Like you, I have been closely monitoring the global, national and local efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus for several weeks now. Initially I regarded this as a matter of prayer for the preservation of life and health of people far away among whom we have many brothers and sisters. I never imagined this would directly affect our nation, our community and our little flock as it has. When we relinquish our national obsession with sports–all sports (and the money generated by them), clearly this virus is a serious matter that calls for diligent prayer. And while we are praying that the Lord will preserve people from this virus and for the healing of those who already have it, let us also follow the guidance of James 5:14-15,
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
Regarding that last promise, following the pattern of believers throughout church history in times of plague, let us take this as an opportunity for self examination, confession of sin and repentance as we pray. I am not suggesting that COVID-19 is the specific judgment of God on the sin of mankind (though such evils entered the world as a result of human sin) nor that those who contract the disease are worse sinners than others. But when we are confronted with our true fragility and mortality, we are fools if we do not bow before God in humility, repent of our sins and pray for his mercy.
As you know, today Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb requested that non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, including churches. I do not consider this a violation of religious liberty by the state, but an honest attempt to protect its citizens from a serious threat. I am grateful for their abundance of caution. Yet neither do I consider the gathering of believers for worship non-essential. Christians across the ages have risked their lives for the privilege of worshiping together, often in secret. Since our family does not surpass 250 even when we all show up at the same time, our elders have decided to proceed with our worship service this Sunday as scheduled at 10:30, though we will not be holding Sunday School.
However, I do not wish to put any of our people at risk, especially those who are more vulnerable to this virus. Following the Indiana State Department of Health guidelines, if you are over 60 years of age or have a known underlying health issue such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease, please consider worshiping from home. Furthermore, if you have signs or symptoms of illness, especially respiratory illness, please stay home. If you prefer to minimize public exposure to others during this time please do not feel pressure to come. If you decide to join us on Sunday, we will provide an ample supply of hand sanitizer, a bit more social distance than usual, and under the circumstances, forgo Paul’s instructions to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). If you choose to worship from home, we will upload the sermon audio file to our website as soon as possible following the service.
Above all, pray that the Lord will save us from this virus and use it as an opportunity to save many people from the far more deadly virus of sin through Jesus Christ. Pray that he will give our leaders wisdom as they make extraordinarily difficult decisions for the protection of our people.