In this time that we are in right now there seems to be all kinds of fear, and an abundance of anxiety. And the fears are quite real. And despite our fear and despite our anxiety God still is there and sending God's messengers to help us hear God's voice. (Time: 3:51.)
This is Bishop Carlye Hughes of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and I want to talk with you today about beholding God's presence and God's generosity at a time of fear and anxiety. We spent quite a bit of time talking about that word "behold" at Diocesan Convention this year, about the number of times that it appears in the Bible, and almost always when it appears it's God or God's messenger speaking to God's people saying, "Now listen! This is something important."
My absolute favorite time that the word behold is used in Scripture, we hear every single Christmas when we listen to the stories of the angels appearing to the shepherds who are tending their flocks, and they say, "Behold, we bring you glad tidings of great joy for all people." We can actually hear that, thinking of the angels saying, "Now listen! This is important. We bring you glad tidings of great joy for all people."
In this time that we are in right now there seems to be all kinds of fear, and an abundance of anxiety. And the fears are quite real. When we think of a virus that has the potential of a worldwide health crisis and the economic uncertainty that would follow right on top of that crisis, that's a very real fear. When we think of the number of white supremacy hate groups that have moved into New Jersey, and the fact that hate crimes in New Jersey doubled this past year, that is a very real fear. When we think of the health or the well-being of somebody that we love when that has been compromised that is a very real fear, and into that fear anxiety seems to just gather around it and make it grow. And despite our fear and despite our anxiety God still is there and sending God's messengers to help us hear God's voice. "Behold. Now this is important."
In some way all throughout our days God is trying to reach out to us with a message of comfort and assurance and power and hope and healing, and I want to invite you in Lent, as you continue whatever your Lenten practice is, to look for those moments. We actually at Convention call them "beholding moments." Those moments where we get quiet for a moment and we can hear or feel or know God's presence is there.
So look for those coincidences -- that's what the Mystics would tell us to look for. Don't look for the big voice calling our name, but look for the string of coincidences -- the words that you keep running across as you're reading the paper or taking care of your work, the story that you keep hearing again and again. Those coincidences are very often God's way or God's messengers' way of saying, "Behold. Now listen. This is important."
I and no one can promise you that the fear or anxiety is going to go away tomorrow -- if I could I would. If I could take it away from you I absolutely would. But I can promise you that God is looking for you and God is trying to get a message to you.
"Behold. Now listen."