Current Events

Quarantine Letters: Be Still

Dear Church in quarantine:

I can’t quite decide if the social distancing and self-quarantining adjustments in response to the coronavirus are forcing us to “slow down” or “speed up.” On the one hand, we’re no longer chasing from activity to activity with kids, and finding ourselves cooped up in our homes. As parents blessed with the ability to try to “work” from home with three kids running wild, we’re taking leisurely walks in the woods instead inside bring them to school, ballet, the gym, etc. We’ve been forced to slow down a bit.

On the other hand, some of us are finding ourselves racing to stores to make preparations, racing to get 8 hours of work crammed into evening hours after the kids are in bed, racing to learn how to become homeschool parents while holding down full time jobs! How about you? Are you find yourself slowing down or speeding up these days?

I’m thinking a lot about Psalm 46 these days. We’ve all memorized verse 10 and heard it quoted out of context for years: 

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

I admit that when I read or hear this verse, I picture a monk seated in the lotus position, deep in meditation in some serene retreat setting by a lake. I immediately want to book a personal a room at St. John’s Abbey for a solitude retreat. I assume that if I want to find some inner stillness, I need to escape the outer noise and activity. While this is not a bad idea, it is NOT what Psalm 46 has in mind!

When we place this favorite verse back into context, and read the entire Psalm, we realize we are invited to nurture a calm and quiet soul—aware of and reassured by God’s presence—in the midst of the cataclysmic events happening around us. Listen to the rest of the psalm with the ‘current events’ in bold:

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.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,

    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease

    to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

(Psalm 46)

We need calm hearts, ears tuned to God’s frequency and a mighty fortress when the world is coming unhinged, not when we’re meditating at a quiet retreat center! We need Jesus’ calming presence in our boat, not when the sun is shining and the fish are biting, but when the storm is raging and the boat is sinking. We need to center our hearts in God and remember He is with us when the 24/7 news cycle makes us feel like

the earth is giving way

the mountains are about to fall into the sea

the waters are roaring and foaming

the mountains are quaking

the nations are threatening nuclear war

the earth is melting (quite literally?)

When bows are breaking

When spears are shattering

When shields are burning

And, yes, when the coronavirus is spreading.

Yes, be still in this moment—right now. Breathe in and out and give thanks to God for giving you another day of breath. Be still and breathe in grace and breath out fear. Breathe in hope and breathe out despair. Breathe in love and breathe out love toward others. 

Be still and know that God is God, and you are not. Be still and know that God in His essence radiates self-giving love, and then marvel at “what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). 

Be still for the next 2 minutes or 20, and remember that God’s “perfect love drives away all fear” (1 John 4:18)—and that includes fear of the coronavirus. Let God be your fortress and wall of protection against all outside threats today. Let God’s loving presence within flush out all fear and anxiety and replace it with an overwhelming sense of God’s indwelling Spirit. 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeremy

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