Since the beginning of time, plagues have altered the course of history. Some were definitely by the hand of God to punish people for their sins and to bring about a change in behavior. (Exodus 7:14-11:10) Others have been through the natural course of a fallen world. Every living organism eventually dies. Our bodies are giant chemical factories that are continually destroying cells and replacing them with new ones.
Dangerous organisms continually test our body’s defenses. Viruses live within us all the time. Sometimes a virus mutates and our body struggles to recognize and defend itself from the mutating virus that may attack and destroy other cells. All these chemical and biological actions have been created by God. He designed them for good, and created mankind in his image so that he could commune with us. But man rebelled against God and that’s where the perfect harmony between man and God broke down. (Romans 5:12)
The resulting chaos on earth and the death that accompanies it are
the punishment for man’s sin. So, in that sense, the current COVID-19 crisis is
a result of God’s wrath. But God’s chief adversary, the devil, the embodiment
of evil, has been given temporary dominion over the earth. He is responsible
for the pain, loss and fear that billions of people are now experiencing.
People are suffering and dying from the virus, but people are also suffering and dying from other diseases, wars, famines, and accidents. Death will always be part of the human condition, but Jesus came to give life. (John 10:10) His death and resurrection opened the doors to a pain-free and death-free life everlasting with God.
Whether or not the Coronavirus is a direct punishment sent by God for the sinful action of men and women around the world, we know that through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can know peace in the midst of uncertainty and fear. (Isaiah 41:10 and John 14:27) As with plagues in the past, people are searching their hearts looking for answers. Many are calling out to God for His mercy. (Revelation 21:4) He stands ready to extend it to all who trust in Him. (Revelation 3:20)
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It depends on what you mean by celebrate. There may be little harm in drinking green beer, eating corned beef and cabbage, and dancing an Irish jig, but a better celebration would be remembering who Patrick was and what he did for God.
Most people know that March 17th is a day for
celebrating Irish national heritage and a man who is said to have rid Ireland
of snakes. Many may assume because the title of Saint* precedes his name he was
a religious fellow, but few know the real story of Patrick and the role he
played in bringing Christianity to Ireland.
Patrick’s story begins sometime in the 5th century. From some of his writings we glean a story of a boy who was raised during the Roman occupation of the British Isles. His father may have been a church leader and a minor community official in Scotland or Wales. When Patrick was a teenager, he was captured by Irish marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland. There, he spent 5 years tending sheep and using his solitude to pray and sing and develop a close relationship with God. He also mastered the Celtic language that became vital for his missionary work later in life.
He escaped from slavery, returned to England and began formal study. Later he traveled to Auxerre in present day France and studied religion under St. Germain. Eventually he was promoted to the priesthood. He believed that an angel told him that the pagan people of Ireland were calling out for his return. With the blessing of the Pope in Rome, he sailed for Ireland and began telling the Druids of the true God and redemption bought at the cross by Jesus. Legend has it that he used the three-leaf shamrock to help explain the Trinity. Legend also says that he drove the snakes from the island, though scientists tell us that there were probably no snakes on the island since the end of the previous ice age.
It is not the legend we celebrate, but rather Patrick’s
boldness and fearlessness in preaching the Gospel among a very hostile, pagan
people. His missionary efforts led thousands of non-believers to give up their
idol worship and become followers of Christ. By the time of his death at the
end of the 5th century, the majority of Celts had become Christians.
So Christians and Irish Christians in particular, have good cause to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, because they are celebrating the life of a man that God ordained and commissioned to carry His good news to a spiritually dark corner of the world.
*Ironically, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and one
of the world’s best known saints has never been canonized by the Catholic
church and therefore is a saint in name only.
At a time when Coronavirus dominates the headlines, and our
economy is disrupted with travel restrictions, closures, cancellations,
Christians must be proactive. We are not called to withdraw and distance
ourselves from others.
Sure, it is prudent to take precautions that slow the spread
of the virus, but Christians must remember that we have been called to care for
others. In the book of Matthew, we read these words of Jesus:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’“
In practical terms, this means looking out for our
neighbors, particularly those who are already ill, or those who may be
quarantined. Are the elderly and infirm in your neighborhood being looked
after? Are their families that need child care because the schools are closed? Are
there individuals who need food or medicine but are unable to get it? Are there
others who can’t afford their rent or mortgage payment because they have been
laid-off? What about the students that are supposed to be engaged in online
learning, but don’t have internet connections in their homes? Each of these
situations provide opportunities for Christians to serve.
In addition, we should be praying; praying against the fear that permeates the hearts and minds of many, praying for the healing of bodies and hearts, praying for the protection of healthcare workers, emergency responders, people providing transportation and serving the public in stores, gas stations, and restaurants. And, we should be praying for the grieving—those who have lost loved ones, and those who are cut off from loved ones.
Finally, as Christians we should be praying that we would be drawn closer to God so that we will hear and respond to his call to us during these difficult times.
John, one of the disciples of Jesus, records this story of a wedding feast in which Jesus turns water into wine:
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
While this appears to be a miracle like the ones recorded in the other books about Jesus’ life, John makes clear that this is not just a neat trick, but rather has a very specific purpose. It is the first of seven signs that John describes to help his readers see that Jesus is God. In verse 11 he clearly states:
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
For John, sharing his eyewitness account of life with Jesus is all about showing Jesus as divine—the Son of God who was himself God.
As you read the story, you might miss the symbolism. This is not so much about great wine for revelers during a week-long wedding feast. Rather, it’s about how the containers that had been filled with water for making the Jews ceremonially clean were going to be filled with the best wine, a symbol of the blood that Jesus would shed on the cross to provide an eternal cleansing of the filth of sin.
This is the first of seven signs that John writes about so that all will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the savior of mankind.