Life as we know it along with our daily routines have been placed on hold indefinitely due to an unseen enemy known infamously as the coronavirus. Virtually every aspect of our lives have been impacted. Schools around the globe are closed as students complete classes online. Proms and graduations cancelled. Weddings and even funerals cancelled. Non-essential businesses have closed up shop as millions apply for unemployment. State Parks, beaches and recreational facilities are closed until further notice. Places of worship sit empty and quiet as dust settles on seats and pews normally filled with parishioners gathering to worship. Most of us in this generation have never experienced anything like this before and for some, the anxiety level is off the charts.
As of this post there are nearly 1.3 million cases of coronavirus worldwide, resulting so far in over 70,000 deaths, and the Surgeon General of the US released a statement that this will be the deadliest week yet in number of fatalities to the virus. With daily updates dominating all the major news networks, it is difficult to escape the magnitude short of unplugging from all outside media sources. It’s like trying to flee the incoming and overwhelming fog in the classic movie. There’s nowhere to hide.
In addition to the severity of the disease, there are the numerous voices or opinions over how to deal with this pandemic. Some saying to shelter in place and others saying to be about but keep your distance; some saying to cover your face while others say masks are of no value to catching or spreading the disease. Some voices blaming eastern countries while others using the tragedy as an election year smoke screen. Some voices exhorting us to obey government regulations as others are defiant claiming their rights are being violated and restrictions are unconstitutional. Several online personalities using the situation to politicize their own agendas and yes, even ministers blaming an indiscriminate virus on the current Whitehouse administration. The reaction is as bad as the disease. With all these voices coming at us from all sides, who do we listen to-who can we trust? Which voice speaks truth?
In Biblical days it was common for shepherds to bring their flocks to a city during certain holidays or feasts and corral them in common pens along with numerous other flocks as there was no way to accommodate each flock individually. And when the feasts were over each shepherd would call out their own flock. Shepherds developed unique calls that only his flock of sheep would recognize and respond to. At their call his flock and only those sheep in his flock would come out to him from the other sheep to return home. In the same manner each shepherd would call out his flock with his own call until each flock was back under the safety and protection of their shepherd.
In John 10:27 Jesus says the following: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” Numerous time throughout scripture Christ is referred to as the Good Shepherd. The duties of the shepherd included leading the flock to water and pasture, or provision, keeping the flock together without losing any, preservation, and sleeping at the gate to protect the flock from predators or harm, protection. As believers and followers of Christ we can count on provision, preservation and protection during times of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. With all the voices surrounding us daily, the one voice we should respond to is that of our Good Shepherd. It is the one true voice that doesn’t change even when our situations do.
We are assuredly in this together, it’s not just a cliché. If we have been fortunate enough to escape this virus, we probably know those who didn’t. If we haven’t lost our jobs, our income or hours have certainly been decreased. Parents have a much deeper appreciation now for teachers and couples are finding out how much they really like each other. And everyone’s faith is being tested by fire as impurities are painfully burned away. None know for sure when we will get back to living but most agree it won’t ever be the same normal we knew before the outbreak. And all this happening now as we enter Holy Week for most. Easter pageants have been cancelled and choir rehearsals done away with. Church picnics, festivities for the children, Easter outfit shopping, all a distant memory until we can convene again. We will actually be serving each other communion in our homes on Good Friday and not together as a church congregation. It will be a much different celebration, but a celebration nonetheless. The Easter message is not cancelled. The accomplished mission is not infected. The purpose of the death and resurrection and the resulting reconciliation is not on hold until further notice and there is no social distancing between us and our Father who continues to make his residence within his children, who know his voice.
Our heartfelt prayers go up to the Father for all those who have perished from Coronavirus and the families who mourn their loss, as with all those who are still fighting for their lives in hopes of an eventual recovery. Our prayers go up for all on the front lines, the doctors, nurses, medical staff, first responders and all who willingly expose themselves daily to the virus in performing their duties. Our prayers go up for families around the world who have lost their means of support who find themselves in food pantry lines hoping for enough food to feed their families for a couple more days, and for all the rest of us who are just dealing with the uncertainty of how our lives will be impacted by he time this runs its course. But let us all consider the message of Easter, the new life after death, hope after utter despair, joy after tremendous times of sorrow and companionship after perceived abandonment. If indeed, as some have suggested, God is allowing this to remove those things that have distracted us from him, then let us focus on him during these times and consider that this is merely a prelude as to what could happen once he sets into motion those events that will usher in the end of this age, a time that should be glorious for those who know his voice, and equally horrible for those who have chosen false shepherds. God will surely lead us through the valley, guarding his flock, leaving the ninety-nine for the one lost until we reach the promised green pastures of eternity with him. God bless you this Easter.