First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 7, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Lessons from the Pandemic!”
We have entered the eleventh month of what feels like a pandemic that will not end. I am sure that many of us are tired of it and long for life to be “normal” again, whatever normal is. The pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives including family, work, education, social gatherings, church, community, government, sports, friendships, etc.
It's been a time of high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion. Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was an Austrian Philosopher and a Holocaust survivor who famously said, “Everything can be taken away from you except one thing – your ability to decide how to respond to any given circumstance or situation.” What life lessons can we learn from this ongoing pandemic? I have been thinking about what lessons I personally have learned and I would like to share a few of them with you today.
First: Life is Fragile and Unpredictable
As much as we plan and try to control every aspect of our lives, life remains unpredictable and uncertain. We simply don’t know what tomorrow has in store. Therefore, we must do two things. (1) We must do our very best to live in the present, taking one day at a time. (2) We must have a strong faith in a God who is bigger than our problems and who is reliable and faithful. “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,” wrote British Baptist Minister Edward Mote in 1834. It was true back then as much as it is today. The pandemic reminds us of how fragile and unpredictable life is, but at the same time it reminds us of a God who is always faithful to His promises.
Second: The Importance of the Communal Aspect of our Worship
The communal aspect of our life together is important. Worshiping God entails intimacy with Him. It also establishes communion among fellow believers. This is especially evident in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper when the believers come from the east and west and sit around God’s table. No wonder that the Bible calls the Church the “Body” of Christ. The Apostles Creed captured this as the early Church Fathers affirmed the “Communion of Saints.”
May we never forget this great truth. May you never forget that you belong to a body; you’re a member of the Body of Christ. Hear these words from Hebrews 10:25 “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” And this takes me to my third and last lesson I would like to share with you today.
Third: Digital Worship Has its Limits
Since the beginning of the pandemic, technology has been a blessing in so many different ways. Through technology, we have been virtually gathering and connecting with each other. We have been using Zoom to meet for our weekly Bible Study as well as the weekly gathering for our Sunday School. Needless to say, through utilizing available technology and social media, we have increased our digital outreach and virtual presence.
Virtual gatherings have proven fruitful to a certain extent, they nevertheless fall well short of achieving full and active participation envisioned by God when he called us to be part of the Body of Christ. This seems self-evident to most of us by now. Sitting in front of a screen is not the same as being physically present in the midst of the gathering of believers.
The pandemic has reminded us that we need people. We need the physical presence of each other. We need to look people in the eye. We need to hear their voices. We need to see their smile without a face covering. I think I knew this, but now I know it more than ever.
Psalm 42 is a lament psalm written by the sons of Korah who formerly were able to freely worship God with the Lord's people. But something has changed and now they find themselves removed from the religious life that they formerly enjoyed. And they miss it greatly. Listen to these words from Psalm 42:1-4, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.”
So hold on, my friends. This too shall come to pass. Let’s take this time to deepen our sense of community; develop an appreciation for the gift of each other; and above all, comprehend the greatness of our God who will release our feet from the snare. And when you miss it so much, remember these words from Psalm 42:5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Let’s look forward to that day when we can be with each other without the fear of getting or passing the virus. Let’s look forward to that day when we as the Body of Christ can sing God’s praises together. Let’s reach out to each other. Let’s keep checking on each other. Let’s continue praying for each other. And all God’s people said, “amen.”
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