Pastor David's Sermon - 3.15.20by Pastor David Alexander
We wanted to send out the transcript of Pastor David's message from this morning in case you did not have the chance to watch online today. You can watch his message here. Please know we will be in communication with you throughout the week with any updates we may have. You can email us at email@example.com with any questions you may have. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any prayer requests or care concerns. We want to stay connected with you!
"Good morning friends. I want to thank you for joining me this morning… If we have not met, my name is David and I serve as the Senior Pastor here at First Methodist Mansfield. I want to welcome all of you who are worshipping online today… and by all of you, I mean all of you.
I’m here in a mostly empty sanctuary. My wife is sitting right over there and we have a few of our production folks here but other than that, I’m here in a big empty room…
Which if you don’t know this is actually a pastor’s worst nightmare… all pastors fear that the sermon will be so bad that absolutely no one will come back next week… Luckily I didn’t preach last weekend so I’m off the hook on that one.
I received this text yesterday from a close friend who is a pastor in Fort Worth. He said,
'Happy Birthday David! I suspect it’s a little different of a birthday, as we’re both preparing to preach to empty sanctuaries tomorrow. The way I preach, that was probably inevitable.'
It is truly a bizarre day.
The closest I’ve come to a day like today was my very first Easter serving here at First Methodist Mansfield. It was 15 years ago. I had been appointed here as an Associate Pastor that February and our family was actually still living in Cleburne at the time and I was supposed to help lead the sunrise service and while I did eventually make it to Mansfield, it took a lot longer than expected because I had to make that 40-mile journey in a snowstorm.
Some of you may remember that really odd Easter morning 15 years ago.
During a significant ice storm we had many years ago, I told my wife, Stephanie, that no matter what, I would never cancel church. Even if only one person showed up, I was going to be there.
I just couldn’t imagine there ever being a circumstance that would prevent me from being here to open the doors for anyone who wanted to come…
So let me answer the question that I know many of you are wondering…
Then why did you change your mind?
What is that is so different about today?
Are we simply joining in the panic?
Is this seemingly drastic step really a necessary step?
Well, let me begin by saying that over the last 72 hours, we had about 14 different plans for what we were going to be offering this weekend. I spent most of Friday morning with our Executive Director, Taylor Davis. We knew that Dallas County had already made the recommendation that no public gatherings of more than 250 should happen, but we hadn’t heard from Tarrant County yet. So we were going the same thing we had done the day before connecting with our pastors in our community to see what plans they were making for their weekend gatherings.
When we heard that MISD would remain closed through March 27th, it was then that I made the decision that we would not be having services this weekend and would be suspending all events and gatherings on our campus until further notice.
I want to tell you that upfront to highlight what I hope you already know - which is how much we value our community partnerships. Our connection with other churches and Pastors, the great leadership of our school District, our Mayor, David Cook, who has helped foster many of these connections and has been involved in personally communicating with our faith community. Those partnerships certainly include Mansfield Methodist Hospital, the Mansfield Mission Center, the Mansfield Common Ground… the list goes on and on.
We do ministry in a unique and special community and in times of uncertainty, I’m reminded of what a great blessing it is to be surrounded by leaders who care deeply about all those within our community and are doing their very best on behalf of the citizens of Mansfield and surrounding communities.
The final change I made in our plans for this morning happened yesterday after I participated in a Conference call with other religious leaders in our area hosted by Tarrant County Public Health and Judge Glen Whitley who issued the declaration of a local disaster due to a public health emergency.
I learned some very important things on that call, and - at the same time - it became clear to me that the best thing for me to do this morning is to share some of that information with you today.
As of 2pm yesterday, there were 3 confirmed cases of COV-19 in Tarrant County, 5 confirmed cases in Collin County, and more than 10 confirmed cases in Dallas County.
It was additionally noted that the 3rd case in Tarrant County was confirmed to have resulted from exposure to one of the 5 cases in Collin County.
As of last night, there was a 4th confirmed case identified in Tarrant County.
Now, those are all small numbers so it’s reasonable for us to wonder why then we are being asked to take such serious steps.
Now, I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a doctorate of ministry or a doctorate of medicine. I’m not a scientist. In fact, I was always awful at science in case you were wondering.
But here is what I learned yesterday...
First, coronavirus refers to a family of viruses… and within a family of viruses there are a variety of different strains of that virus.
Through my serving on the Advisory Board at Mansfield Methodist Hospital, I’ve learned a great deal about the seasonal flu virus which as many of you know also has a variety of different strains.
