Weekly worship: Sunday 24 June
A reflection for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.
1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’ shouts Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army. But that’s precisely what the disciples in the boat in the storm do. Waking Jesus up, they cry: ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
For us today, nature is no longer as mysterious as it seemed to earlier generations. Science has unraveled its mysteries. We may not know exactly how the universe began, but we understand the physics involved, and how it will end.
We are inclined to give a rather different answer to the question God asked of Job:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.’
Some of us even think our science can control the present-day environment by suggesting that climate change may be happening, but technology will solve it for us: we do not need to alter the way we live, because sooner or later a scientific development will solve all our problems.
Yet we still panic, not so much today through fear of what nature can do, but, like the Israelite army before Goliath (1 Samuel 17:11), if we feel threatened or believe that our society is falling apart. We look for someone to blame: immigrants, drug-dealers, gangs wielding knives and guns, ‘alien’ ideologies – and we lash out to protect ourselves.
The Ebola crisis struck panic in the hearts of the communities in Sierra Leone and across West Africa. It was the faith leaders who stepped up to say: ‘don’t panic’. They encouraged the communities to follow the health advice by using the scriptures and their intervention did much to stop the Ebola outbreak. They also challenged the stigma that surrounded the 11,000 people who survived. Survivors were being rejected from their home communities until faith leaders again stepped in to challenge this stigma.
This included supporting the many orphans of those who died and to help integrate them back into homes in their communities, such as the children pictured above.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ In situations of panic, where do we find the faith, stability and confidence to act responsibly rather than in fear and anger? As John Stuart Mill once said: ‘One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.’
God, you are our refuge and strength,
a very present help in time of trouble.
Therefore we need not fear,
though the earth be removed.
Yet so often we lose our nerve,
we react as if our safety depends
on defending ourselves against others.
Teach us that our only security,
in the world you have created,
lies in your love and justice.
Help us to live always with the courage and faith
Jesus gives to his disciples.
Pointers for prayer
Pray for those still living with the trauma and loss of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Give thanks for the faith leaders who did so much to support and help communities during that difficult time, and since.
The weekly pointers for June have been provided by Gray Featherstone, Jean Harrison, Ben Humphries, Peter West, and Timothy Woods who were colleagues at Christian Aid, and together contributed to ‘Stories Worth Telling’ (published 2013), a series of reflections on lectionary readings, inspired by Christians Aid’s partners and friends around the world.