Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Day 32, April 14, 2020
“The End”

We do not know how this Coronavirus will end, or when it will end. But somehow and sometime, it will end. Things will return to normal, even if it is a “new normal.” Today I encourage you to think about what the end will mean for you. Have you found yourself thinking, “When this is over I’m going to…” Maybe you have realized things you took for granted will no longer be taken for granted. Maybe you have realized people and relationships you took for granted will no longer be taken for granted. Maybe you have thought about your relationship with God and said, “When this is over I am going to really devote myself to…worship, study, prayer, serving, reaching out, loving my neighbor in new ways, loving my God in new and deeper and more committed ways.”

On September 11, 2016 I preached a sermon looking back on the terrible day of 9/11 and the dark days that followed. That was a time when people longed for life to get back to normal. And that was a time when people looked to the end, when the crisis had been resolved in one way or another. Immediately after 9/11 many people made serious commitments about how their life would change when things got back to normal.

On September 11, 2016, the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I had a little fun with the math of what would have happened if someone had made a commitment and followed through on that commitment for the fifteen years following 9/11.

·       If you had committed to fifteen minutes a day of reading your bible, in fifteen years you would have read the whole bible fifteen times and the New Testament 30 times.

·       If you prayed five minutes a day, for 365 days, in fifteen years you would have prayed for 30 hours in one year and 450 hours over the whole fifteen years. That would equal more than eighteen straight days of twenty-four hours a day in prayer.

·       If you had committed to visiting someone, a loved one, a person in a rest home, someone who is sick, or someone who just needs a friend, and you had visited for one hour a week…you know there are 52 weeks in a year, again multiplied by 15 years. You would have made 780 visits. If you are more comfortable writing a note of encouragement or concern and jotted three notes a week, even if each note took just five minutes to write, would you believe that in fifteen years you would have written 2,340 notes!

If…for two little letters that is quite a big word. If…do you know the reality is that very few of the commitments made in the aftermath of 9/11 truly became reality in the lives of people. An article written in January of 2002 appeared in USA Today with the title, “Quick dose of 9-11 religion soothes, doesn’t change.” (Gerald L. Zelzer) Let me summarize the article. Not much changed for a whole lot of people. The Coronavirus will end…eventually…someday. My guess is we have all made some commitments as to how our lives will be different when they return to normal.

There was a movie years ago about a guy who found out he had a fatal disease. He decided that instead of dying slowly he would end his life. The movie was fittingly titled, “The End.” I don’t remember much about the movie, other than that Burt Reynolds was the star. But I do remember one scene. In an effort to end his life he swam far out into the ocean, hoping to drown himself. Something clicked as he was way out in the deep, and he realized he actually wanted to live. Unfortunately, he was way out in the deep! The chances of swimming safely to shore seemed impossible. What did he do? He prayed. He prayed to God and said, “Lord, if you get me back to the shore safely, I will give everything I have to you.” He made progress. He got closer to shore. Guess what happened as he came closer and closer to land? When he began, he said, “I will give you everything.” With each stroke bringing him closer to land he began to tell God, “If I get safely back to land, I will give you 90 percent…then 75 percent…then 50 percent…then 25 percent.” By the time he got to shore everything was back to normal, and nothing had changed.

We can do better than that. When the end of this crisis comes, and it will come, we can do better than that. Let’s use this time to think seriously about the life we have been given. Let’s use this time to think seriously about how we can use this precious gift of life to love God and love others and grow and serve and live fully in the abundance of God’s grace and mercy.

The Apostle Paul was given a second chance at life. He realized he had been given that second chance through the mercy of God, through the grace received through Jesus Christ. Writing of his own experience, but desiring that his experience would be one shared by all, Paul wrote in the first verse of Romans 12, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” The end will come to this crisis. When it comes, what a perfect time for people of faith to offer ourselves to God wholly and completely, 100%, or as Paul puts it, as “A living sacrifice.”

With the love of Christ,