19th Sunday after Pentecost

19th Sunday after Pentecost

October 11, 2020

Matthew 22:1-14

“The Cure for Global Pandemic”

Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Epistle lesson previously read from Philippians chapter 4.

My dear friends,

“Wait…WHAT!” You might be thinking to yourself. “Pastor, I just saw the title for the sermon. You have the cure for COVID-19? YOU have the cure for the Coronavirus? We know you used to work in the pharmaceutical industry and all, but that was years ago! Are you telling us that YOU have the cure for this global pandemic?” Yes…yes I do. Sort of. Let me explain.

I cannot help but think that many, if not all of us in this room, are still somewhat worried about COVID-19, but that’s not your ONLY worry, right? All of us have worried about something or are currently worrying about something. I’m worried…you’re worried…we’re ALL worried about something, right? Call it whatever you want: anxiety, apprehension, being on pins and needles, fretting, being frazzled, or to quote Elvis Presely, you’re “All Shook Up.” Every time we turn around there’s something new to worry about, and it’s not always a global pandemic. St. Paul knew that life is filled with frustrations and anxieties and much worse…MUCH worse. And so Paul writes to the Philippians – and all of us really – to give us realistic, usable 3-step process to overcome problems…any problem…even the worry caused by a global pandemic. So…it’s not really MY cure for a global pandemic. Paul gets most of the credit here.

The apostle Paul knew a little something about worry. Paul never had to endure a viral pandemic (not that we’re aware of). But it’s not like Paul wrote the words “Do not be anxious about anything” from Siesta Key Beach! Betrayed by his countrymen (Acts 24:13), caught up in Roman political machinery for two years (Acts 24:27), shipwrecked on the Island of Malta (Acts 28:11), and then placed under house arrest (Acts 28:16) during which he wrote Philippians. Paul knew a thing or two or twenty about worry.

But what about us? As far as I know, none of us have been shipwrecked. None of us are under house arrest. But worries – and not just COVID 19 – still abound for us in this life. From unpaid bills to medical concerns to troubles in our family to out-and-out fear for the future, anxiety and worry is as normal for us as it was for St. Paul. And Paul’s instructions for overcoming our worries has three steps: pray about everything, give thanks in all things, and think about the right things.

The first part of Paul’s guidance is “pray about everything.” In verse 6 Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God.” In the Gospels we are told that Jesus often went off to pray. Frequently we see Jesus engaged with God the Father in prayer. Prayer is our lifeline to God; it is speaking to Him through our words and our thoughts. In our prayers we ask for everything that tends to the glory of God and to our own and our neighbor’s welfare. Praying that you win the lottery is NOT an appropriate prayer. Have you been praying for an end to the Coronavirus? Are you praying for those affected and those actively working for a solution?

In our prayers we also praise and thank God for who He is and what He has done. When we are truly able to do that, to be in constant contact with God, to take ALL our concerns, all our worries, all of our anxiety, and lay them at the foot of the cross and NOT take them back up again, then God takes that burden and He bears it leaving us free to praise and thank Him for what He has already done for us and continues to do by grace.

The second step in Paul’s instructions are to give thanks in all things. Verse 6 reminded us that we are to address everything “with thanksgiving.” Now please note that this is giving thanks in all things, and not for all things. There is a difference. I don’t need to tell you that not all things are good. I think it is fair to say that deadly viruses, looting, rioting, violence, drugs, and crime are things, but not necessarily good things for which we give thanks. We are directed to give thanks not just for our food or our money or for our stuff, but to give thanks IN all things…again, to thank and praise God in any and all situations for what He has done. If you can find a way to truly do this, it does reduce the worry in this lifetime.

The third step in Paul’s instructions are “think about the right things.” Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (verse 8). When I was learning basic computer programming in college, we learned the acronym “GIGO:” “garbage in, garbage out.” If you put garbage into a program, it’s not going to work…ever. So also if we put garbage in our minds, we will surely never overcome any kind of worry. Paul is saying that all the countless concerns of life can be kept minimal if believers, rather than dwelling on worry, will fill their minds with all things good and true and rise up and then put them into practice in this world. We are to produce the fruits of the Spirit and not always circle the drain of despair.

Of course, what we fill our minds with is the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified and risen again for our sins and for our salvation. That gives us hope to dwell on amid the worry. We are enabled to overcome our worries by knowing that God, through His grace, has lovingly extended His salvation to us and nothing, no viral outbreaks, no medical problem or bill, no trouble at work or at home, no noisy neighbor or conflict, can separate us from God’s love and His sacrifice.

And what, my friends, is the finished product of Paul’s instructions? Praying about everything + giving thanks in all things + thinking about the right things = God’s peace that surpasses everything: our worries, our finances, our world. For with God’s peace and His strength and His forgiveness of our sins, then we truly “can do everything through Him who gives us strength” (verse 13).

So, there you have it. It is and it isn’t really my cure for a global pandemic. If I figure out a REAL cure for COVID-19, believe me, you’ll be the first to know.