March 29, 2020

Dear Church Family and Friends,

      A few years ago, well before the COVID-19 pandemic, I went on a vacation, and during my 2-week trip through several states, I caught a nasty case of pneumonia. I was coughing almost non-stop, had a fever of over 100 degrees, my body was aching, my brain felt numb and I was irritated, mildly delusional and depressed…all at the same time.

     “Organized” medicine wasn’t my thing back then, so against common sense, I stayed at home and decided to self-medicate: cough drops for my whooping cough, aspirin for fever, vitamins for immune system, and that pink gooey stuff for my unhappy stomach. There was one huge problem: the relief was only temporary. My fever, coughing, body aches and general misery were only symptoms of something much worse, a disease called pneumonia. In order to get rid of the symptoms and recover, I urgently needed to see a doctor and get to the root of the problem. The longer I ignored the cause, the more likely I was to develop a potentially fatal condition. Simply put, homemade treatments weren’t good enough, and only powerful antibiotics could do the job.

     In our own journeys of faith, we too are tempted to focus on symptoms, and stubbornly ignore their cause. We do something foolish, and we then tell ourselves to stop; we are not truthful, and our conscience reminds us to always tell the truth; we mess up, and we commit ourselves to do better next time. It all sounds good in theory, yet despite our efforts to be good, we relapse and slide right back to where we were before. Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans describes our common experience this way, he says, “I don’t understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do; but what I hate I do…For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep doing”.

     The Bible makes it clear that figuratively speaking, we all suffer from a virus, far more dangerous than any of those around us. It is our separation and estrangement from God, something that the Bible calls “sin”. It means we all have missed the mark of God’s standard, failed to meet demands of God’s righteousness, we all rebelled against the will and the holy character of God.

     The good news, my friends, is that while the scientists are still searching for a new vaccine, God offers us a solution, a path and the cure for our spiritual virus. God helps us to honestly face the problem; He invites us to build a relationship and surrender our lives to Him; He gives us an opportunity to turn around. Through the power of His Grace, God wipes our slate clean, erases our failures and guilt and gives us a fresh start; He works within us through His Spirit to make us “a new creation” and then, in our struggles and lifelong battles of life, He provides us with His overcoming strength to grow in the image of God and live victoriously as the followers of Jesus Christ.

  During this season, as we practice social distancing, we have an amazing opportunity to cut our distance from God, give our spiritual immune system a boost and draw closer to the Source of Life. With more time than usual on our hands, we can vigorously dive into the Word of God, pray more passionately for our families and the whole world and share God’s love with others in more meaningful ways: check on our neighbors, connect with people through letters, emails and phone calls, offer encouragement to those who are lonely, depressed and fearful. It is during times such as these, God calls us to shine the light of God’s grace and compassion, increase our Christian witness and in ways small and big, make an eternal difference in our families, our communities and the whole world.

     Stay safe, strong and courageous, be wise yet unafraid! Keeping you and your loved ones in my thoughts and prayers,

Pastor Alex Tychkin, Lihue United Church

The Grapevine