StoneBridge Community Church
Senior Pastor Jon Saur
Locations & Times
  • StoneBridge Community Church
    4832 Cochran St, Simi Valley, CA 93063, USA
    Saturday 5:00 PM, Saturday 6:00 PM

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Summer Light
We understand that people may be traveling and that families may be squeezing in one last getaway before school starts. Summer Light is a 5 week, message series that will carry the StoneBridge community through the dog days of summer. The series is not consecutive, allowing for you to attend when you can and not feel like you've missed out!
Sermon Outline

Here is a brief Outline of the sermon to help you follow along.

I. Roman Plague
A. In 165 AD, Roman empire experienced a terrible plague.
B. Experienced another a hundred years later.
C. Response of Romans was to protect themselves at the expense of loved ones.
D. Roman beliefs in the after life made this response make sense.
E. Ultimately, Romans were acting out of fear.

II. Fear
A. Fear can be good and bad. Jesus tells us to fear God, as do the Proverbs.
B. Healthy fear lets us know appropriate boundaries and helps us survive.
C. Inappropriate fear makes us selfish.
D. Fear during Covid-19. Not just fear of the virus but also fear of having to sacrifice our way of life.

III. God's commandment/Promise in Isaiah - Do Not Fear
A. God doesn't just give us this commandment so that we can be the strongest or the bravest or the boldest.
B. During Covid, Christians who have said "Don't take precautions, God will save us" aren't displaying the attitude God calls us to.
C. "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" needs to be balanced with "Do not fear."
D. God urged Israel to not fear so that Israel could be a blessing to the nations.
E. We should not fear so that we can love our neighbor, as Jesus commands us.

IV. How do we let go of fear?
A. God's invitation to not fear is tied to God's promises.
B. The promises in Isaiah are of redemption and of God's presence.
C. God will be with us.
D. These promises allow us to abandon fear and love our neighbor.

V. What does a life lived without fear look like?
A. Christians' response to the Roman plagues.
B. They loved their neighbors.
C. The early church grew the most in the aftermath of these pandemics.
Excerpts from Rodney Stark on Christian Response to Pandemics

In the sermon, Pastor Jon mentioned Rodney Stark's work on how Christians responded to pandemics in the past. Below are some excerpts from Stark's book "The Triumph of Christianity."

"In the year 165, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a devastating epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. Some medical historians suspect this was the first appearance of smallpox in the West. Whatever the actual disease, it was lethal—as many contagious diseases are when they strike a previously unexposed population. During the fifteen-year duration of the epidemic, a quarter to a third of the population probably died of it. At the height of the epidemic, mortality was so great in many cities that the emperor Marcus Aurelius (who subsequently died of the disease) wrote of caravans of carts and wagons hauling out the dead. Then, a century later came another great plague. Once again the Greco-Roman world trembled as, on all sides, family, friends, and neighbors died horribly. No one knew how to treat the stricken. Nor did most people try. During the first plague, the famous classical physician Galen fled Rome for his country estate where he stayed until the danger subsided. But for those who could not flee, the typical response was to try to avoid any contact with the afflicted, since it was understood that the disease was contagious. Hence, when their first symptom appeared, victims often were thrown into the streets, where the dead and dying lay in piles. In a pastoral letter written during the second epidemic (ca. 251), Bishop Dionysius described events in Alexandria: “At the first onset of the disease, they [pagans] pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape”….

As for action, Christians met the obligation to care for the sick rather than desert them, and thereby saved enormous numbers of lives! As William H. McNeill pointed out in his celebrated Plagues and Peoples, under the circumstances prevailing in this era, even “quite elementary nursing will greatly reduce mortality. Simple provision of food and water, for instance, will allow persons who are temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably.” It is entirely plausible that Christian nursing would have reduced mortality by as much as two-thirds! The fact that most stricken Christians survived did not go unnoticed, lending immense credibility to Christian "miracle working." Indeed, the miracles often included pagan neighbors and relatives. This surely must have produced some conversions, especially by those who were nursed back to health. In addition, while Christians did nurse some pagans, being so outnumbered, obviously they could not have cared for most of them, while all, or nearly all, Christians would have been nursed. Hence Christians as a group would have enjoyed a far superior survival rate, and, on these grounds alone, the percentage of Christians in the population would have increased substantially as a result of both plagues.

What went on during the epidemics was only an intensification of what went on every day among Christians… Indeed, the impact of Christian mercy was so evident that in the fourth century when the emperor Julian attempted to restore paganism, he exhorted the pagan priesthood to compete with the Christian charities. In a letter to the high priest of Galatia, Julian urged the distribution of grain and wine to the poor, noting that “the impious Galileans [Christians], in addition to their own, support ours, [and] it is shameful that our poor should be wanting our aid.” But there was little or no response to Julian’s proposals because there were no doctrines and no traditional practices for the pagan priest to build upon…. Christians believed in life everlasting. At most, pagans believed in an unattractive existence in the underworld. Thus, for Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted during the first great plague would have required far greater bravery than was needed by Christian deacons and presbyters to do so. Faith mattered."
"Do Not Fear"

Biblical scholar Patrick Miller notes that the most common response from God in the Bible is "Do Not Fear." He writes: "The repetition of the words, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you," should not dull one's mind to their impact and significance. On the contrary, their constant appearance as God's response to prayer suggests that here we find most clearly what it is people seek in prayer and what God provides."

He goes on to write, "...where the human condition is at its worst and no mortal can sufficiently help, where people are terribly frightened, God speaks the only word that matters: you don't have to be afraid. That is not a word that can ever be given with any finality by humans beings..."

"Do not be afraid" is "as close to the heart of God's good news as one can get."

These reflections highlight for us just how central the encouragement "Do not fear" is to the gospel and to God's character. May we place our fears in God's hands, trusting in God's character.
Pastor Jon mentioned Jesus' temptation and the difference between letting go of fear and testing God. Below is the account of Jesus second temptation from the Gospel of Matthew.

May we understand the difference between these two and not put the Lord our God to the test.

1. What causes you fear?

2. How do you typically respond to fear?

3. How can God's promises help put your fear in its appropriate place?

4. Letting go of fear helps us to let go of selfishness and love our neighbors well. How can you love your neighbors well during this season of pandemic that we are in?
- Make a list of what causes you the most fear.
- Reflect on how you tend to respond to fear and the ways fear keeps you from loving your neighbor.
- Pray that God would calm your fears and give you assurance of God's promises.

A few weeks ago we launched a special 5-week podcast series called StoneBridge Essentials. This past week, Pastor Jon discussed heresies, how they develop, and popular trinitarian heresies. This coming Tuesday, listen in as Pastor Jon talks about the Nicene creed and how it gives us language to talk about the witness of God. Episodes are available every Tuesday within the StoneBridge podcast.

Starting the first weekend in September, StoneBridge will be launching a new, fall series – called The Moses Legacy. The Moses Legacy will insightfully journey through the essential parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Whether in-person or by Zoom, plan on joining a growth group to deepen your community experience and participation in this message series. Sign-up using the link below.

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