Good morning, dear church!
“Do not be afraid!” That’s the oldest biblical mantra there is. It is repeated again and again in both testaments of the Bible; it never fails to apply to the struggle we’re in as human beings. This morning I meditated over Jesus’ word, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Whenever we are afraid we feel “little;” we feel that we are either alone in our suffering or part of a “little flock” of fellow sufferers. It’s no mistake that the Bible consistently addresses us in the plural. There are many more people than you think with similar challenges and similar hills to climb. If we can only feel that we’re not alone in this, it already gives us some sense of psychological relief. That’s how every single support group works (you’re not alone in this!), and we have a few in our church. In the Bible, God never gets tired of preaching this mantra, “Do not be afraid!” From Isaiah 43, when God addresses his people in Exile, to Mary at the time when the angel visits her (Luke 1), to the Lord himself as he prepares his disciples for his departure in John 14, comforting words are always spiced with the advice, “Do not be afraid!” paired with the assurance (explicitly or implicitly) – I AM with you.
Has there ever been a more genius presidential message than the one from FDR when he said during the Great Depression “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”??? This quote has been repeated often and no doubt you have heard it before. I think it is a genius message, especially for crisis times, because fear never allows you to think clearly, to envision solutions, to garner the strength to climb out of the proverbial hole. Fear paralyzes. In these times when many people fear for their livelihoods, when many are being hit hard (and when we are asked to help one another!), it will be important to remember the oldest of biblical mantras, “Do not be afraid!” For two reasons: “I AM” (God) is with us (always) and we will get through this together. God almost always addresses us in the plural. I am attaching a little image that captures nature’s response to fear and death. It was on someone’s Facebook page and was forwarded to me by our friend Joan G. from North Carolina some time ago. It shows a tiny little plant growing out of a rusty padlock. If you don’t like to meditate words, use this image and let it sink into your soul for a few minutes. So often, nature is God’s best preacher!
Many of us, including me, have a pretty busy week ahead of us. I committed to reaching out to a number of places of worship as part of an initiative of the Wissahickon Faith Community. We had a meeting via Zoom last week to check in on one another. I know from our friend Shams Huda that many people in his community are struggling. Shams is a founding member of the North Penn Mosque in Lansdale and also one of the lead organizers of the International Festival that takes place every year at North Penn High School. He is a fine individual. Many of the Mosque’s members, often immigrants, had simple jobs that have been eliminated in the first wave of unemployment. As an interfaith group, we are trying to reach out to fellow places of worship, to help and encourage however we can, and this will be part of my ministry this week. I have repeatedly sung the praises of this inter-faith group, and I continue to be a proud participant. The Wissahickon Faith Community regularly brings together Protestant and Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mennonites, Quakers, a black Baptists and really, whoever cares to be involved. That sense of togetherness is more important than ever!
For today, I would like to ask your prayers for David S. David had a tumor removed from his neck a few weeks ago and it initially seemed benign. After further medical review, it turns out that he is in the earliest stage of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. David usually sits with his wife Linda on the back of the right side at church from the pastor’s perspective. (You know, we do have our favorite seats!) They came to Oktoberfest some eight years ago and found that there was a cool local church they could attend, and they have been doing that ever since. Today, David has his first chemotherapy, which will last several hours. Please pray for him to get through these next couple of months of treatment. He may lose his shock of hair, but don’t worry, we will suggest some fun wig ideas for him! Overall, his prospects for recovery are good. But please, keep him in your prayers. David and Linda are not typically people who want attention drawn to them, but I asked David for permission to share this and to involve our community in healing prayers. And to Linda, his wife: “Do not be afraid – I AM is with you!”
Have a good week, everybody.
Be blessed and be well!
Pastor Andreas Wagner