Tom and I attended a powerful worship service at Linworth United Methodist Church yesterday. The theme of the service was reconciliation and the election results were mentioned several times. The essence of the message was this: continue to live your calling as Christians day by day and treat all people with love and kindness. It was a good message, but for me, the image that has remained with me from the service is a story told before the prayer time.
Rev. Eugene Folden had just traveled to New Orleans and he told about a little boy who sat in front of him on the flight from New Orleans to Columbus. It was the seven-year-old boy’s first time on an airplane. While the plane was taking off and as he looked out the window, he kept exclaiming “This is epic, this is epic!” But when the airplane started its descent to the Columbus airport the little boy’s ears started hurting and he began crying. He kept telling his mother, “I don’t want to die!” People seated around the mother and son were very kind and offered comforting and encouraging words. They also offered the boy gum and candy so he would swallow and relieve the pressure on his ears.
Rev. Folden saw in the response of the people seated around the boy the way the church should be at this time of anxiety and fear in our country. Everyone was gentle, helpful and kind. Rev. Folden suggested that right now we have a unique opportunity as the church to be the hands of Christ to a hurting world. There is a fine line between “this is epic” and “I don’t want to die.”
Think about it. There are so many people in the world crying out “I don’t want to die!” We can withdraw in fear and revulsion, thinking “well, I don’t want to die either.” Or we can engage the people crying out so that we understand their fear, their anxiety. Are they afraid their way of life will die? Are they unwilling to let go of power or prestige? Are they afraid for their children and grandchildren? Perhaps we need to acknowledge our own anxiety. Our fears are probably very similar to those of everyone else. We may assign different causes and effects for our fears. But they are the same fears underneath. Fear that hate will destroy us. Fears for the safety and well-being of those we love. Fear of being ignored or left alone. Fear of losing our security.
All of us, in some way, are crying out “I don’t want to die!” We are clinging to the promises and security of a world that is temporary and transient. But our peace, our security, our hope, comes only from our relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:16-17: “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.“
We can despair. Or we can choose to be loving, gentle, kind and helpful. What do you think Jesus Christ is calling us to do?