4th Sunday of Lent
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: March 22, 2020
“Let us replicate God’s Love faster than any virus!”
Right now, we are all in unknown territory…the coronavirus has been spreading for the past few months causing hundreds of thousands of sicknesses and over 8,000 deaths already with no known anti-viral.
Each day we watch the news, we listen to the radio to see what is happening now both around the world, in our country, in our province and city. Things change daily with cancellations of events, shutdowns of stores, restaurants, and now church services. We can’t visit people in nursing homes or hospitals.
We worry as we try to see how this will affect us, our families, friends, and the elderly. Will it be as bad as China, or Italy where we see so much devastation?
This virus seems to show no end as it spreads through quick replication and stays on surfaces and seems to outwit our scientists, doctors and government leaders.
We know that contact between us is the way it spreads and so now we “hunker down”, self isolate, and quarantine, hoping to slow it down and “flatten the curve” as we wait for the anti-infection scientists to develop a solution to protect us all.
It can be a frightful time, as we realize we have little control over the situation and have no idea when it may end. How will it affect our health? How will it affect our jobs and our finances? Can we do anything to gain this control back? And where is God in all this? Did He cause this? Why does he allow this to happen?
The readings this weekend can help us with these questions as these questions have been asked for thousands of years as plagues, and diseases and wars have come upon generation after generation of people.
In the gospel we hear a similar question from Jesus’ disciples when they ask: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples have this ancient image that God is waiting to punish us somehow when we sin. He uses blindness or leprosy or other diseases to “make us learn a lesson” so to speak.
But Christ corrects their viewpoint by teaching them: “neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me…”
In other words, God is not the God who is sitting waiting to punish us, but instead, he tells us that bad things have always happened over the millennia, but each time they do, God shows a way to shine through the life of his followers.
We are told by St. Paul in the 2nd reading from Ephesians to “live as children of the light, for light produces every goodness…”
In the psalm today, the most famous of all psalms, psalm 23, we have the comfort of God “even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage”.
These words tell us that we are not alone at this time of uncertainty, that He walks with us side by side each day.
So how are we to respond and act in these times as “children of the light” and ones called “to do the works of the one who sent me…”
It may seem strange, but we can look at how the virus is transmitted, and it can tell us how to overcome it!
The virus transmits when people cough or sneeze as they spray droplets 3-6 feet away onto people or surfaces. The droplets survive for 24-48 hours and if touched and then we touch our face or any open spot, it moves quickly into our body and then starts the process of replicating and we show symptoms 5-7 days later.
If a person who is sick (even before they know they are), is in the community, that they can spread it on average to 3 to 4 other people.
So, with no cure right now, the only way to slow down this spread is to ensure that people do not interact with anyone else. This is so powerful, since it is exponential in growth rate, that even if a person only gives it to 1 or 2 peoples instead of 3 to 4, the overall infection rate will drop by 90%!!!
Well how do we use this information as Christians to help the situation and do the works of God who walks with us?
If the virus slows down by stopping replication, how do we speed up God’s love by increasing the fruits of the Holy Spirit so that its impact may be lowered?
Here are ten ways that we can all help that are practical and spiritual:
- We care for “our neighbour” by following the guidelines of the experts for social distancing of more than 6 feet, to work from home and self-isolate as much as possible in order to “flatten the curve”, and to preserve our precious medical resources
- We wash our hands as often as possible with soap and water! This was an ancient Jewish law of purification that we can now enhance and use as a way to ensure that we are blocking transmission and again loving others as God loves us.
- We buy what we need for our families, and no more! God’s resources of food, soap, sanitizer (and even yes toilet paper) are there for all of us and we are blessed in Canada to have so much! So, let us ensure every citizen has the same access by calming any tendency to hoard for ourselves.
- Let us be people of patience, spending the time at home to enjoy the little things in life, including a shared meal or a time to chat, laugh or play a game together.
- Let us build bridges of love by forgiving past transgressions and focusing on strengthening relationships with a phone call, an email, or a social media post.
- If we are able, and following all the rules above, can we help a person who cannot get out by buying groceries for them and dropping them off, especially helping the elderly?
