like a cold or a mild fever. Roughly another 14% can get more serious complications like pneumonia. At this point it seems about 1.0% of those who get the coronavirus-the most vulnerable members of our society-the coronavirus is fatal. The average age of death is 80.
The good news: While there is currently no known vaccine for the coronavirus many medical companies are working on one and there are about ten candidates that seem to have some promise. If discovered, a vaccine will prevent people from the adverse affects of the coronavirus. On the therapeutic side, a therapeutic drug called Redesivir which stops the coronavirus from multiplying in infected patients is also showing some promise. For now governments around the world are trying to buy time using social distancing and by having infected people isolate themselves until they are better.
Hearing the spread of coronavirus around the world can cause us to be afraid and despair, so as Christians how do we respond to the coronavirus?
This brings us to our sermon text for today where St. Paul writes to the church in Corinth in 1 Cor 13:13: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
If we may call these the three main virtues of the holy Christian faith, then the three chief enemies of the Christian seek to attack and counter these 3 virtues.
The devil chiefly attacks our faith-for he does not want us to trust God; thus he does not want us to hear God’s Word or take it to heart; Satan’s accusations are directed toward doubt and unbelief.
The world chiefly attacks hope through its false hopes by which we are enticed to covet or through its ongoing fears like sickness from the coronavirus, bankruptcy or climate catastrophe to bring us to despair.
The sinful nature chiefly attacks love – by being turned in on oneself to selfishness and self-centredness. The sinful nature’s actions are always contrary to love.
The coronavirus falls under the second category a spiritual attack from the world and through the coronavirus we are challenged to despair of the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ our Lord.
This challenge to the hope we have in Christ from the coronavirus does not come from God. God did not make the coronavirus. After the Fall our human bodies are now susceptible to pathogens like viruses which are themselves a result of the Fall. They are a threat to us physically and in many ways mentally and spiritually as well. As Christians how do we deal with the threat of the coronavirus spiritually?
First, on a most basic level, we try and stay healthy by doing the things our doctor and health authorities tell us can keep us from being infected by the virus. By doing these things we not only protect ourselves but put ourselves in a position to be a caregiver to any family member who gets sick with the virus.
Second, on an emotional level we consider the fear that the coronavirus confronts us with and that is a sudden loss of our life or the life of a loved one. The mental and emotional danger of this kind of spiritual attack is that we would be brought to a standstill by fear: that we fear going outside of home or any public place in the hope of avoiding getting infected and despair.
When your preacher learned some month ago how potentially big the coronavirus would become, this exponential doubling every seven days, I must admit it overwhelmed me for a few hours and sent me on my knees in prayer for myself, my family and relatives and all of you. Perhaps the spiritual warfare I experienced is something akin to what you have experienced recently: a thought of how greatly this could affect my family and you my church family whom I dearly love and care for. Psychologists call this anticipatory grief, grieving a loss before it happens.
God says to us in Psalm 50, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” If you are worried, don’t fret, pray. Pray to the Living God who is all-powerful and who has already shown He loves You in Christ. Call upon God to protect you and your family. Let God worry about the coronavirus. He is almighty. He can cause it to start disappearing in a decay curve as exponential as was its growth curve. God’s promise to us is that as we call upon Him in prayer and place our hope in him in prayer He will deliver us. God desires you to unload your anxieties about the coronavirus upon Him in prayer. Not only will this give you mental and emotional relief and peace, but more importantly you will be asking the one true God who actually has the ability to deal with the problem and who promises to answer prayer to deal with the problem.
The third way we deal with the challenge of the coronavirus is to place our hope squarely on Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour for at its heart the coronavirus is a challenge to the hope we have in Jesus.
The coronavirus as a global pandemic is a classic spiritual attack originating from the world. We like to think we have it all figured out. We like to think that through human agency we can make just about anything happen in society and in the world. We like to think we are secure, blessed economically, socially, and in our health living in this stable and prosperous nation. The coronavirus is a threat from the world that shows us we don’t have it all figured out. It shows us that every moment of every day comes to us by the gracious providence of God.
If our hope is in anything in this world then the coronavirus will very quickly bring this misplaced hope to the surface. In one way God can and will use the coronavirus this Lent to show us some of our misplaced hopes: on our lifestyle, our supposed health security based our modern health system, whatever we might be placing our hope on, or fear losing, outside of God, God will use the coronavirus to show us that. One good thing that will come out of all this for each of us is God the Holy Spirit will open our mind see the people or things that we falsely put our hope in, in order to turn our hearts and hope to Jesus Christ our Lord and one true hope.
King Solomon writes in Proverbs chapter 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways know him, and he will make your path straight.” What Solomon is saying here is trust that God has your highest good always in His heart. Lean on His love and care for you not on your own strength. In all your plans look to God and His Word for guidance and God will guide you.
Listen to Christ’s words of comfort for you: Read Luke 12:22-31. Jesus’ call to you and your heart is: “Place your trust and your hope in me. I am your God and I am your provider. Don’t worry about tomorrow, focus only on today. I am with you today in grace and mercy and I will be with you tomorrow. If you get sick, I will be with you. If you go to the hospital, I will be with you. The doctors are my servants even if they don’t know it. If you die, I have died on the cross in your place, to take your sins away and to share with you eternal life. Your body may die but you cannot die eternally because I rose from the dead. My love for you and my resurrection from the dead is the right place to put your hope. The coronavirus can’t touch the life you have in me: it’s eternal and unstoppable! The life you have in me through faith and Holy Baptism will result in your resurrection to the joys of my new creation which will never ever be touched by sickness or death. I am your hope. I am your future. I am the Saviour who watches over you-always.” As I have said to you, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” (Mt 28:20)
Conclusion: I usually don’t tell humorous stories in sermons but I will tell you a short one now because it has to do with the coronavirus….President Trump explaining to reporters that he had not touched his face in several weeks… “I miss my face!” You and I may have to miss some comforts and freedoms we take for granted in the coming days for the sake of the common good. But no matter what the next few weeks and possibly even years of the coronavirus bring our way our Lord and Saviour is always with us. He is with us in His Word, He is with us in His Holy Sacraments and He is with us as we talk to Him in prayer. Christ is our hope, our confidence and our life! In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.