Be Not Afraid, part five

Note: The fifth and last Lenten luncheon was held on Wednesday, March 16th. The speaker was the Rev. Carla Kline, pastor of Island Presbyterian Church. She offered a reflection on the fear that God would not provide us with what we need.

At the Lenten luncheon, I sat at a big round table with just one companion, Betty. We were served turkey salad and tea or coffee. We had a wide variety of breads from which to choose. In front of us was a large platter of desserts, meant for eight. Betty’s friend let us know that our work was cut out for us. We’d have to eat all of those desserts, just the two of us. Dessert was provided for us in abundance, perhaps too much abundance.

I had also been provided with an interesting companion, who had a lifetime of stories. For a journalist, having such a companion is a great blessing. Betty is almost 93 years old. She told me about growing up in Grand Island when it was mostly farm country. She said that she is descended from Asa Ransom (1765-1835), who was the founder of the town of Clarence, New York. There is now a bed and breakfast where his home once stood, called the Asa Ransom house. He also lived in Grand Island and he became the town’s third supervisor in 1857.

Grand Island was a different community when Betty was young and growing up on a farm facing the Niagara River. She said that she went to a one-room schoolhouse. There were children of a variety of ages in that schoolhouse, and there was one teacher, who had to teach all of these children at the same time.

There was no kindergarten. Children started school at the age of seven. Somehow, Betty said, the teacher was able to keep order in the classroom. The children worked quietly when students of a different grade level than their own were given instruction.

There were no schoolbuses back then. Betty’s father drove her to school. Along the way, he picked up other children who, otherwise, would have lacked transportation.

Betty said that the students and the teachers had what they needed to make education a success in this community. They had been given enough.

I had been given enough. Plenty of food and a good companion who shared stories about her life with me.

But there are times when we feel that we haven’t been given enough. Or we may feel that we have what we don’t want and don’t have what we need. We feel that the things or people who bring us joy get taken away from us. It feels cruel and, with these painful losses, we lose our faith, little by little.

Some people, though, are more resilient. The Rev. Carla Kline shared a story about a 96-year-old woman who was planning to attend the wedding of her great-granddaughter. Shortly before the wedding, word came that Uncle Bob’s plane, carrying him and four other family members, was missing in the mountains. People prayed for the safe return of the these family members. Unfortunately, the plane was found, and there were no survivors.

The 96-year-old woman reminded her family that God is in charge. He will provide.

Isn’t that hard to believe when you’ve suddenly lost five precious members of your family abruptly before a day that should be filled with joy and love?

The great grandmother believed, despite her horrific loss.

The Rev. Carla Kline brought her sister to dramatize the fear that fills all of us: the fear that God will not provide. We may not have a horrific tragedy, as the great grandmother did. Our fears may be smaller. But, to us, they are real.

Carla’s sister said that she was afraid because people were shooting each other. “Couldn’t we just take away their guns and give them jobs? They could pick up trash and pull weeds.”

Carla’s sister said that there are a lot of mean people. “We could charge them a mean people tax or give them tickets every time they pick on someone. It would be like a swear jar. There are plenty of adult bullies.”

There are plenty of things and people in our world to cause worry.

Throughout the Bible, the same message is repeated over and over again. God will provide. He is our refuge. My help comes from the hills. Listen and take comfort and courage. God is generous beyond belief. He gives us what we need. When the Israelites were wandering the desert after fleeing Egypt, God provided them with water and with manna. They never went hungry or thirsty. They had enough. Yet they constantly doubted and they turned away from God, even to the point of creating idols to worship.

Faith is challenging, Carla said. We have trouble believing that God will provide. We are weighed down by anxiety and by worry. We take matters into our own hands, mainly through lack of faith. We seem to be unable to learn how to trust and to obey. We fear losing control.

Christians believe that Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. Or maybe to save us from ourselves. According to Carla, in Hebrews 9, in the New Testament, we have been promised a new covenant of grace. She said that Jesus’ sacrifice was a payment for the sins of mankind. She said, “I can’t get over what a wonderful God we have. Don’t worry. God will provide.”

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