Depending on who you talk to (or read on social media) about the Coronavirus, you will find those who are calmly washing their hands more often, wisely taking the necessary precautions, and choosing to avoid panic mode—and you will find those who have stockpiled supplies, retreated in solitary confinement, and are seeking to convince others to do the same. I felt it was important to reach out and let you know that our staff has been working hard to ensure the safety of all our church family.
As of the early afternoon of March 13, we were planning to have our regular schedule of Sunday morning services. A new page on our website was created to provide important updates and information regarding the increased cleaning and disinfecting throughout our facility. We were preparing a team to wipe down door handles, light switches, and water fountains between services. The hand sanitizer stations throughout the campus were stocked and ready for use.
However, as of late this afternoon, more information continued to be shared with us. We knew that Governor Northam had declared a state of emergency in Virginia earlier this week—which included a strong warning against gatherings of 250 people or more. To keep in line with this declaration, we had planned to ask some who attended the 11:00 worship service to consider joining our lively :) 8:30 worship service. Today, Governor Northam also closed all Virginia schools for the next two weeks. Not long after this announcement, President Trump declared a national state of emergency.
As we learn more about the coronavirus, an important consideration to the church leadership is that we are being told by medical professionals that there is a 14-day incubation period—meaning that many people may unknowingly be carrying the virus. This means that very genuine and kind people could put others at risk without even realizing it. It is also being reported that those with respiratory issues and those 60 and over are considered high-risk cases. Understanding that a very valuable part of our church family falls into these categories, we want to do all we can to prevent any of our members who are thriving in the golden years of their life from being exposed to the virus.
So, although we had initially considered simply continuing with our regular schedule of church services, the church leadership has felt it would be best to offer an online-only worship experience this weekend. Our worship team, A/V team, and pastoral staff will be on hand at the church to provide a time of Scripture reading, worship, and a message from God’s Word for our church family. The service will be offered on our church website, Facebook page (click here for Facebook), or YouTube channel (click here for YouTube). You can also download our church app by searching “Mt. Carmel Luray” on the App store or Google Play store.
Pastor Mike is continuing to closely monitor the situation and will make any decision necessary for the safety of the team, their families, and those to whom the team will be ministering.
The coronavirus concerns are raising uncertainty for some of our members based on their careers. We have many police officers, EMT’s, and medical professionals in our congregations who not only leave for work each day facing the growing reality that this virus is spreading, but also knowing they may be called on for additional time. We have many schoolteachers who will be concerned about communicating on both an academic and personal level with their students and families. We have many men and women whose jobs may be greatly affected by the decisions being made to cancel large gatherings all over the country—causing hits to the local economies. Please know that our church family is praying for you and desires to help as any family member would.
While our Sunday gathering may not happen this week, the ministry and care for our church family, the community of Page County, and the worldwide mission of making disciples will continue. If you are looking for a way to contribute to Gospel needs through Mt. Carmel, our online giving option is very simple (click here for online giving).
With Gospel love. It is very easy to become so concerned and focused on ourselves at a time like this that we being to turn all the attention on our own well-being and safety--at the expense of love. As 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, love does not seek its own. As we contemplate what God did for us in the Gospel, we see what true love (as referenced in John 3:16) truly looks like. It was love for us that moved Jesus to leave the contented glories of Heaven to walk the dirty streets of Earth amidst the sick and diseased. Without the intentional and loving actions of Jesus towards us in our sinful state, we would have no hope for eternal life. As followers of Jesus, it is necessary to respond with Gospel love to the world around us.
With Gospel grace. Imagine what those without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ must be thinking right now? What if their world were to end? What if they were to lose their financial security? What if they were to contract a disease? What would they do? So many questions can be found in the hearts of those without Jesus, and often those questions lead to a life of fear. May those of us who understand the beauty and assurance of the glory to come found in Romans 8:18 offer grace to those who do not have that assurance. I was reminded of God's amazing grace yesterday when Pastor Mike shared a story with me about a man who was imprisoned and sentenced to death in Romania in the last century. He was allowed one visitor before his execution. He asked to see his wife. He told his wife, "Do not hate the men who will take my life. I have already forgiven them, and I ask you to do the same." A certain prison guard overheard this conversation between this martyr and his wife. That guard later came to place his trust in Jesus--through the story of grace in this man's life. As followers of Jesus, it is necessary to respond with Gospel grace to the world around us.
With Gospel sacrifice. The empty shelves and long lines at stores display that our first instinct is to stockpile reserves for our own safety and assurance. However, the life of Jesus throughout the Gospel reveals that He lived to give of all that He had for others to know and experience the glory of God. When some shared their intentions to follow Jesus in Luke 9, He responded by telling them in Luke 9:58 that the Son of God did not even have a place to call home. Jesus knew that His temporary life on earth was to be spent declaring and displaying the truth of an eternal life one day. Jesus warned us in the Sermon on the Mount not to stockpile treasures here on earth, but to layup treasures in Heaven instead. May we live open-handed even now with what God has given to us. May we live as if God desires to give through us. As followers of Jesus, it is necessary to respond with Gospel sacrifice to the world around us.
With Gospel service. In the final hours of His life, Jesus took a towel to kneel before His disciples and washed their feet. He did this because none of the disciples offered to wash each others' feet upon entering the Upper Room. When He finished, Jesus turned to His disciples and commanded them to live in the same way. Can you imagine what must have been going through Jesus' mind on that night? He knew the terrors that lay ahead of Him in the next 24 hours. He knew that He would face the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, and the desertion of all His friends. He knew that He would be falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned, and unjustly tortured. He knew He would face the separation of the eternal union He had enjoyed with His Heavenly Father from the beginning of time. Imagine all that was in the heart of Jesus, yet He stooped to serve. He knew He was washing the feet of the men who would use those feet to run from Him. But He continued to serve them. What a Savior! What an example! And, as His disciples, that is specifically what we are called to do as well. As followers of Jesus, it is necessary to respond with Gospel service to the world around us.
With Gospel hope. We must continue to remind our hearts that our true hope lies beyond this world! The beauty of the Gospel is that we can never lose what Jesus has gifted to us! I can lose my possessions. I can lose my health. I can lose my loved ones. But I can never lose the eternal life that God has gifted to me through the work of Jesus. Through His life, Jesus lived the perfect life of righteous obedience to God that I could never live. Through His death, Jesus paid the penalty for sin that I could never pay. And once I place my complete trust in the finished work of Jesus, my sins are forgiven, His righteousness is credited to my account, and I can fully enjoy a relationship with God that had been ruined by sin! The Apostle Paul most certainly recognized this hope for he wrote to fellow Christians reminding them that even during the most tragic times in life, we do not have to grieve the loss of life as those who have no hope. We can know that eternal life is ours through Jesus Christ alone! May we regularly remind our hearts of the comfort and hope found in the Word of God when we begin to find fear and worry in the words of men. As Christians, we are not denying reality. There is concern in our world at this moment. But as Christians, we have confidence and hope that our Father holds the whole world in His hands. As we are reminded of these beautiful words, "We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow." As followers of Jesus, it is necessary to respond with Gospel hope to the world around us.