I remember hearing a story about an off-Broadway matinée being performed on November 22, 1963. There was a moment in the play when one of the characters listens to a transistor radio. As a prop, the character used a real radio, and simply tuned in to the current broadcast. During the particular performance, the actor turned on the radio shortly after 1:30 pm, just as the voice on the radio was announcing that President JF Kennedy had been assassinated. Everyone stopped on stage, the rest of the play was cancelled, the world had changed in an instant.
Our world is constantly changing and events can occur suddenly and unexpectedly — in our lives, in our families, in our neighbourhoods, in our world. Sometimes what suddenly emerges in life is a welcomed and joyful surprise. A child living at a distance shows up suddenly just to say happy birthday. Good news about a diagnosis is delivered when you expected the worst. A movement emerges led by our youth calling us to address global warming and instilling hope in us.
More often, it seems, changes that emerge make us fearful. A beloved leader is shot, a terminal diagnosis is given, news is delivered that global warming is worse than we thought, or a life-threatening virus suddenly appears and reaches a global pandemic level in just a few weeks. We are living in such a time, when all of us have reason to be afraid — for ourselves, for those we love, and for our world.
It is not surprising, really, that the expression that appears the most often in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” Jesus uttered this expression more than any other. In these fearful times we, as the church of Jesus, can draw on our faith in a loving God who brings resurrection from death, hope from fear.
We often think that faith is the opposite of fear, but in fact, love is really the opposite of fear. This week, these words were posted on our United Church of Canada website:
As a church, we seek a compassionate response that acknowledges the personhood attached to each statistic. We know that the people affected include not only those infected by the COVID-19 virus but also their families, friends, co-workers, and community members. We mourn with people whose loved ones have died, who have lost their livelihood through the growing economic impact, who have lost community through self-isolation and limited travel, and, who have lost a sense of security through fear of contamination or racial discrimination. We also offer our prayers of thanksgiving for the professionals who are providing leadership in the treatment and containment of the virus, and our prayers of concern for those who put at risk their personal health to serve and support others, especially those who are most vulnerable.
Like the words that blurted unexpectedly on a New York stage in in 1963, the news of the Covid-19 virus has suddenly changed our story and created fear among us. So let us respond as a community of faith by becoming even more diligent in our love for each other, for our families, for our neighbours and for our world.