Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We are all anxious. Some of us are more anxious than others, but it feels like the entire world is anxious right now.
We are anxious about the life, health, and the very existence of our community as we know it.
We are all well aware that things in our world are changing so very, very quickly. And these changes are unsettling. Change is hard – especially when we are asked to change our lives and our routines.
Businesses, daycares, and universities are closing. People are being asked to work from home. People are being laid off from their jobs. Our children are on a very, very long spring break which was extended to distance learning for most of April just this week.
Some businesses in our community are struggling to survive. Many businesses are cutting back on their employees’ hours. Gas prices have dropped like a rock and the stock market has been on a wild ride.
Store shelves are empty of hand sanitizer, bleach, and most cleaning supplies.
Each passing hour seems to bring more bad news, and yet another declaration from officials who are working so hard to keep all of us healthy and safe.
We watch the news and surf the web, but the news just doesn’t get any better. Another person has fallen ill. Another business is sending their employees home for an indefinite period of time. Another state or nation is on lock down. Another school system is closed for weeks – if not months. Another press conference with more restrictions to our daily lives just to keep us safe.
And as a result we are becoming more and more anxious. We are afraid. We are worried about the future of our community. We are worried about our future.
So what should we do? How are we to respond? Are anxiety and fear really the only answer?
Well, first, I want to say that I do not think that anxiety and fear are wrong or sinful. These are unquestionably challenging times. It is truly natural to be anxious. But I think it is very important that we move beyond our anxiety and our fear. We don’t have to let anxiety and fear be our only response.
I want to share with you something that happened to me several years ago when we still lived in Indiana. This happened during another time in my life that was filled with a lot of fear and anxiety.
I believe God was speaking to me. Not in the way that I so often yearn for. God did not stop by my office for a chat over a cup of coffee. He didn’t send an email or a text. God did not speak to me in that way. But I do believe that God did indeed speak to me.
One morning, I heard a bird chirping and not in that distant way of birds singing in the trees. It was much closer than that. I was puzzled by it, but was soon distracted by getting Jack ready for preschool and myself ready for work. A while later I noticed that our dog – Zoe – was taking an unusual interest in the door that led from our house into the garage and then I heard that loud chirping again. Only this time the chirping sounded sad and anxious. So I carefully opened the door from our house that led to our garage and standing there in the middle of the garage was a baby bird.
So I opened the garage door and hoped that the wee bird would fly away. But that didn’t happen, because the noise of the opening garage door terrified the tiny, baby bird and made it even more anxious. In fact, it decided to hide behind our recycling bins.
I decided to leave the little bird alone with the garage door open hoping that once things quieted down, and it became less afraid that it would come out of hiding and head outside.
I packed Jack’s lunch and found my keys and started to close the garage door. As I was reaching for the button, I heard the wee, baby bird chirping anxiously from behind the recycling bins. It was then that I decided to help the baby bird find its way outside. All too soon, I realized it was very afraid of me. It decided to hide behind the gardening rakes. After that it hid behind Jack’s wagon. And finally it took shelter behind the workbench.
The baby bird was very, very anxious and so it was blind to the fact that I wanted to help. Its fear and anxiety kept it from seeing the help I was offering. It couldn’t even see the completely open garage door and the sunny summer day that was awaiting it.
Eventually a very, very dusty – rather rumpled baby bird made its way out of our garage, but it took a while. Simply because its anxiety and fear had blinded it to the help that was being offered.
We don’t have to be like that baby bird. We can accept the help being offered to us. The Bible tells us our Lord and Savior will help us. Our God has promised to help us through each and every moment of our earthly lives.
We are not in this alone. We are never in this life alone – never – ever – ever!
We have our God and we do have one another – even if we can’t gather together in person – we do have our Christian community. And our God has promised to be with us always.
I encourage you to reach out to one another during these anxious, stressful times. Care for one another. Love and support each other.
Send cards. I received a thank you card in the mail last week. I cannot tell you how much those words of thanks, appreciation, and encouragement meant to me. I hung the card on my bulletin board at home and every time I see it, I am reminded of my Christian community and my love for you.
Write an email. Send a text message. Post a comment or eight on the blog!
Take the time to make that phone call that you have been meaning to make for weeks – maybe even months. Reach out to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Don’t completely isolate yourself from your Christian community. You may be doing just fine, but check in with your sisters and brothers in Christ and see how they are doing. Send messages of love and encouragement and reminders of God’s love and your own.
Most importantly remember this – God is with you. We are not alone in this world. We aren’t orphans. Jesus assures us in the Gospel of John (14:15-21) that he won’t leave us alone. That our Lord will never forget or forsake us.
God will always be our God no matter what and God will always take care of us no matter what this life brings. God is with us all of the time. God is faithful.
There is one thing that was true from the moment you came into being. It is true now and it will be true even if you live to be 300 years old like one of the patriarchs in the Old Testament. You have always been and will always be a beloved child of God.
God has been with you each and every moment of your lives and God will continue to be with you all of the time. This will be true no matter what. God will be with you forever. You can trust in that, because it is true.
In the book of Isaiah – God declares to us – “I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15b-16a)
Think about that! God carries you in the palm of his hand.
God loves you with a perfect love forever. God walks with you and will watch over you. God is always faithful and you are always in God’s perfect loving care. God holds you in the palm of his hand. Truly this is God’s News for us today – AMEN.