Read: Matthew 6:25-34
Reflect: We are a few days from marking one year since Covid shutdown the world and drastically changed life as we knew it. Slowly, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel as 3 vaccines make their way through the country bringing immunity and hope with them. As things begin to open up and activities resume, it is important that we ask ourselves what things are worth resuming and what things we can do without. So much has been lost in the last year, but not all of that is a bad thing. In my own life, busyness for the sake of busyness and parading my full schedule as a badge of honor is one thing that needs to go by the wayside. Do we really need to be involved in so much to the point that we sacrifice time as a family to connect and engage in acts of faith formation with one another? While the past year has been difficult in many ways, I have also found some refreshment in the break from all of the running around. I challenge you to really examine your life and priorities as activities start again. Is the busyness helping you to seek the kingdom of God first and foremost? Remember, the kingdom of God is marked by acts of justice and faith. Make that your guidepost as you examine how you want to organize your family's life and schedule.
Read: Joshua 1:7-9
Reflect: This year has put us all to the test. It is not easy to live in constant uncertainty and the anxiety that understandably accompanies it. I don't know about you, but I am tired and weary. As we near the election and all its attendant fears and worries, let us pause and remember that God is with us wherever we go and God's love does not end with the election results. Fear is a God-given emotion, so there is no guilt or shame in feeling it. We must not let it rule our hearts and minds, however. Let us combat our fear with love, as 1 John 4:18 reminds us, "perfect love casts out fear." Spend time meditating on God's love and let that then spur you to acts of love toward God, self, and neighbor. Some practical acts of love you can show are to bring snacks and water to share with those in line when you vote or make candy bags with a note of encouragement to pass out on Halloween. In whatever you choose to do, remember that you are not alone. Let God's presence fill you with strength and courage to do acts of love and justice as well as calm fears of what may be coming in the next few weeks.
Prayer: Loving God, our hearts are easily overwhelmed with fears and anxiety these days when the world is full of so much trouble and uncertainty. We thank you that you are with us always and have not left us to face these challenging days alone. Grant us strength and courage to meet these fears with love and to show loving kindness and justice to the world. Thank you for your never-ending love. Amen.
Read: Philippians 4:4-9
Reflect: These verses, particularly the first three of verse eight (whatever is true), have been on my mind and heart a lot lately. There are lots of theories and stories out there that do not have basis or grounding in the truth. We are called to think on and speak the truth. It may be convenient or feel good to believe in whatever theory provides proof that the other side is wrong or allows you to disregard those who have a different opinion or fall on the other end of the of the spectrum (political or otherwise). I urge you to look for the truth. Fact check the stories you read. Research. Use your minds--that is why God gave us minds after all. We are explicitly called to love God with our minds, which means using them. Trust science--God is creator and science points to God's work of creation. Trust experts--God gives gifts and skills. Experts spend their whole lives studying their subject. Here are some examples of experts to be trusting over internet stories or social media memes: epidemiologists, infectious disease researchers, BIPOC who daily experience tacit and explicit racism, those actively working to end human trafficking. Yes, all of the above can make mistakes. They are human. However, most experts are not out to trick you or mislead you. They are constantly learning and when they learn more, they provide new information and recommendations. Do not make an idol of your faith and ignorance by ignoring evidence and fact.
Pray: God of all truth and wisdom, give us discerning minds to know what is truthful. Help us to sift through all of the information we are bombarded with and find the facts. Give us courage to believe the evidence even if it is inconvenient or requires us to change our minds and hearts. Soften our minds and hearts so we can see the truth and remind us that all truth is your truth.
Sarah Bhatia is the Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministry at Christ Church Episcopal. She has an M.DIV from Princeton Theological Seminary. Most importantly, to her at least, she is a wife and a mother to four amazing children.