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Philippians 4:11 I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. (CEB)


Since the last Sanitizer, we have passed the first anniversary of the pandemic. On March 11 last year, the World Health Organization declared the unique coronavirus with which we are afflicted was a world wide pandemic.


We have been tested and challenged. We have learned things. We have learned some things we would not have wished to learn. We added vocabulary. For many people, for the first time they learned the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic. An epidemic is a disease spread among a certain population or community. A pandemic knows no national borders and affects the world. (the prefix “pan” means all). We came to know and abide by the phrase “social distancing.” Dr. Fauci became a household name. (one little girl in our church calls the vaccination shot the “Fauci Ouchy”) How cute is that?


We’ve lost a lot. Movie theaters are out. Sporting events were out. Forget dining indoors at your favorite restaurant. Of deep concern to many is the effect the closing of schools has had on our children. Getting together with extended family - NOT getting together with extended family has been painful. Weddings have shrunken to the closest blood relatives or put off altogether. One of the worst losses has been gathering as a whole church.


But we have learned some things and there have even been bright spots. One of my favorites are Zoom meetings that take us into each other’s’ homes. Watching our Sunday kids gather at home on the couch to participate has been a delight. It is always best when the family dog sticks its nose in the camera! We have come to treasure moments of human contact. Churches have moved with lightning speed to adopt technology to worship together “virtually.”


Many of us think it is good that we have seen the parts of our society who are suffering the most, the poor and certain minorities. It was reported at the very beginning of the pandemic that many native Americans could not abide by the recommendations of the CDC because of the lack of basic services. We learned, for example, that 30 percent of native Americans do not have running water in the home. Many other people do not have broadband internet. We are hopeful that this great human need will be addressed when the pandemic is behind us.


We have learned how important it is to care for the isolated and lonely. One of the best learnings has been the value of so-called “front line workers”. We have learned, for example, how important is that low paid person who rotates the fruit and vegetables in the produce section of the super market. We have seen how essential are invisible people whom we might have taken for granted before. Nurses’ doctors and health workers have become super heroes. The low paid persons who clean the floors and bathrooms in nursing homes we now know deserve much respect. Pharmaceutical companies looking for vaccines have become like sports teams in an arena with all of us in the stands rooting for them. We have always valued moms, but now even more so as they hold families together and in addition to everything else become teachers in the home!


I could go on. You also could say more things. But all of this brings to mind Paul’s words to the Philippians. “I have learned, whatever state I am in, therewith to be content.” (KJV)


When the wind blows fair and is at our backs we sail along. When the gale strikes and the waves bash against the hull, we can face the worst, because of Jesus who lives in us. One of the saddest part of the pandemic is when people lost a loved one who was alone in the hospital on a ventilator unable to see or be seen by family. I lost two three friends this way and it is heart breaking. We also appreciate the burdensome work of those who worked day after day in the hospital trying to be a loving nurturing presence to people cut off from the family.


Even in the worst, Jesus is with us upholding us.


Our God is one who goes with us everywhere, even the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus died on the cross forsaken by God so we never would be and so God could show us he knows how it is with us in pain and misery and loneliness.


In the pandemic we have seen much of the dark side of life. We have also seen how indispensable is God’s love and the faith he plants within us.


I want, and so do you, Paul’s conviction. I want the unwavering assurance that no matter our circumstances, nothing in our relationship with God has changed. God will never abandon us. “I am with you always,” Jesus said to his disciples. We can trust him and he is the only one we can trust one hundred percent no matter what.


Paul wrote, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8, RSV)


Please pray with me. “Dear Lord, instill in us a calming confidence in all circumstances that with you we have already won. Nothing in life or death can defeat us. We have you. You stand by us no matter what. Help us to live with that strength and certainty. In Jesus we ask. Amen.”