Forming Faith Blog

Panic or Peace (March 29, 2020)

Anxious woman walking on the street looking to the side

A lot can change in a week. People have experienced this forever, but it is not always true on a national or global scale. But as of Tuesday (the day I’m writing this), most gatherings and businesses have been closed down in my state of Wisconsin, across the country, and the world (though I’m not as up-to-date on international news as I probably ought to be).

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing upheaval on a scale unprecedented in our lifetimes. It seems many aspects of in-person life have shut down, including congregational worship. This is how it should be, and if your congregation is still meeting in large groups, I urge you to consult with the Center for Disease Control (or national equivalent) and your local public health department for how you can most responsibly proceed.

Little Apocalypse

It is within this context that the Narrative Lectionary gives us a set of readings from Mark’s “Little Apocalypse” in chapter 13. This is both appropriate and quite difficult. Even without this pandemic, our team had to think hard on how to teach apocalyptic passages to children, especially those in mainline theological traditions which tend to shy away from such passages.

Behind the Curtain

My understanding of apocalyptic literature, possibly gleaned from the wonderful course on Revelation from Dr. Craig Koester I took at Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN), is that it is generally written for a persecuted audience. It is a revelation (the actual meaning of apocalypse) of what’s going on beyond what we can see, a peek behind the curtain. It shows us that even within times of pain and suffering, God is still present, working, and in control. To those people, this is good news. But for those of us sitting in comfort, actively participating in or passively allowing injustice, it’s a reminder that our actions have consequences and God is paying attention.

The End Is Nigh

Back to our current context. Given the coverage and effects this pandemic is having, you cannot ignore it as you are teaching or preaching. Even small children will know that something is wrong in the world (more than normal), for starters in the fact that they will likely (hopefully) be experiencing this lesson at home and/or electronically. I have even joked with my friends (but not my kids) that this is the “end of the world.” I don’t actually believe that. I hold fast that this is a horrible, scary period that will pass. But the combination of that and reading this passage might lead many people to wonder if this is the end, if Judgment Day is near. You will need to address that.

Don’t Panic

Whether within the church or outside of it, people are panicking. Fear of the unknown and anxiety about what we do know are weighing us down. Experts are telling us not to panic, but to use our fear to take the drastic actions we need to take for the good for the most vulnerable among us. Don’t panic. I don’t know if anyone else is a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, but the digital book which gives the series its name has the words “Don’t Panic” written on the cover in large, friendly letters. Perhaps we should add this to the covers of our Bibles.

Trust and Hope

The important message to take away this week—and all weeks—is that God is worthy of our trust, that God loves us unconditionally, and that we have every reason to have hope because of this. Even if this is the end of the world as we know it, God is holding you in the palm of God’s hand. Take a deep breath, be still, and focus on this fact.

Keep Awake

So, in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, God calls us to faith, peace, and hope. But we are not to remain only there. From this place of hope, God calls us to keep awake. We are to do the work of the kingdom amid the chaos, spreading the love of God even as the virus spreads. As we battle the COVID-19 pandemic with radical public health measures, can we battle the pandemic of fear with a counter-pandemic of hope?

Free Resource

This week’s free resource is an activity called “Shadow Worship” from our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th) curriculum. This activity gives kids (and adults) the opportunity to name our fears and to shine the light of Jesus on them. This only requires a flashlight and a small cross, so it can easily be done at home with all ages. With some creativity, it can even be adapted for your digital worship platform, whatever that might be.

New Blog Series

In addition to this, I have started another brief blog series directed specifically for laypeople, The Church at Home. I have just started this on March 16th, so the format and details are evolving, but through it, we are providing our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home devotional bulletin inserts for free, along with a brief blog reflection. Please share the weekly link with your congregations. This will not be a permanent series, but I plan to offer it for as long as congregations need to keep their physical doors closed.

God’s peace be with you during these anxious times. And don’t panic, God has you.

Blessings,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)


Our Living the Word (Narrative Lectionary) resources for 2020-2021 are now available to order. On our website, you can find more information for our Year 3 (2020-2021) products and see our current release schedule.

We are also excited to announce that we are introducing our first product for the Revised Common Lectionary, a Cross+Gen Education curriculum inspired by our Narrative Lectionary Cross+Gen Education product. More information coming soon!

If you would like to know more about our perspectives on faith formation and cross+gen ministry, you can check out the following links:

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our complete Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2019-2020 Planning Tool, NL Readings Overview, and Scope & Sequence