Letter from the Pastor
Pastoral Reflections on COVID-19
Dearly Loved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even thought the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Seals. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. - The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Psalm 46:1-7
Seems that everything was the normal hectic just how many days ago? The normal routines of lives has been changed. What do the next days, weeks, months have in store for us? While we do not know what the future holds, we, as the people of God, do know that the Lord remains firmly enthroned in heaven. His mercy, grace and power are unchanged. This is why we may sing Psalm 46, with assured confidence: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”
COVID-19 (The Corona Virus) originated in China and was spread to Europe and now to the United States. You have seen the maps with more intensive infections from contagions in major US cities. We could have wished that Mississippi would have been spared, but it is here too. From what I see from the Mississippi Department of Health as of March 18, AD 2020, Mississippi has 34 positive cases and 513 individuals have been tested by the MSDH Public Health Laboratory (you can look on the sight for statistics and map locations). The problem is that you can have the virus and be contagious to others without having any symptoms. Thus government officials have called for social distancing to retard the spread of the virus. This is to allow time for effective drug treatments and vaccines to be developed thus limiting deaths and so that medical resources and facilities are not overwhelmed. This call for social distancing has been escalated to now calling for no groups of 10 or more.
The actions of the Session of Westminster Presbyterian Church are contained in the email sent to each of you. We will continue to communicate with you over the coming days. We are especially focusing on those members who may be sheltering in place due to health reasons. Are you in a small group? Call others in the group and in holy godliness check on them and pray for them. If Elders or Deacons can help with a need, please let them know.
Please allow me to offer these pastoral thoughts:
1. We all have questions about comparisons to previous epidemics; but for now let us, out of simple love for neighbor, raise our level of concern about how our own personal interactions may possibly impact our neighbors. Since the virus has the greatest effect on older people, if you are over the age of 65 or with other health issues you should carefully limit your interaction with others. Kids and grandkids may have to love Grandma and Grandpa over the phone or with a card or picture on FB.
2. Neighbor love also calls upon us to have a "holy nosiness”! Good I have your attention! Kind of a rough paraphrase of Paul: Phil. 2:4, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” It is the Spirit- worked humility which looks on others as more important than ourselves. All around us are a lot of fearful people: They need to hear and be reminded in assurance of our Jesus Christ who knows each of His sheep by name and cares for them. I was amazed at what was NOT on the shelves at Kroger! It may come to the point that we need to share with those in need. How are you talking to your children and grandchildren? We must communicate confidence in our sovereign and good Lord. Let them hear us in prayer that they may learn what believing prayer looks and sounds like. We all love (Rom. 8:28) that God works all things together for the good of His people - let us show this with regard to Coronavirus. Truly nothing is able to separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.
3. It is time for this working of the Lord to turn His people toward Him in prayer. Perhaps Family Worship has been tough to keep going in your home. Now is a great time to make sure your family gathers around God’s Word and prayer. Let us pray that our Great and Good God would protect our families, would restrain this pestilence, would grant compliance with wise counsel given by our government in Vicksburg, our state, and nation. Let us pray for the civil authorities and particularly for medical professionals who may well be called upon in extraordinary ways in extraordinary situations. Let us pray for teachers and students as education is changed. Let us pray for individuals and businessmen who face financial challenges. And, as we often speak of ‘wake-up calls’; surely this must be a wake-up call from the Judge of All the Earth to our nation to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In times past the Lord visiting cities and nations with plagues has been the occasion for many facing eternity to seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near, forsaking sin and seeking mercy in Christ. And your church leaders need the Lord’s wisdom to make godly decisions and to address ministry needs.
4. You have been encouraged to pray for those who need the Gospel as well as been given helpful Gospel tracts. Evangelism aides can also be found on the Westminster website. The world around us is immersed in the notion that man by technical prowess will build the perfect world of health and wealth. Suddenly more than little cracks are appearing in that worldview. Our friends need to hear the call that there is an eternal and safe home in Jesus Christ through faith in His redeeming sacrifice.
Did you see this coming? I certainly didn’t! But I do know that COVID-19 was never an unknown to our All-Wise and Sovereign God! He is our God and our Father who loves us in Christ. So dear Christian friends, set an example in word, speech, attitude and action to non-Christian friends and family about the difference Christ makes in your life. Again, communication is key so let us know of your needs. Let us avail ourselves of the weapon of All-Prayer and Supplication for each other and for a world in crisis. We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us! I will be praying for you.
Your servant for Christ’s sake,
Scott L. Reiber
Westminster Presbyterian Church
3601 Halls Ferry Rd.
Vicksburg, MS. 39180