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A Spirit of Fear

Today’s video encompasses the entire 10:45 a.m. worship service. Only the greeting time and the children’s sermon have been removed.

Sermon by Rev. Dr. Matt Sturtevant, with insights from Rev. Lee Carlson and Emily Raymond. Liturgist: Marilee Southard. Prayer: LaMoine Tatum.

Vocal soloist: Joe Karnes, singing “You Want To, Now Will You”
by Jon Mohr
1986 Birdwing Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Jonathan Mark Music (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)
CCLI #20126570

A Spirit of Fear

In the 2002 movie 28 Days Later, an ape infected with a disease called The Rage Virus escapes and unleashes the virus upon society in general. The main character of the movie awakes 28 days later, in a coma in the hospital, with no one around him. As he leaves the room, he finds that The Rage has caused people to become zombies, attacking each other and infecting the survivors. The entire society around them has collapsed, even the survivors turn on each other, and everything has fallen apart.

In other words, it could be worse!

While none of us have become zombies, we stand in the middle of what is easily the worst medical catastrophe in this country in any of our lifetimes. The coronavirus has proven to be deadly in some cases, dangerous in others, and its effect has caused a significant uproar around the world. It hasn’t quite led to societal collapse, but has led to catastrophe in the markets and definitely led to survivors turning on each other! Organizations and groups and events over 250 people have cancelled their plans. And if all that weren’t bad enough, March Madness has been cancelled, on the verge of a potential national championship for the #1 Jayhawks! There are no zombies…but this is bad.

So, should we be afraid?

That’s what I want to talk about today. Several weeks ago, I did a whole sermon series on fear, and what Biblical alternatives looked like. But this is something else…we have never seen anything quite like this. So how do we respond? What do we do? What do we say? What does our faith look like in times like these?

Some of you perhaps came to church today excited to hear a sermon on the vice of sloth. I hate to disappoint you, but we are going to set that aside for today. Instead, I would like to read a verse from 2 Timothy 1.7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

So if not fear, then what? Paul answers this question for us. Power. Love. And a sound mind. What if we looked at those in the context of today’s anxious times?

First, the spirit of a sound mind. Even if we are not to be ruled by fear, it doesn’t mean that we have to be stupid. This virus is no joke, and especially for those who are vulnerable, they have to do their best to protect themselves from it. Having a sound mind means being smart in the midst of potential danger. But having a sound mind also means discerning the difference between what is rational and what is emotional. Social media, for example, thrives on emotional reaction. Who has contracted the disease! Who is to blame for all of this! Charts and stats and numbers that look rational and reasonable, but are presented in a way that is intentionally terrifying. If you feel like fear is grasping you during these days, the first thing to do is limit the power the “fear box” that is your phone…that is your computer…that is social media. Instead, look at reputable news sites: the Associated Press….Reuters…the CDC. Think carefully about who has a vested interest in you being afraid. The information you need is on those sites. Go there first. Don’t let emotion overwhelm you. For God has given us a spirit of a sound mind.

Second, the spirit of power. Part of what is so hard during times like these is that we feel pretty powerless. So we buy toilet paper…thinking it will help us? I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. But there are things that we can do to use the God-given power within us. We can wash our hands. We can take vitamins. We can eat healthy foods. We can exercise…remember, this is not an outbreak of zombies, so walking around the block is OK. In fact, sitting at home eating junk food and watching Netflix breathing on each other is probably the best way to run down your body and make you more susceptible for the time when you inevitably do have to go into public. Use the power that God has given you to take care of yourself. If you feel that you are in a category of risk, use your power. Take care of yourself. My best guess is that we are going to see an outbreak here in Douglas County eventually, maybe very soon. And that means we are going to have to be even more aggressive in cancelling events. But even if not, you should never, ever feel guilty about opting out of church. We still love you. Jesus still loves you. Use the spirit of power that God has given you.

Finally, God has given us the spirit of love. This is going to be hard going for a while. Let’s not make it worse. The spirit of love suggests that we shouldn’t judge others during these days. I judge you because you are wearing a mask…and you judge me because I’m not wearing a mask. Or I judge you because you took the last bottle of Purell from the shelf. Or we judge others because of their nationality, or because they look sick, or because they made a choice to do an activity or not do an activity, differently than our choice. Love. Don’t judge. All of us are trying to figure this out…treat each other lightly during these days. The financial impact is going to be hard on a lot of people. The social impact is going to be hard on a lot of people. Love.

Which brings me to another element of love. Some of the folks of our community are going to have to physically isolate, which means they are also going to socially isolate.  And psychologists warn of a significant danger in social isolation. Think about folks in our church. Some of you have a house full of family members to talk to. Some of you have a computer and the comfort level to watch this worship service or potential future worship services at home. You can stay connected. But not everyone has those things. Let us demonstrate the spirit of love to those in our congregation who face the danger of social isolation. Of loneliness. Of feeling alone and afraid. Of dealing with the grief of missing out on people and events and even basketball and sports on TV (some don’t care, but for others this is a big hole). Or for those in the congregation who face bigger dangers of running out of food or medicine and being terrified of going to the store, of not having neighbors check in on them anymore, of having family members too far away to help them. Having a spirit of love means not forgetting these people. In fact, if you want to get on Facebook, do this. Go to your friends list, and run your finger down the list, and find someone on that list, and call them. On the phone. Talk to them. Find out how they are doing. Send them a card. Pray for them. Do all of the above. Or if you aren’t on Facebook, pull out your church directory and do the same. God has given us a spirit of love. Care for one another during these days.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of sound mind, of power, and of love. Receive these gifts today. Know that you are blessed. Even in these days. You are blessed.



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