Pastor’s Corner: Stay focused on the light of Jesus Christ
Five years ago, Jean and I moved from Dunseith to Rugby. The joke was we moved south for milder winters, but in reality this is where 3/8ths of our grandchildren live. For 18 years prior to the move we lived and served at that little white church just north of the golf course north of Dunseith.
The church has a nice parsonage with a cemetery right next to it and kenneled just behind the parsonage was our 75 pound — very sweet German shepherd appropriately named Snickers. In fact in some circles we were known as the church on the hill with the big dog, but preferred to be known as the church on the hill with the big God.
Snickers was good at announcing visitors that came at all hours of the day and night. In fact she had different barks for different situations and if a car drove in — she would let me know. If someone got out of the car — well that increased the intensity just a bit. In fact we got to know each other so well that I knew her nonchalant alarm was probably something as simple as our neighbor’s horses grazing on our lawn.
When her alarm would go off at night and nothing could be seen from inside the house I would grab a flashlight and walk around outside — if still nothing, I would open the kennel and we would investigate together. I will not forget the 3:00 a.m. alarm when she was on high alert and I grabbed my light, opened her kennel and followed her as she raced into the cemetery in full attack mode, with me following somewhat timidly behind.
I could hear her deep throated growl as she outran my light — and then that growl turned to a puppyish whimper as she raced past me back to the safety of her kennel. That left me standing alone in the middle of the cemetery in the middle of the night with a flashlight whose batteries were in the middle of failing. Perhaps with a slight whimper of my own — I too retreated and when Jean asked what was going on — with sort of scared, sick feeling in my stomach I said: “Oh nothing much, just something in the cemetery!” Quite frankly Covid — 19 leaves me feeling a lot like that! We try to be strong and smart and hope those in our circle are doing the same — because as we have all seen the price can be very high. Then of course the questions — like is a mask mandate even legal or is it a violation of my freedom and against my religion? And sometimes I wonder if we realize that we are under the authority of the government that has been assigned by God as Apostle Paul states in Romans 13:1 — Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.
Or as Peter writes in his 1st letter 2:12–14 — Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
So if you agree or disagree with the mandate — that’s all good, but be strong and smart enough to not make a big deal out of it either way.
Every one of us will one day answer to God for what we did and didn’t do and your neighbor should not feel they have to answer to you for anything — as the saying goes — “a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep!” Something else I am hearing is — if Covid scares me — does that mean I lack faith and am sinning against God? Which is a good question — and looking back I am pretty sure I was scared that night in the cemetery, but also pretty sure it was not sin because fear is a normal, natural flight response to a danger in our surroundings. And Covid is a very real danger — and being around something that is dangerous naturally heightens our senses and helps us make good and safe choices. If on the other hand you have not left your basement for nine months — that’s a little different story. Psalm 91 helps us to define that fine line between trusting and fear. Verses 1-5 read — He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
Moses is credited with writing these word and I find it interesting he talked of pestilence and plagues so many years ago and here we are right in the middle of a pandemic! It’s obvious he understood the connection between fear and darkness, and he also knew that God is greater than those fears.
Jesus follows that up in John 8:12 with: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the obvious theme here is that in light of God’s love and grace and truth, we can find courage, help, and strength to live for Him no matter our current circumstances. And that in sickness and health we should — as Peter concludes his thoughts writes — Live as free men and women, but do not use your freedom as a cover–up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. And that sounds like great advice to me. Stay safe, keep socially distanced connected with those you love. So as we head into this most wonderful time of the year — even with all that is going on — we still have so much to be thankful for. Stay focused on the light of Jesus Christ and we will get through this together. God bless!
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