Are you afraid? Many of us in the United States and around the world are afraid. Have you seen grocery shelves this third week of March, 2020? Panicked shoppers are buying up all the toilet paper and other staples. Multiple articles are posted every day about the coronavirus, with the number of cases in your county and your country, keeping track of the cases and the deaths.
Here in California, people who live in counties in the San Francisco area have been told to “shelter at home,” meaning they should not go out of their homes except for food, medicine and outings that are absolutely essential.
Many businesses are closed and many churches are putting their worship services online. We are being told to avoid gathering in groups larger than ten people. And people who are in their senior years are being told to be very careful, for they are the people who are most at risk.
All of this can generate a tremendous amount of fear. We haven’t seen this kind of emergency situation in the United States for a long time. We aren’t sure what we should or shouldn’t do. We aren’t sure what is going to happen, or how long this is going to last.
This exposes something about us. It reveals that we often base our feelings of security on the things of this earth – our jobs and income, our health and strength, our medical system and our government. All of these things are good gifts from the Lord, to be sure. But our security needs to come from the Giver of all things, not the gifts.
The author of Psalm 46 proclaims this so powerfully and clearly. In verses 1-3 we read, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Here the author states that God is our security, God is our refuge, even when the creation itself is in turmoil, even when earthquakes and floods threaten the very ground we stand upon. And later in this Psalm twice he writes, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
The Lord Almighty is with us. He was born as a baby and lived among us. He experienced severe suffering, even death on a cross, so that the sin that infects us and creates fear within us would be paid for, so that the sin that makes us feel that God is distant or doesn’t love us could be removed, so that we would never have to be separated from Him. And he rose from the dead to give us eternal life, that we might be with Him forever.
Jesus, the Lord Almighty, is with us now. He promises in Matthew 28, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” He is with you now, right in the midst of quarantines and viruses and fear. He is with you now, when you feel afraid to go to the store, when you are afraid you might not have enough supplies. He is with you now, when you feel afraid that you might be too old and you might get sick, or when you fear for the health of your parents and grandparents.
He entered your life at your baptism, and He is with you always, to the very end of the age.
He is with you every time you open your Bible to do your Lent devotions, and He speaks to you. He is with you every time you read from His Word as He brings messages of hope, forgiveness, and eternal life. He is with you every time He gives you His body and blood in His Supper, sustaining your life with forgiveness and salvation. He is with you every time you pray, and He answers your prayers in His wisdom, in His way, and in His time, always doing what He knows to be best. He is with you when you feel alone, when you wonder if He is really there. He is.
And because He is with you, you can be a person of hope, of courage, and of joy, even now. You can be a person who sends messages of peace and calm to people who are afraid. You can be a person who understands that sin and death are real, but that the resurrection of Jesus means sin has lost its power over us and that death does not have the final say in our lives. Because Christ is risen, you can communicate His life and hope in your social media posts, your emails, and your phone calls. You can help your neighbors who need some shopping done, or who just need a reassuring call.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.