The Sky is Falling

International travel is suspended.

March Madness is canceled.

Broadway is dark.

Disney is closed.

The stock market is down over 20%.

Colleges aren’t returning after Spring Break.

Collegiate sports are suspended.

Schools are closed.

Worship services are canceled.

Was Chicken Little right?

The threat of the coronavirus and the decisions that are forthcoming from the CDC and the WHO regarding gathering in large groups have brought an air of “the sky is falling” to our community. With breathtaking speed, twenty-four hours of announcement after announcement came pummeling though our devices and each one seemed worse than the last. The health of our nation and the economic impact of these decisions are unsure at this time, and we all feel the anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear that come with watching everything you know turn upside down in the span of a day.

Hebrews 12 (New International Version)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

PERSEVERANCE. It is good to remember on days like these that WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. We will run this race together. We’ll fix our eyes on Jesus as we throw off the hinderance of fear and misinformation. And we will submit to authorities who are making the best decisions they can based on their studies and information, like it or not.

In what I think is a remarkable show of national unity, everything is shutting down so that we can collectively slow down and eventually stop the course of this virus until the last case has been reported. We’re doing this TOGETHER.

It will help us if we recall what Jesus endured, and realize that he is running this race with us. Even in our exhaustion, we can remember Jesus’ pain and suffering and find the strength to continue. Consider this:

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

And don’t forget what happened to Chicken Little. She got bonked on the head by an acorn and concluded that the sky was falling. In her hysteria, she convinced Goosey Loosey, Henny Penny, and Ducky Lucky to join her in running around yelling that the sky was falling. Then came Foxy Loxy, who offered to take them to the King to report about the sky. So he took them one at a time into his fox den, where loud squawks and flying feathers ensued. They never returned. Pretty foxy, wouldn’t you say?

The moral? Keep your head about you. The sky is not falling. The fox den is a place of fear, so don’t go there. You’ll get entangled. Instead, follow the hygiene guidelines, don’t go into large crowds if you are in the vulnerable demographic, and just wait it out. And practice patience, perseverance, and love for one another.

This is bad, and it will get worse before it gets better. But it won’t last forever. Don’t lose heart! This too shall pass.

Calming Waves by Michelle Robertson

Look Up

I am blessed to be mentoring a Chinese student from my alma mater who stays in touch with me, even though she has graduated and has returned to Beijing. We are working hard right now to get her into grad school. She is diligently filling out applications and submitting transcripts: I am writing letters of reference and praying hard. She has been pretty isolated in her apartment for weeks now since the outbreak of the coronavirus, and it is something we talk about as we check in with each other from halfway across the world.

I have mentioned before that I have a kind of ambivalence toward the Lectionary. In over twenty years of ministry, I have never been in a church that used it every single Sunday. But I do love how it takes you to scriptures you might overlook if you are “picking and choosing” rather than allowing scripture to choose you instead.

Just as I finished a conversation with my mentee this morning, this scripture assignment popped up. This Psalm definitely chose us today!

So take a look at today’s lectionary selection, and read it with the news of the coronavirus (or anything else that is troubling you) in mind:

Psalm 121 (New King James Version)

 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

The Psalmist is traveling across dangerous roads on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The way is full of rocks, extreme desert temperatures, bandits, and wildlife. But he remembers where his help comes from, and so he lifts his eyes to the hills. The sun won’t hurt him as he travels by day. The moon won’t reveal his position as he rests at night. His foot won’t be moved by the rocky terrain and steep slopes. His help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Do you feel like you are traveling a dangerous road? Is your path littered with all kinds of things that might cause you to stumble and fall? Remember, this is the same Lord speaking today, who hears YOUR cry for help.

I know you’re scared. I know you’re taking appropriate precautions. I know you are praying. As you do these things, remember that the Lord is your keeper. He preserves your going out and your coming in, for now, and forevermore.

Lift up your eyes to the hills. Your help comes! So keep calm, and carry on….and wash your hands like you just cut up jalapeños and you have to take your contacts out!

The Road to Jerusalem by Michelle Baker