Altar to the Lord in St Johns, FL Presbyterian ChurchIn the Hebrew scriptures, there is an interesting passage in the book of Ezra (chapter 3). The people are rebuilding the Temple after years of exile. As they do so, they find they are threatened by the neighboring tribes, and they are terrified. Their response to this dread is to set up an alter and worship God. In other words, they turn to the Lord.

In our own lives there are events and circumstances that terrify us. From time to time we find ourselves truly afraid – especially of the unknown: What will the diagnosis be? Will I get to keep my job? Will he get well? That fear can paralyze us.

The ancient Israelites trusted that God would be with them. But they also knew that there is a sense of peace that comes from falling back into tradition. They did what they always had done. They set up an alter as Moses prescribed. They brought the offering. They worshiped, and they continued to rebuild the temple.

When we follow the steps of our ancestors, say the prayers, sing the hymns, hear the word, we fall back into a rhythm that often brings assurance and peace. No doubt, in confusing and challenging times, tradition can give guidance and direction, but it can also help us let go of fear.

Our prayer today is based on Psalm 46:

Let us pray: O God, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Even when the nations are in an uproar, we will listen for your voice. We will return again to worship you together. We will be still and know that you are God; that you are with us; and that you are our refuge. Amen.

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