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Slovakia 2019: Do Not Fear?

July 3, 2019

This morning at breakfast devotions, I pointed out to our group that we would, in four short hours, be more than halfway finished with VBS. It’s a fact that is both encouraging (we’ve made it this far!) and sort of depressing (our time here is almost up?). Tonight, Pastor Emily reminded us of the disciples during the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James, and John wanted to stay there. Perhaps we were feeling the same way (yes, I am). But this is not where Jesus calls us to be. Jesus goes back down the mountain, face set toward Jerusalem. He goes to his cross. He beckons us to follow.

Following God has never been easy. Our VBS story today invoked the brave faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their time in the fiery furnace prefigures the dying and rising of Christ. Death does not get the last word in either story.  To be honest, this is one of those biblical stories that is tailor-made for VBS. It’s fantastical and heroic and has a happy ending. As an adult, I find the whole thing terrifying. Would I be as brave as them? Should I be? Wouldn’t God want me to, you know, not have to go through such an ordeal?

Long ago, Isaiah proclaimed to the captives, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10a). Do not be afraid? When the fiery furnace beckons? When the path leads to the cross and not to a mountaintop respite? Yes, for resurrection follows death of any sort.

I find these VBS stories about Daniel and his friends more applicable than I’d like. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, the celebration of the birthplace of our nation. I love America, and I admire all those who have served in our armed forces. But these two things will be true tomorrow: First, children, forcibly separated from their families at the border, will still be living in horrid conditions because we said they should. And second, tanks will roll through Washington, D.C.

What?

Who are we?

Isaiah whispers, do not fear. God is with you. You might have to walk into the fire, but you won’t be alone. I don’t know what I can do, and I hate feeling that way. But I sure don’t have to be quiet. Maybe I’ll have to walk into the fire. That’s how it goes.

So.

Regardless of how or why they showed up, no child should be treated the way children at our southern border are being treated. Never.

And.

Military parades are for the weak and the scared. Ask the people of Slovakia. They’ve seen petty tyrants who love tanks. But they’ve survived and come out the other side. We can, too. Do not fear. God is with you. God is with me.

In other news, I spent time today with Pastor Milan Kubik of the Lutheran Church in Martin. I was reminded that not only do we come here to lead VBS but, in a few weeks, they will lead VBS here again, so that others will hear God’s Word. And, they have a long history of going out from Martin to do what we come to Martin to do – to lead VBS as a mission. How cool is that?

And then a bunch of us took the train to Zilina. I spent time with my daughter and her friend as they shopped for clothes, ate pizza, got ice cream, laughed, and generally had a blast.

And that picture at the top? That’s a bunch of kids launching stuffed animals and water balloons with catapults into a beautiful blue sky.

There’s good in the world yet.

Do not fear.

God is with you.

We can’t stay here, but Jesus journeys with us. Resurrection is always just around the corner.

 

From → Slovakia 2019

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