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By MATT MORTON
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
I'm not a doctor, nor an infectious disease specialist, nor a stock broker, nor a government official, nor a prophet. I'm just a pastor. I'm not even a famous one. Mostly what I do is say a few very important things to a few people, over and over again, in different ways. For one thing, I tell people that Jesus loves us; that He died and rose again for us, even though we don't deserve it. I remind people that Jesus wants us to believe in Him and to be with Him, now and forever. He wants that even though we've made a mess of His world and of our own lives. That's the heart of what I say from week to week.
At the heart of that message is the belief that God is good. God is compassionate. God is kind. He isn't trying to kill us or confuse us or lead us into dark places. To the contrary, He moves heaven and earth to save us.
Also at the heart of that message is the belief that God is in control. He's bigger than death, bigger than our sin, and bigger than the things that scare us. I don't know how any specific situation will turn out, but the Bible tells us that the end of the whole story is very good.
I know that what I'm offering here isn't as tangible as a vaccine. It doesn't feel as immediately comforting as a good 20-second hand-washing. And I'm also not a fantastic example in certain respects, since I touch my own face all the time, especially when I'm anxious and trying not to. I'm trying to change that.
But here's what I'd say today, for what it's worth:
To my friends who don't know Jesus, I hope you won't mind me saying that I hope you come to know Him. He's really, really good, and He offers eternal hope in the face of the worst chaos.
To my friends who do know Him, I hope you won't mind me saying that this is a great time to imitate Him. We can avoid panic without veering off into mockery. Jesus told us not to be afraid, but He never laughed at people's fears, no matter what they were. He knows that this world can be scary and confusing, and He extends grace, even to the fearful. Maybe especially to the fearful. At least I hope so, because I'm often fearful myself, and so far He still loves me so graciously. We can also proclaim hope without being naive or dismissive of the real problems in the world. And we can be truthful but also compassionate, bold without being selfish and uncaring. These things aren't either/or. They're both/and.
My planned sermon text for this week is from John 14, a chapter that starts with these words: "Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me." It's a great place to start. It's actually a great place to live, also. When it seems like the mountains are tumbling right into the ocean, we can trust Him. We have a refuge, an ever-present help in time of trouble, a God who knows our fears and our unbelief and our selfishness and our unkindness, but a God Who wants to be with us anyway.
Like I said, I'm just a pastor. I say the same stuff over and over again. But at times like this it never hurts to say it one more time.