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Spiritual diary of self-isolation: responding to terror by listening to Jesus voice

Lynne Baab • Sunday March 29 2020

Spiritual diary of self-isolation: responding to terror by listening to Jesus voice

For the past three weeks, I’ve been writing devotionals for my church every Friday, using the daily lectionary. Here’s the one that was sent out yesterday.

To the church in exile,

God’s peace to you. Today I’m going to start by describing the opposite of peace – terror.

The word “terrified” means to feel extreme fear. For me, anxiety is a kind of background murmur – not pleasant at all – and I have felt it far too often in the past month. Extreme fear is worse. It shouts loudly and impacts my whole body. I feel terror in my stomach, my chest and my head. I have felt terrified more often in the past month than probably the previous five years combined.

One of the lectionary readings for today is the transfiguration story, and one verse jumped out at me. Peter “did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (Mark 9:6). You’ll remember the story. Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up to the top of a mountain, where Jesus was changed before their eyes. Mark describes only one detail of how Jesus looked. His clothes became “dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them” (verse 3).  Elijah and Moses came to talk with Jesus.

In some ways the terror of covid-19 is quite different than the glory of what Peter, James and John saw. But the human response is similar. Peter wanted to leap into action. He wanted to do something – anything! – as he responded to the fight or flight pressure inside him aroused by feeling terror. First century Peter, the man of action, proposed building some tents. Twenty-first century Lynne also wants to leap into action. Yes, I did buy some extra toilet paper in my early days of panic.

These disciples “did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” We are wordless in the face of terror. This is a time for wordless prayers like breath prayer, just breathing in God’s presence. This is a time to use other people’s words as we pray: perhaps a favorite prayer that was written by a Christian centuries ago, a poem you love, or a psalm.  Other people’s words can help us come into God’s presence without having to generate words of our own.

This is a time to obey the words that came from a cloud after the disciples acknowledged their terror: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (verse 7).

What is Jesus saying to you today? This is a great time to return to passages about Jesus that you have known and loved in the past.

Maybe Jesus wants to tell you today that he’s the Good Shepherd who provides for his sheep. He knows us and we know him. He lays his life down for us (John 10:1-18)

Maybe Jesus wants to tell you that he is the resurrection and the life. Maybe he wants you to ponder the beautiful friendship he had with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and he wants you to see his power as he raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).

Maybe Jesus wants you to do your best to absorb his words about the peace he gives us. He links his peace to the sending of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is calling all of us to rely more deeply than ever before on the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-29).

Join with me in hearing the words from the cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). Then let’s do our best to spend some time in the Gospels, trying to hear the voice of God’s beloved Son. Jesus speaks to us about provision and peace and resurrection and life, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Truly, this is our lifeline. 

Good Shepherd, help us to hear your voice, follow you, and rest in your provision. Resurrection and Life, help us to hope in you. Prince of Peace, help us to rely on your Spirit and receive your peace. We need you so much in these challenging days.

Next post: more lifelines. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog (once or twice weekly for this virus time).

Two posts I've written on breath prayer. They are quite similar but have some different details:

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