Dear Lenten Pilgrims,
This Sunday’s worship theme is the uncertainty of worry and anxiety, a topic that I know is of widespread relevance to so many of us.
Every Tuesday, the staff of this church read through each of the prayer concerns you send through your worship connection cards, and we lift up the many other requests that affect our congregation and the wider world.
Clearly, there are many who are dealing with worry and anxiety for a variety of reasons, every day.
In spiritual preparation for this Sunday, I invite you to read a passage that has brought me comfort during times of personal worry. It is written by the great 17th century French bishop Frances de Sales, from a little pamphlet he wrote called “Wise and Loving Counsel.”
Before you read it, here is some quick background on him, and why he had every reason to be anxious.
THE LIFE OF FRANCES DE SALES
de Sales had numerous tough days in the office throughout his ministry. As a missionary to Switzerland, people slammed doors in his face and threw rocks at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he trudged through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, and once had to sleep in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. After three years of evangelizing, his missionary partner departed, leaving him all alone without having made one single convert.
He had every reason to be worried and anxious.
But de Sales did not quit.
Because he could not get a face-to-face audience with people, he wrote his sermons down, reproduced them, and slid them underneath people’s doors. To this day, he is known as the patron saint of journalists because of his voluminous printed material. Slowly, his efforts warmed the hearts of the people of Geneva, and it is said that he returned to France having converted 40,000 of them to Catholicism.
One of those pamphlets was “Wise and Loving Counsel,” from which this excerpt is taken:
WISE AND LOVING COUNSEL
Do not look forward to the mishaps of this life with anxiety, but await them with perfect confidence so that when they do occur, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has kept you up to the present; remain securely in the hand of his providence, and he will help you in all situations. When you cannot walk, he will carry you. Do not think about what will happen tomorrow, for the same eternal Father who takes care of you today will look out for you tomorrow and always. Either he will keep you from evil or he will give you invincible courage to endure it.
Remain in peace; rid your imagination of whatever troubles you.
Belong totally to God. Think of him and he will think of you. He has drawn you to himself so that you may be his; he will take care of you. Do not be afraid, for if little chicks feel perfectly safe when they are under their mother’s wings, how secure should the children of God feel under his paternal protection! So be at peace, since you are one of these children; and let your weary, listless heart rest against the sacred, loving breast of this Savior who, by his providence is a father to his children, and by his gentle, tender love is a mother to them.
First thing in the morning, prepare your heart to be at peace; then take great care throughout the day to call it back to that peace frequently, and, as it were, to again take your heart in your hand. If you happen to do something that you regret, be neither astonished nor upset, but having acknowledged your failing, humble yourself quietly before God and try to regain your gentle composure. Say to yourself: “There, we have made a mistake, but let’s go on now and be more careful.” Every time you fall, do the same.
THE UNCERTAINTY OF WORRY
Take some time reading and re-reading that passage between now and Sunday.
Let it resonate with any part of your life that is filled with unease and uncertainty.
We’ll observe communion at all services, and we’ll learn biblical insights in how to handle worry. Members of the Healing Prayer Team will also be on hand to pray with you as well.
You might also want to join us for a special workshop next Wednesday, March 7, called “Dealing with Worry and Anxiety,” 6:30 p.m. in the Magnolia Building. Dr. Corinne Zimmer will help us name the source of our anxieties and give us practical tips to deal with them in a healthy way.
In the words of de Sales, remain in peace. Belong totally to God. And do not be afraid.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
The Vision Team continues its visioning chats this Sunday, at both 10:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. These one-hour sessions give you the opportunity to give us direct feedback that will help us clarify and claim God’s exciting future for this church. To reserve a spot at one of these sessions, register here.