- Can we spend some time getting closer to God through a daily prayer, or reading or time of meditation, and asking Him to show us, with our gifts, what we may do?
- Can we reach out with daily phone calls of encouragement, of positive thoughts and focus on the little pleasures in life to offset the fear and anxiety of the news of the day?
- If we are able, can we be people of generosity helping people who may have been laid off or are self-isolating who are having a tough time paying bills and making ends meet to share what we can to “bridge the gap” until times improve?
- Can we support the people on the “front lines” with our prayers; whether they are medical staff, or those who still provide us groceries, the pharmacists and the first responders who have to deal with people who are more scared and anxious than ever.
If the virus replicates at a rate of 3 or 4, can we replicate God’s love by a factor of 10 in order to swamp the world with love and joy, kindness and goodness, so that the world will know God still walks with us in this toughest of times, through His children here on earth.
Truly, let us all use our energy and “Let us replicate God’s Love faster than any virus!”
4th Sunday in Easter – Year B
Fr. David Reitzel
Preached: April 22, 2018
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus knew how absurd some of his parables sounded. Take for example the teaching he gave about not judging. He says, “Why do you point out the spec in your neighbor’s eye when you have a log in your own” (Matt 7:3). It’s ridiculous to imagine a person with a whole log in their eye.
Or what about the sower who went out to sow and threw seeds on rocks, on pathways, in thorn bushes, and some made it to the good soil. Anyone who owned a farm would have told Jesus that person would be fired instantly for being so careless with the seeds. And today we hear another parable that would have sounded absurd to his listeners, a shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.
I heard of a priest once who was traveling through the holy land when he came upon a shepherd who was walking his sheep to a grazing area. This priest was a little excitable, and when he saw this he was overjoyed that he was actually witnessing a biblical scene.
So the priest went up to the shepherd full of expectation and asked him,
“You’re a shepherd right?”
“Yes,” the shepherd responded.
“Oh how beautiful,” the priest thought. “So that means that if you were to ever lose a sheep, you would go through the fields trying to find him, right?”
“What? No! We’d just count that as a write off. We lose sheep all the time. We budget that in,” the shepherd responded.
“Oh” the priest thought, a little deflated. The priest then tried again asking, “Well, what if a wolf came? Would you fight it trying to protect your flock from being devoured?”
“Do you think I’m crazy?” the shepherd said. “I’m not putting my life on the line. Beside the wolf is only going to take two maybe three of them. We can afford that.”
What the priest hoped would be an uplifting and edifying encounter with a shepherd in Israel turned out to be disappointment.
The shepherd that the priest met, if we want to be fair, was a reasonable man. I mean, if a sheep gets lost, a 1% loss isn’t really going to hurt the business. And if a wolf comes by, I’m sure the wife and children of that shepherd would be happy to hear that he didn’t endanger his life for the sake of some livestock.
This leads us to conclude that when Jesus said that he was the good shepherd – that he lays down his life for his sheep – he was making a statement that was absurd to those who heard him, and even to shepherds today.
But that’s the point. Jesus does not think in the same way as we do. God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8)
Of course Jesus sounds absurd. He is thinking a lot higher than us. The fact the Jesus is willing to lay down his life for us, shows that he is madly in love with us. He doesn’t care what it costs him. He wants to show his love, and he wants to pay the price so that we can be with him in heaven.
No amount of cost benefit analyses or loss gain comparisons can make sense of what Jesus has done for us. That is because Jesus loves us not with the heart and mind of only a human which always considers such things, but with the heart and mind of a God which knows no limits.
For us this can mean many things, but I only want to focus on one. Next time you are thinking about the love of God, stop, and remind yourself that you will never, never comprehend the depth of God’s love for you. God made you, God gave you everything you have, and as if that wasn’t enough he died for you. To spend a lifetime contemplating the love of God would not be enough, that’s why he invites us to experience it for eternity.
Jesus is the good shepherd, and he lays down his life for his sheep. An absurd statement in the eyes of the world, but an act of unspeakable love in the eyes of those who love him back.