Divine Comfort, Human Care
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Adonai is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
Adonai is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
We don’t need to look hard to find comforting texts in our scriptures. From Genesis (in the beginning!) to Revelation (a new heaven and new earth!)—through natural cataclysm, human agony, and all reasons for fear—messages of how the Divine cares for creation come through loud and clear. Thank God for such memoranda in times like this!
Yet this isn’t a pie in the sky kind of care that we can sit back and enjoy without participation. The Romans text is a letter sent to community, reminding them of what community in Christ means—we’re here for one another. The Psalm is a prayer, a fearful acknowledgment of the psalmist’s reality—prayer keeps the psalmist in honest relationship with Spirit.
Isaiah is my favorite of these texts for this moment we’re living now. Just prior to the verse above, God’s message to the people is:
The coastlands have seen and are afraid,
the ends of the earth tremble;
they have drawn near and come.
Each one helps the other,
saying to one another, “Take courage!”
The artisan encourages the goldsmith,
and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, “It is good” …
But you…do not fear, for I am with you.
But you—you, my people—you have one another as well as me, too. You lift each other up and I lift all of you.
We are community for one another. There are seasons when we are able to give, and there are seasons when we need to receive. Right now, so many of our members are experiencing the weight of this pandemic’s long-term effects, especially as we learn that (as I opined in Sunday’s sermon) we are living our “new normal” now.
Teens are particularly experiencing mental health concerns in this extended pandemic period. Elders who live alone are more isolated. Many of us experience exhaustion at a new, bone level. How are you, really? And do you know, really know, that you have God and all of us as your support?
This is one of the seasons we can be community of faith for one another in new and intimate ways. If you have the energy, pick up the phone and call someone in the church directory whom you haven’t seen in a long time. Tell them how you are—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask how they are, and listen. Pray with honesty about how you are right now.
And may you hear the voice of Christ speaking directly to you:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)