In 2015, MCC published a worship resource titled Crossing to the other side: Living as people of peace in a time of fear and terror. Although the resource was originally written in a time of fear of terrorism, several of the themes and messages from this resource apply to our context of fear and uncertainty today amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you meet virtually with others in your community, you can use selections from this resource for worship and discussion.
You may ponder some of these questions: How do followers of Jesus live faithfully in this context? How do we address fear? How do we reach out to others while still taking responsible precautions? How do we share the peace of Christ in a world of uncertainty?
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change...”
- Psalm 46:1-2
Call to worship
No matter where you are located, worship the Lord. Whether you are by yourself or with others in your home, kneel before the one who is present in storms of uncertainty. Lift up your fearful heart to the Lord who is our refuge and strength, present in times of trouble. It is through God’s mysterious and wondrous love that peace will reign.
Commit your hearts to God now and always so that you may walk the pathways of righteousness and hope. Discern the way of God so that you may not be overcome by fear. Instead, let fear be overcome by hope and faith.
Breath prayers, a form of contemplative prayer linked to the rhythm of breathing, have been practiced in the church for centuries. They remind us that God is closer to us than even our own breath. Whenever the instruction indicates, inhale or exhale deeply before saying the words out loud or meditating on them in silence, whatever your preference is. This breath prayer uses text from Psalm 46.
Inhale. “God is our refuge and strength,” Exhale. “a very present help in trouble.”
Inhale. “We will not fear,” Exhale. “though the earth should change.”
Inhale. “The Lord Almighty,” Exhale. “is with us.”
Inhale. “He says, ‘Be still and know,’” Exhale. “‘that I am God.’”
Reading of courage
Leader: The opposite of fear is not calm or even security.
People: No, the opposite of fear is courage.
Leader: Courage to move forward despite fear.
People: Courage to grow relationships even when we are apart.
All: Help us to be courageous like Jesus.
Leader: Help us to trust that the Spirit of Jesus is with us.
People: Even though we face great uncertainty.
Leader: Even though it feels like the earth is giving way.
People: Even though it feels like the mountains are crumbling.
Leader: Help us to cultivate courage in the name of Christ.
All: Help us to be still and know that you are God.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
- Psalm 46:10
Use this biblical reflection to shape sermons or meditations or to inspire personal or group reflection and discussion.
Psalm 46: God is our refuge
Throughout the book of Psalms, the writers express their innermost feelings as they experience real-life events. The book contains mostly hymns of praise, petition and lament—both individual and communal—intended for singing or chanting. Psalms are core to our worship; for example: “The Lord is my Shepherd,” “Have mercy on me, O God,” “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalms 23, 51, 103 respectively).
Psalm 46 was composed as a song of praise and thanksgiving after the Lord delivered Jerusalem from the hands of the Assyrians. It also inspired the famous hymn by Martin Luther in 1529, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” The language expresses confidence in the Lord during troubled times.
People of faith are reminded that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This is worth repeating: God is our refuge and strength. At a time when fear and anxiety pound on our hearts, we are reminded that our strength lies with God.
Therefore, “We will not fear” is more a commitment moving forward to the future than a simple statement of present fact. Fear is, of course, a normal human visceral reaction to danger and terrifying circumstances, and so obviously we’ll be afraid at times. However, the psalmist declares that we will not permit fear to dominate us. “We will not fear” is not a hubristic shout. Neither is “not fearing” only for when we’re in control or can shape what’s coming.
Rather, the commitment not to fear expresses deep confidence in our foundation and source of ultimate truth. No, we will not fear, come what may. Regardless of the extent of the earthquake in our lives (personal, national or global), the truth of the psalm's opening affirmation remains: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
In a time of fear and uncertainty, Christians are called to remember who we are: children of God, followers of Jesus and people of peace.
We acknowledge that though there is uncertainty in the world, the Lord is our refuge and an ever-present help in trouble. God cares for you and all people. Amen.
Thank you to the following people who helped create the original resource in 2015: Dana Hepting, Esther Epp-Tiessen, Jon Nofziger, Rachelle Klassen, Rebekah Sears, Steve Plenert, Tim Schmucker, Jennifer Wiebe, Dan Unrau, Donna Entz, Emily Loewen, Jason Boone, Ken Peters and Titus Peachey.
Bible passages from the New Revised Standard Version.
Top photo: Mountains in the distance, as seen from El Alto, Bolivia, near the greenhouse projects run by MCC partner, Fundación Communidad y Axión. MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky