Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this Good Shepherd Sunday come with Your shepherd’s heart and take our fears, our worries and our anxieties away. Watch over each of us and apply Your love and compassion to our individual situations. Search out the straying, pick up and hold the forgotten, and continue to feed us daily with Your eternal soul food. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE GOOD SHEPHERD!
TEXT: I Peter 2: 19-25
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Fear stalks our land right now. And it’s pervasive. Every time I go to the grocery store I see fear in the eyes of fellow shoppers. If someone coughs due to allergies—all eyes go there and that person is given a wide berth. Fear is the focus of all the various news stories from food pantries to drive-by graduation ceremonies. People are testy. Sleep problems predominate many. Psychologists ramble on trying to treat its symptoms, but never really deal with the underlying cause of such fear which is: death and the ultimate loss of control. Someday someone may study this psychosis of the pandemic and maybe, maybe they will study the strong Christian’s reaction to it. If they do, I’m certain they will discover that Christians handle fear better than the masses. Why? Because our Lord conquered death for us at Easter! Yes, Christians are better equipped to handle fear than others because Christians know their present and future rests in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
St. Peter knew fear intimately. We all do, if we’re honest. Recall him cursing God to save his own skin at the high priest’s palace. And then, “He went out and wept bitterly.” But after Christ restored him with forgiveness, and especially after the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, Peter changed. He was fearless and joyful. He preached and taught with confidence because he now realized that Christ was in control of his life and Christ would always do what was best for him. Even death now meant life—eternal life with the One Who rose to life and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for him! Fear stems from the reality of death and our loss of control. But Christ had taken that club over our heads away.
In the following years, Peter lived through various persecutions of the church. He didn’t let any of them get him down and crush his faith. Often those persecutions took on physical forms: beatings, loss of job and income, imprisonment, and even death. Most of them were totally unjust. The Christians were innocent of any wrongdoing. We could say the same is true of most people who have contracted the virus today.
So here he reminds his fellow believers on how to handle such hysteria in a God-pleasing manner. “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” If you deserve such punishment because you’re guilty, that’s one thing. But if you’re totally innocent and still get slammed either emotionally and physically, what should be your response? Simple. Remember Christ and do what He did! Follow in His steps. And then Peter quotes Isaiah on the matter: “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.” Then Peter adds these words: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
Covid-19 didn’t come out of God’s providence. It came out of man’s sin, hatched by evil people and used (by chance or on purpose) as a biological weapon. Now the entire world suffers—either from it physically, financially, and emotionally. For fear has infected every aspect of people’s lives because of it all. I recall Pres. Roosevelt’s famous quote during the Depression: “All we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s a lie. It sounds good to the ear, but it just isn’t true. Saying: “I don’t fear anymore” after the government bailouts are enacted, or after a truck fully stocks your grocery store shelves, or after you self-quarantine for a month doesn’t take away this fact: the virus is still there along with the uncertainty over your life that it spawns. And no matter if it is corona-caused, or not, old age and death comes to everyone.
I know FDR went to church sometimes. I don’t know the status of his faith. But I do know that God in the person of Jesus Christ is the only vaccine that will get rid of fear. For Christ conquered death. This is how faith in Jesus heals the soul and uplifts our bodies and our psyche. This is how Christ calms our souls. As Peter correctly says: “For you were (note that is past tense, or before the gift of faith) you like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Shepherds are not butchers. Shepherds aren’t sadistic. Shepherds “lay down their lives for their sheep.” Jesus proved that on the cross. Shepherds also seek out the straying, the lost, the hurting and “lead them to quiet waters that restore their souls.” And the greatest aspect of such restoration is the guiding us away from the inner ravages of the lie that “we’re in control” (fear because we’re not) to the humbling truth that our Loving Lord is!
I’ve been thinking since the start of our current national plight that if America turned to God and prayed more about the virus and its consequences, we’d all be in a much better place than the mess we are in right now. People would be uplifted. We would have hope instead of fear. And God would bless us accordingly. And if you think that viewpoint is silly and simplistic, then I remind you of Christ’s own words: “Nothing is impossible with God.” So hold your head up and refuse to live in fear. Our Good Shepherd remains in control! Not you, or the doctors, or the politicians, or the captains of industry, or the hard-working researchers, but the Great Physician. And never forget: His primary quality which defines what He is all about: Love. Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..
Pastor Thomas H. Fox