Jon Limmer
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We interrupt our walk through The Lord's Prayer for a special Covenant Weekly consideration.

Virtually everyone has heard of COVID-19 (or the generic name coronavirus). The rise of this virus is restricting international travel, causing the cancellation of large scale events (potentially the Olympics), and is at the top of every digital news feed. For some, words like pandemic, are not strong enough to convey the reality they feel exists. Others look at the numbers (the current number of those infected globally is around 91,000 or .0001% of the world population) and think that the overall response to the current outbreak borders on paranoia.

I, admittedly, lean towards downplaying issues like this, but have been challenged to intentionally think about how we as a church community should respond - not just to COVID-19, but to the general outbreak of sickness that is common in our area in winter and has clearly been present over the past couple of months. Should we act with such caution that it feels as though we are responding to a pandemic among us or should we minimize our response to avoid paranoia? Let me humbly suggest that neither of these is the best response.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 - NKJV)

For those of us who are driven, not by self-preservation, but by sacrificial love, it would seem that responding to the outbreak of any illness should not be with acts motivated by fear. We follow the lead of a Saviour who touched lepers and engaged with the "unclean" in his world. Christian history is full of men and women, like the Missionaries of Charity who began in Calcutta, who put themselves at risk of disease in order to show the love of Jesus.

However, God has also given us wisdom to use as we live out the love of Jesus. To be wise does not mean to neglect love. Here's a really personal example. Last week my younger son got sick. Knowing I sometimes don't do well with vomit, my wife immediately went into his room to help him. She entered the contamination zone. Her next step was to tell me to stay away. Not because she couldn't use help. But rather to help stop the spread of the sickness to me as well. She took the lead in aiding our son. She also used significant amounts of cleaner to sanitize the spaces he had been in. I, in turn, avoided getting close to him and the spaces he'd been in as much as possible. I spoke to him from his doorway. I got stuff for him, which I then gave to my wife to take into his room. When I did need to help him with something, I immediately washed my hands. Did that mean I didn't love him? Not at all! He was getting the care he needed and I was caring to not spread his sickness to others. Our response to this family illness was attempting to balance love over fear and sound mind/discernment/wisdom.

Back to this season of illness and potential illness in our community. How can we balance love and wisdom when we gather together? First, those of us who tend not to get sick need to recognize that our actions impact those who are most vulnerable - elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Our choices shouldn't be driven by worry about ourselves, but love for those at risk. The World Health Organization recommends the same cautions with COVID-19 as with cold and flu season. Wash hands regularly with soap and water or hand-sanitizer; avoid spreading germs through sneezing or coughing; and if you're sick . . . stay home as much as possible. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1APwq1df6Mw) These recommendations make sense for us who want to show love to each other in community!

To help us avoid the spread of germs, in order to protect the most vulnerable among us, here are a few steps we can take that don't feed a sense of pandemic, nor do they label concern as paranoia:

  1. Let's not initiate handshaking for the next while - until this season of illness has passed. If you really want to offer a physical greeting, the fist bump is an easy and more hygienic alternative. But don't be offended if someone opts not to participate!
  2. Use the hand-sanitizer we will make more available to you. We are going to ensure that hand sanitizer is available in a couple of places in both our lobby and in our main gathering space. Please use it as needed!
  3. Know that it is okay to stay home if you are sick. We post our sermons online weekly so you can continue to track with our teaching. If you're in need of some Christian interaction and encouragement, send us a message and one of our deacons can call and spend some time talking with you and praying for you.
  4. If you are more comfortable coming to church with a medical mask on, please feel free to do so! My sister lived in Korea for a few years - in a culture where mask-wearing is normal. (They even sell masks with fun designs on them.) At first, as a North American, she thought it was strange. By the time she moved back to Canada, though, she thought differently. She once asked me, "Which is more strange? North Americans who work hard to pretend no one is sick and through that spread the germs and make more people sick, or Koreans who acknowledge the reality of sickness with masks and through that prevent it from spreading?" I still don't wear a mask, but considering this question certainly reframed my view of wearing them!

We care for those among us who are vulnerable to sickness and infection. I pray that these few simple steps will help us better show love to each other.