I have a coffee mug a very generous member gave me around Christmas that has on one side the word Faith, and underneath that a horizontal line, and underneath the line the word fear – Faith over fear. Hmmmm, we didn’t know about a novel virus at the time the mug was purchased or given. On the opposite side of the mug is the name Jesus written vertically. I am drinking my coffee solely out of that mug now, because yes. It reminds me that it’s still true, faith still wins over fear. I need to see that, hear it, live it, and let it saturate my soul.

It’s been a rough week, and it’s only Tuesday, right? I know we send the blog out on Wednesday, but everything is rescheduling in our lives right now so I’m blog-creating on Tuesday this week. Tomorrow I will be recording a sermon for Sunday morning from home as well. The way we are choosing to offer worship given the latest measures for safety, is for all of us to do our parts of the worship services from home, send them to tech guy, and he will edit them all together for a unified service which takes time. I can’t quite imagine how that works, but I’m glad it can. We did pre-record some music from our sanctuary yesterday while everyone was here, but I wasn’t ready with a sermon. I have wondered a bit if we’re going to an extreme, and yet for now, I want to witness a shared purpose that I hope is uniting us, to protect our hospitals, our medical care workers, and our population from a spike in severe cases of virus that would cause a shortage in personnel, equipment, and thereby the ability to save lives.

My usual way of doing technology is to holler from my office when things happen I don’t understand and someone will usually come in and help me past the bump in the road. I can still holler, and probably will just for good measure, but my help is no longer in walk-in vicinity. I have both practiced what I need to do, and have written down the steps, we’ll see how it works. I’ve done a lot of preaching at home over the years, but never for a congregation to actually witness. Faith over fear . . . faith over fear . . . faith over fear.

Yesterday was filled with feelings I’ve never had before, as somehow it felt like we needed to get absolutely everything done we ever needed to do from the office and face to face with one another. Everything we were doing felt tinged with a sense of foreboding for lack of a better word. And then as people were leaving, it was weird saying goodbye. Was it goodbye for a couple of weeks? A month? 2 or 3? Some of us are pushing the age range of “vulnerability” and yet I’m not certain but what this virus isn’t leveling the playing field in multiple age ranges. And maybe it’s also leveling the playing field in the possible responses we have as human beings. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been half convinced I’ve had it several times – every tweak in my throat, every cough when a barbecue potato chip goes down the wrong way, every time I step outside and I shiver. Then I think maybe I’ve already had it and have established the immunity and I can donate it to the researchers and they can multiply and use it to help others. Imagination much? Will we look back on this time and say that it brought out in us the worst, or the best of what we can be for and with one another?

I pulled out my old red bible, you remember the one, where the book of Romans kept falling out? It still gives me comfort, and I found these verses that have helped my touch of hypochondria, my sense of not seeing people I love and with whom I work on a daily basis, and my anxiety around what unknown we will face tomorrow. Hear these words from 1 Cor. 12:4-7, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” I love that last sentence which is vs. 7, God has given each of us different gifts and abilities AND they are all to be brought together FOR THE COMMON GOOD. We need that focus just now. That focus on the ways God is working in each of us for the common good. If you are like me, I am doing better and worse at that depending on the day, and sometimes on the hour or the minute, but I believe our best desire is to grow into that vision.

Then 2 Cor. 4:8-9, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Somehow the human story of resilience is timeless. The apostle Paul writes these words in a time when life was at risk because of an oppressive empire that sought to crush the poor and the outcast and those, like believers in Jesus, that didn’t “fit”. The faithful were encouraged to remember that they were walking through the struggle together AND that they were not without the strength and abiding presence of God.

We literally do not know what tomorrow will bring. We can look and see a bell curve of places this virus has hit and begun to decline. We don’t know if or when we will be at a place of viral decline, but we know the challenge is to work together for the common good. Someday we or our successors will look back and reflect on how we came through this crisis as a world and as a nation and I wonder what they will learn from us. What happens when our focus on self takes over and we self-destruct, or what happens when we rise above the self and live our faith out loud and witness to the resilience of the human spirit that God creates and calls good?

My faith over fear mug greeted me this morning as a new day and way of living and working beckoned. The chat with the pastor did not go quite as planned, it was sort of a ‘can you hear me now’ experience, and we will give it another go next week. Max the dog was nowhere to be seen during the chat, and immediately after it abruptly stopped, he landed in my lap from a running, flying leap! I hugged him and called him a snot-head. He licked my glasses and still got a treat. Maybe you will get to see his ugly mug next week along with Gunnar, Kyle, and me. I simply know it makes me happy when you all share pics of you, your kids, and your furry kids watching our services from home on Sunday mornings.

And tomorrow is a new day – I have no doubt there will be new challenges, AND there will be new opportunities to meet the challenges with heart and mind and generous spirits. Faith over fear and a little vertical Jesus to go with – may it be so!