Time of Epidemic
March 29, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
One of the things some people like about President Trump is that he calls things as he sees them. One of the things some people don’t like about President Trump is that he calls them as he sees them. This was clear a couple of weeks ago when he continued to call Covid-19 the “Chinese Disease”. In his mind, the fault for this virus lies with the Chinese. If they had been more forthcoming, the disease could’ve been stopped, or its progression slowed way down. He’s not the only one playing the blame game though. Those who aren’t staying home are blamed. The kids who went on spring break are blamed. The lax quarantine rules are blamed. Eventually, there’ll be new people or circumstances to blame. But who is really at fault? We can say “If only” all we want, it doesn’t change the situation. It would’ve been nice had the Chinese been more concerned about people and less about lies and propaganda, but it is what it is. You can’t change anything. If we look at the big picture though it isn’t about Chinese secrecy, it’s not about the flu, or people who don’t want to stay home – it’s about Sin.
In Romans 8, Paul refers to “our present sufferings”, and where do those “present sufferings” find their roots? You know! Sin came into our world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Sin and suffering weren’t part of God’s holy and perfect creation nor were they His intentions. Man and man alone is responsible for the futility of this world. Paul says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it.” As a direct result of Adam’s sin, the world and our lives are marked with futility. We have the distinct inability to control what happens in our world and our lives. We can attempt to limit the consequences of unhealthy practices by not smoking or by washing our hands, but we don’t really have a true control over what happens.
One thing I need to clarify is that those sickened or killed by the Covid-19 are not suffering because they are bad people or that they’re being punished for their particular sins. People are getting sick and dying because we live in a sin filled world. Paul says that creation is in bondage and he further explains, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth.” All of creation, people, animals, nature, weather are corrupted by Sin and in pain. The perversion of God’s creation brings more than sickness, it brings death. Death is the ultimate consequence of Sin, and the thousands of deaths caused by Covid-19, the flu, and tornados, are a constant reminder that our attempts to avoid it are subject to futility.
There is an aspect of living in this sinful world that we can control, and that’s how we respond to the Sin. Those who aren’t caring for their neighbors, those who are using this epidemic to hoard supplies while ignoring the needs of the helpless, those who are using the situation to enrich themselves at the expense of others, are sinning. Committing these sins is imposing suffering on others for which we must repent. As Saint James says, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” We show our faith by the way we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and by how we treat them – in times of epidemics and times of health.
In Romans 8, Paul talks about our “present sufferings”, and as long as we alive we’ll have suffering. The Covid-19 virus will eventually run its course, and yet, we’ll see it again. It’ll come back just like cancer, the flu, and tornados. Our creation is stuck in a cycle that is constantly repeating, well, it’s stuck until the day that Jesus puts it all to an end.
Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Oh, what a hope! What a thing to see! Covid-19, cancer, polio, whatever it is, does not have the last word. It can take our lives, but sure as God’s Word, it will not take the hope of our salvation. Paul puts it this way, “We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This is the eager expectation that someday everything is going to be better. We will be freed from our bondage to corruption and we’ll obtain the freedom that comes from being children of God.
What a day that will be! Everything sinful will be brought to an end! No more suffering, no more disease, no more sorrow, there won’t even be death. And how do you know? You have hope! Paul encourages us, “For in this hope we were saved.” Hope trusts in what it cannot see. We can’t see the eternal healing that awaits us. We can’t see God and how He’ll bring this all to an end, but we know He will. And how do you know? Because Jesus doesn’t just promise salvation and healing, He proved it!
That’s the point of today’s Gospel. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He said it and then He proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead! Sin made Lazarus sick and sin caused his death. Jesus has power over everything, including death, including His own death! That’s where we see the power of Jesus so clearly. Jesus was crucified and killed. He was stone dead. His sinless heart pierced by a thrust with a spear. It’s the Son of God that was killed, and for Him death doesn’t have the last word. Jesus rose from the dead and He put death to death. It now has no power over us!
Sin and death, disease and suffering cause sorrow and misery. They make life so hard to bear sometimes, but only here! Our hope, our certainty is that eventually, on one glorious day, Jesus is going to back to His fallen creation and fix it all. We can’t see it, we don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we know it’s going to happen. This, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is Christian hope. It’s the absolute certainty we so desperately cling to, when this corrupted world threatens our faith and our lives. We know and trust that our present sufferings find their relief in the risen Jesus Christ.
So, who’s to blame for all this suffering? I won’t argue with you if blame China for the spread of Covid-19. But if we blame them for the coronavirus, who can we blame for suffering like cancer, the flu, or birth defects? There’s only one thing to blame – well, maybe two. We can blame Satan and the Sin that has corrupted God’s perfect creation. In the end though, it’s not about blame. It’s about the One who has promised to fix it, who started the process with His suffering, death, and resurrection, and who will one day bring it to completion. It’s about the one who has given us hope.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen