When I googled, looked-up, “how many times ‘Fear Not’ appears in the Bible” the first response found was from 2016, and suggests that there are 365 times the phrase “Fear Not” is in the Bible. Now one must consider which translation is being used and how various other phrases are interpreted to mean the same thing. Imagine, “God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV) He also gave us 365 “Fear Nots” so that EVERY SINGLE DAY we are reminded that we are not alone and have nothing to fear.
I have been a bit quiet since announcing on Sunday that the very difficult decision was made to temporarily refrain from gathering for worship on Sundays and from meetings along with scheduled events. Just like you, I have never experienced anything like COVID-19 before. I have never been in the position where the final decision on a course of action so out-reaching beyond myself rested squarely on my shoulders. Yes, I did have input from the church leaders, national statistics, and local statistical guidance, but the reality was I had to make the final choice and stand by it no matter what the response would be. I was a bit shaken by the enormity of the decision I needed to make.
After making this difficult decision I was asked if I was scared. My answer then and remains now, no. I am not scared and I am not fearing, but, I am living in Hope, Faith, and Love. I am choosing to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
My hope is that we will remain calm in this time of community panic. That we remain calm when our trips to the grocery store are met with lines that extend out and around the building. That we remain calm when we find that almost all of our community connecting sources are now unavailable to us. Fear Not!
My faith tells me that in light of all that has been closed off from us there is still much that remains. We have phones, computers, FaceTime, FaceBook, twitter and many other means of communication. My faith tells me that God is everywhere and the inability to gather at church on Sunday does not prevent me from gathering with each and everyone of you in heart and Spirit. My faith is strengthened when I read again how God brought the Israelites out of bondage, how God used a young shepherd to slay a giant, how God sent a baby to become our Savior. Fear Not!!
My love for each of you has grown so much over the few months that we have been together that I cannot imagine being in any other place but here with you during this time of such uncertainty. My love for each of you takes me beyond myself and to a place of prayer and supplication that God would protect and keep each of you safe and healthy. My love for each of you is why the decision to limit/suspend worship and “building” gatherings was made with great care and concern and not just following blindly the anxiety and panic surrounding us in every direction. Fear Not!!!
My dear ones, we are in this toughest of times together. We will remain steadfast as a church. We will remain connected in every way possible. We will continue into today, tomorrow, and the next day and the next and the next….Fear Not, for I AM WITH YOU 24/7/365!!!!