I want you to try this. First, I want you to get comfortable and then just concentrate on your breathing. Then as you inhale, say or think, “Do not be afraid.” Then as you exhale, say or think. “For Christ is with me.” Every time some distraction creeps in, dismiss it and go back to the breathing and the words. Do it as long as you can. Set a timer and try 10 minutes.
These days feel to me like my life is in a blender. I’m just trying to avoid the blades! So, why do something like this? It is because the Lord, in fact, is near. In the midst of closures, economic downturn, and lack of toilet paper, the Lord is near. In the midst of watching your savings shrink and wondering when you may work again, the Lord is near.
Paul tells the Philippians why the Lord’s proximity in both time and space is crucial. Paul himself is in prison, waiting to know whether the Emperor will give him the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down. Will he go free or die? He writes to the congregation he loves so dearly and says this:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Rejoice always? Share your gentleness with all? Pray and give thanks? In the face of death? “Yes!” Paul says. In the face of empty store shelves, governmental confusion, closed schools, and an economy on the brink? Yes! How is that possible?
Look at the last four words of verse 5 – they are the key to the whole passage. The Lord is near. Paul means that God in Christ is near in time, bringing salvation and resurrection to the world. Paul also means that Christ is near in space – as near as your lips, your breath, your heartbeat.
In the nearness of Christ, our social isolation can never sever our spiritual fellowship. In the nearness of Christ, we can never be short of what we need to live. We can endure, hold fast, hope while all about is chaos. With the nearness of Christ, we know that every struggle, every life-changing moment is not really life-changing at all. Christ is near to speak the final word of healing, peace, and love. That nearness of Christ brings us hope and grants us peace – “peace that passes all understanding; peace that guards and keeps our hearts in Christ” – even when the last drop of hand sanitizer is gone and I’m at the end of my rope.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Do not be afraid. Christ is with you. And you will find peace.
Pax Christi (Peace of Christ) – Pastor Tim Olson