My favorite hymn is, “Ode to Joy,” from Beethoven’s 9th. Symphony. Our Sanctuary Choir does it beautifully so does The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a host of others. What follows in the sermon in churches and in television sermons is not joy. Unless you tune in to Rev. Susan Sparks at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City at 11:a.m. on Sundays. What usually follows is an indictment of the faithful for not being good enough, for missing the mark, for being less than holy. Let’s face it, the unfaithful are not there, not tuned in, not listening. Why do the faithful need a guilt trip?

In Jesus’s parable about the prodigal son’s return, there was no lecture from his father on what a terrible son he had been to waste all of his inheritance. Instead there was a lavish party welcoming him home. When the widow who had ten coins. but lost one and found it after diligently searching for it, ”she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ Matthew 15:9 (NIV)

Jesus tells us to leave the 99 sheep that are safe and go rescue the one that is lost. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ What does that sound like? It sounds like rejoicing. “Restore unto me the JOY of thy salvation….” Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always. Again I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 (NIV) Yes, I know a pandemic is taking place. Yes, I know there are race riots. Yes I know the economy is falling apart. How are these calamities any different than those in the rest of human history? When was there not an epidemic of some sort? When was there not a war? When was there not an economic crisis someplace in the world? Were we Christians not made for such a time as this?

We need an encouraging word, a cheerful word. We are not helpless pawns. God has given us everything we need to weather any storm that comes our way. We have not been left without resources. We have family, friends, and neighbors. We have brains, hearts and muscles. My neighbor mows my lawn. My friend takes me to the pharmacy and a delivery person brings my groceries. My daughter calls me every day and so does my sister. My son helps with things I need to get done. Another friend and I go out to lunch when we can find a place that is open. I have a healthy collection of male friends with whom I solve the problems of the world at least for an hour or two once each week. I go to Sunday school on a conference call. I even teach once in a while. Class members have become family. We check up on each other.  I go to worship services on the internet and I mail my offering to my bricks and mortar church building. I donate to the food bank.

We were not given spirits of fear. Fear breeds discontent and hate. Fear looks for a scapegoat. No one, no organization and no political party is responsible for our current situation. Our question should be, what can I do to be helpful? We all know that we should wear a face mask in public. We should practice social distancing and we should avoid large crowds. Why? Because these are the right things to do. These measures are not for ourselves, but for the protection of others. If you need a Biblical reason, listen to the words of Jesus, “…, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. “ Matthew 25:40 (NIV) or perhaps try St. Paul, “I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)