Sermon for the week: In a time of trial, do not fear
Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.
Eastmoor United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters, in this time of fear and uncertainty, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the constant noise of bad news. We are living in this very moment when calm should be the order of the day.
Yet, in this point of history, we see examples of fear all around. This new threat, COVID-19, has done what many other things could not, and should not have done. We are living in fear of what we cannot see.
Sadly, our churches have taken actions to close and suspend services out of civic duty to protect those who are most vulnerable. Although prudent, it goes against the grain of every pastor and church family, because it is the one true bastion when things go awry in our life. We hear the “do not fear,” yet with all that is going on, it’s not an easy position to maintain.
Psalm 121 is a favorite scripture passage of mine that speaks assurance to us of God’s protection in times like these.
I lift up my eyes to the hills —from where will my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
The Psalmist is most likely referencing the hills of Jerusalem as they travel to finish their pilgrimage. They look up, still far from their place of worship, journeying through a land of danger and threats from often-present robbers and thieves. Yet the Psalmist knew that they didn’t need to be in Jerusalem to be under God’s protection. God is always with us.
I read a post on social media decrying the scene at a grocery store where people were panic-buying as an elderly couple stood by, too afraid to even go in. This sparked an emotional response in me that reminded me of what our greatest generation went through in the middle of two global wars. Yet here, in the United States, a blessed nation, our elders are in fear of these kinds of actions.
This greatest generation, although rightfully fearful, stepped up to do what they had to do, to stop evil in the world. They continue as an example of sacrifice and steadfastness that we could take a lesson from today. They made do with what they had available, both in the war-ravaged lands and those who were holding down the home front, to ensure the rest of people had what was needed to survive this time of trial.
Rationing was a way of life. You could only buy so much of each commodity in order that others had access to basic goods. They got by with the things they had, and even shared what abundance was available. They shared it with friends and neighbors, even with strangers because that was the mindset of the day. We could learn much from our elders, and we should take care of them, just as they took care of us.
Although we are not in a war per se, we are in a time of trial. We are the land of the free and home of the brave, yet there is fear and uncertainty running rampant. Many are content with staying home and weathering this crisis. Others, are saying what’s the big deal? Yet we find others who are being affected by school closings, business shutdowns, with their paychecks drying up. This is not something we are used to, this not who we are and we rail against our lack of surplus and lack of movement. Other countries who are in far worse shape economically are in the same boat as we are. Where do we look for our help?
For believers, we know where we can seek our help. We know that in times of trouble, God is with us, he is our refuge and strength. He will not let our feet slip, though the path we walk may be dangerous and fraught with pain. He is forever awake and stands ready to defend us.
Having worked in law enforcement for many years, I have seen humanity at its worst and at its best. We live in a time where prayer is essential and faithfulness is paramount. Evil still exists, but good is still at work in the middle of it all. God doesn’t promise us that we won’t suffer, but that he will be with us through it all.
We are living in a time when we should look to the hills for our help and strength. We are experiencing a time that the greatest generation survived and arrived on the other side, and we will too. In times like this we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, offering our hands to those who need a lift up.
Trust in God that he will be with you in the times you reach out to the poor, who depend on our generosity. When the downturn of economy pushes businesses to close, be the light for those who are unemployed. Be bold in your actions to provide and share with them out of your abundance.
May your eyes and ears be attentive to your neighbor’s needs, giving of your time and talent and most of all your compassion that we become an instrument of peace in their lives.
As we move into a new normal, know that your churches and pastors are praying for each of you. Know that we are lifting each of you to the God who made creation, who made each of you, knitting you together in your mother’s womb. Know that in this season of Lent, we are Easter people, and we know the sacrifice Christ made, so that we may have life abundantly and life eternal. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and cast all your fears and anxiousness upon him as savior of us all. God is in control and forever on the throne.
Grace and peace to you.