Turn to the Lord during crisis and chaos

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

By Alan Neale

I recently began a sermon talking about the ways in which Christmas and New Year festivities can easily bring about a confusion about something as basic as “So, what day is it today?”. There was a sympathetic and confirming response from the congregation.
Our pattern, our routine, seems to be grasped vigorously and thrown into the air and the result is more than a little confusion. Earlier this week an email from Steve Barnes (Washington Daily News) reminded me that it was my week for the Pastor’s Column – oh, that had surely passed me by.
I observe that many I know have a particular routine they use to tackle daily and weekly tasks. When the mountain of cushions is placed on the newly made bed, cushions have to be in a certain pattern – I have found it saves time if I carefully follow the photograph I took weeks ago, just to make sure the pattern is in order.
Knowing what day, what week it is… knowing and following a regular pattern brings comfort to the soul and peace to the mind.
Tuesday, as a violent storm threatened to approach, routines and patterns had to be discarded as plans were made to be prepared – shops and college closed early, drivers planned to reach their destination in good and safe time, items that could be thrown about by strong wind were placed carefully in safe places.
Of course, there are some, and I truly admire them, who have a routine they follow when the regular pattern is threatened. I have yet to follow their admirable example.
In Matthew chapter 3, John the Baptist has his pattern, his routine, disturbed as Jesus comes to be the Jordan to be baptized by John. John protests, “But no, Lord, I should be baptized by you”. Jesus, with love and grace, takes hold of the situation and with kind confidence leads John out of his confusion and chaos. John surrenders to Jesus, Jesus is baptized by John, and all is well in the kingdom of God and in the heart of John.
We can be thrown into confusion as sickness or loss, as pain and challenge, enter into our daily lives bringing with them clouds of chaos and uncertainty. In such situations, common to us all, we are wise to follow the example of John the Baptist – admit and name our confusion and pain, wait to hear the response of the Lord and then surrender to His will.
I do not know, but I suspect that this Jesus/John drama was carefully observed by those standing on the bank or in the waters of the Jordan; and I suspect, along with their curiosity, there was support and prayers for their friend and leader John the Baptist. In our experience of confusion, we do well to turn to the Lord but also turn to the people of the Lord – and God’s people will be there in contemporary experience or Scriptural testimony to support and encourage us.
So, for those bowed down by confusion and chaos… please, turn to the Lord, and His people, and ask for help. He is the one who will make crooked paths straight, He will lower the high places and raise the high places so that access for today, tomorrow and more is provided.
Alan Neale is the Rector of Zion Episcopal Church in Washington.