"Hope To See Us Through" A Sermon by the Rev. Terry Elsberry

HOPE TO SEE US THROUGH

 A series of reflections on a Christian response to the coronavirus pandemic from Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut, by Priest Associate the Reverend Terence L. Elsberry.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”—Jeremiah 29:11

Number Six: Lord, Heal Our Land—A Call to Prayer

I      

These are desperate times. And there are certainly things we desperately need going forward. We need the best minds in medicine and medical research to care for the sick, to reduce the number of lives lost, to develop a vaccine. We need brilliant economic decision making to guide our economy through the perilous days ahead. We need to find ways to get food to those who are facing major  shortages. I could go on.  The needs are immense. They mount daily.

We need something else. We need prayer.

II

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you,” the Lord tells us in Psalm 50 verse 15.

Those words are as true today as they were all those years ago. God is still our deliverer. When have we as a people needed Him, needed His help more? If ever we knew we can’t go it alone, we know it now.

You may say, “I’ve been praying, and I don’t see things getting any better. People still dying, suffering physically, financially, emotionally. People in the depths of misery of all kinds.”
Yet as the people of God, it’s our obligation, our opportunity to cry out to Him for help, for deliverance, for healing of all kinds.

Prayer connects us to God. Prayer brings God on the scene. Prayer brings Him actively into our lives and into the lives of the people we pray for–to bless, to help, to act on our behalf.

It’s always been that way for God and His people. When the Apostles were launching Christianity, they knew the importance of prayer. When they realized they couldn’t oversee distributing food and other necessities to the needy and still do their job as spiritual leaders, they made a decision. They called a meeting of the elders (vestry) and asked them to appoint seven men who could manage this ministry. Those seven missioners became the first deacons.

While the new deacons met the needs of the underprivileged, Peter and James and John and the other apostles would be doing what? The Bible says, “They were giving themselves continually to prayer”—one version says, “they continued steadfast in prayer”—”and to the ministry of the Word.”

In other words, the apostles were devoting themselves to prayer and to studying, preaching and teaching the Bible.

There you have it.  Three foundation stones of the church at its founding, that ought ideally to be foundation stones of every church today. Prayer. The Bible. Helping the needy. The fourth? Worship, in which God manifests Himself as we pray and praise and worship Him together in community. For as the Bible tells us the chief cornerstone is our Lord Jesus Christ.

But how did the apostles, the deacons and a relatively small group of other men and women  in the greatest group effort in history manage to start the church?  How were they able to overcome otherwise insurmountable odds to bring Jesus to a hostile pagan culture?

Here’s how they did it. Here’s the key to their astonishing success. They did it by prayer. Prayer to the God who was present with them, the God who through prayer guided them and protected them and helped them succeed.

III

God is with us now just as He was with the first Christians. Like them, we need to turn over our lives to Him. We do that by prayer. By praying for wisdom and guidance in the carrying out of our responsibilities, and in our relationships.

In this day of the Pandemic, we need to remember there’s a force stronger than Covid-19. It’s the Spirit of God. And He’s on our side. He longs for us to communicate with Him, turn to Him in our time of need.

So let’s pray for guidance. Pray for understanding. Pray for our church, pray for our nation and our fellow Americans, pray for our families and the people we love. Pray for the sick and the dying and for those who are in the front lines, made heroes by their faithfulness.

And as we pray, He’ll be there beside us to show us the way through.