I’ve learned some basic information about how they develop the seasonal flu shot to combat certain strains they expect to see in each season and that a significant factor in the number and severity of flu cases each season is the particular strain of the flu most prevalent in that season.
Each virus is unique, affecting us in different ways. Viruses respond differently as well.
So, here’s one point of confusion. If you have a disinfectant at home - like these Clorox wipes I brought from our house - if you read the fine print you will see that Coronavirus is listed as one of the viruses that these wipes will kill. The reason is that the coronavirus - as a family of viruses - is not new. Various strands of coronavirus were already known to us.
Here is what’s different about what we’re experiencing right now. You may have heard. This particular strand of Coronavirus - COV-19 is a novel virus - a term you may have heard in recent days - meaning that it is brand new to the human population. None of us, anywhere in the world - have ever been exposed to this particular strand of this virus before.
That means that there is no natural immunity within the human population which makes it highly contagious. There are no vaccines available for a novel virus, and the only treatment currently available is addressing the symptoms of the virus as opposed to the virus itself.
Finally, as you probably already know.
You can have the virus. You can spread the virus, and - at the same time - not be experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
And all of that is what leads to the largest concern health officials have right now which is the number of people who could potentially become sick from this novel virus at the exact same time.
So here’s what health officials shared with us as their primary goals.
Stay ahead of the virus spreading in our area through proactive measures to help keep the number of cases at a low level. SO THAT…
We do not end up creating a large burden on our area hospitals.
This is what many have referred to as “flattening the curve” because a spike in cases will lead to a spike in those needing additional care and support from our health systems.
Beyond the hygiene recommendations, we’ve all heard,
Washing our hands,
Covering our mouths when we cough,
Avoid touching our eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands,
Here is what was clearly communicated to me yesterday.
“ “We feel very strongly that the best way to prevent the virus from spreading and creating a large burden on our hospital system is - to the extent that you are able - to simply stay home.”
And in the instance that any of us might need to go out, that we are all mindful of the recommendation to maintain a distance of 6 feet from one another.
Which by the way is just one more reason to not join in the panic at the local grocery store because wherever we are clumping together we are increasing our shared risk.
For more information, www.tarrantcounty.com.
Now, hear this carefully.
I felt a conviction that as your pastor, this is information I needed to share with you today. I’d much rather us all be together and have the chance to just talk about Jesus.
My goal in sharing this with you is not to increase your fear. It is instead to increase your wisdom.
Proverbs 19 says this,
“The one who gets wisdom loves life.”
And here is what we all know, but we need to be reminded of at times… As a follower of Jesus, loving life isn’t about loving my life, it’s about loving all life… valuing others more than I do myself…
In Luke chapter 12, Jesus says,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
And as I shared in my note with you on Friday, I think the words of Paul in Philippians chapter 4 are particularly timely for us right now,
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
If you know how to worry, you know how to pray. Worry is meditating on everything that could go bad. Prayer is meditating on the one who is good.
“The Lord is near.”
Here is how we might think about that in the coming days…
God is not practicing any social distancing from any one of us, and none of us have to practice any social distancing from God.
The Lord is near.
And we will be on the other side of this soon.
For many of us the most significant challenge we are going to face in the coming weeks is simply slowing down, being still, having patience, and trusting God.
The Lord is near.
Do not worry.
Do not be afraid.
Instead, focus your thoughts on the one who is good.
Read a book. I recommend the Bible.
Spend time praying for others.
Embrace time with your family.
Pick up the phone. Call someone you love. Talk as long as you want.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen.
Write that note you’ve been thinking about sending but you just haven’t had the time to write.
Consider that - despite everything else that is happening around you - this time might actually be a gift.
Don’t waste it with worry.
Remember, the Lord is near.
There’s much more I could say, but let me close by telling you a few additional decisions we’ve made about the future.
Per the recommendations of our Tarrant County Health officials, we will be cancelling all services and all campus activities through Friday, March 27th.
We are going to do our best to stay connected in creative ways in the coming weeks.
- This coming Wednesday at noon, I will be back online to give you an update and share some additional encouragement with you. We will also make that available through all our social media platforms.
- Pastor Tina is working with our Care Chaplains to make phone calls to all our currently active members and guests just to check-in and see how you are doing and if you have any prayer concerns or needs you would like to share.
- If you would like to participate in making those calls, you can let us know by emailing email@example.com or by calling our church office and leaving a message. Know that it might take us some time to get back to you but we are grateful for your willingness to help us stay connected and care for our large congregation.
Like many other businesses in our community, and again, per the recommendation of our Tarrant County health officials, we are encouraging our staff to work from home and we will be staying connected through digital means as well.
Be in prayer."