Monday 20 September 2021

Escaping the fear machine

At the moment, I feel a bit like I'm surrounded by voices that urge me to be afraid.  The New Zealand media is the main voice, with stories about our current Covid outbreak dominating everything, and this voice is reinforced by many people I speak to, by social media, even, to an extent, by my church prayer meetings.  It feels like there is one key issue in the whole world, and that subject is scary.

I often buy into it.  I miss the Covid-free-paradise that we had only a month or so ago.   I tend towards the anxious anyway.

All of which makes my 'Sabbath Mondays' particularly precious right now.  I'm so appreciating having a day to just 'be' and a day to fix my eyes on Jesus.

Aside from a few daily tasks, my two 'have-tos' for a Sabbath Monday are:

  1. take some time to reflect, including reading one of the lectionary texts for the day;
  2. do something fun.

Last Monday, as I opened up the lectionary, I felt profoundly connected to the Church and profoundly aware of the timelessness of my faith.  I was preparing to read words that Christians around the world would be reading that day; the same words in all our immensely varied circumstances.  I was reading words that Christians had read on this day every third year for centuries.  The gospel is good news for all people and all times.  I have a solid rock on which to stand.

And I loved the words I read.  I chose one of the morning readings, which was two stanzas from Psalm 119 (Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm/poem in which David reflects on the Bible; each stanza starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet).  A verse from each really stood out for me, and I've pondered these from time to time over the past week:

Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)

 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
    I stand in awe of your laws. (Psalm 119:120)

They're kind-of opposite - joy and fear - and both in response to the words of the Bible.  But they also fit really well together, and describe something of the kind of person I long to be.

And then this Monday I read the very beginning of the book of Ezra, in which the king of Persia (an empire that had conquered the Jews and exiled them from their country) makes this astonishing statement:

“Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:2-4, NRSV)

And I spent time reflecting on the power of God, on how He is in charge.  He can not only rescue His people from troubles, He can change the hearts of those who are making trouble for them.  Lord, please make that so for the people of Myanmar!

So I thank God for Mondays, the lectionary, the Bible and the community of God's people around the world.

I also thank God for the BBC world service.  This past week or two, I've found myself listening to Radio New Zealand less and the BBC more.  It's an escape from the single-minded obsession with our Covid outbreak, bringing exposure to many different stories instead, and I find that brings both relief and perspective.

image source (ours had all closed for the day by the time I thought to take a photo!)

 And I thank God for the simple beauty of our garden.  It looks like an absolute jungle right now, full of edible 'weeds' that I've deliberately left and made space for.  But the dandelions and oxalis are in bloom and their bright yellow flowers make me smile :-)

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