Today’s choice of hymn, following the themes of calling and baptism (or “Christian initiation” as the Sing Praise hymn book has it), is a song that our own church music group has used several times. The chorus is “do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are mine”. That idea – that God calls us individually, in different ways (by our name) and that because of that there’s nothing to be feared in life – occurs throughout the Bible, in fact I’ve heard it said that the phrase “do not be afraid” is one of the most common in the Bible.
The first four short verses each suggest ways in which life might make us afraid, then the way in which God will protect us. All of these are relevant to the current Covid pandemic and lockdown.
Firstly we may feel we are “out of our depth” with what’s happening (perhaps especially appropriate today, as the North of England faces yet another warning of devastating floods), but he won’t let us drown. Or we may feel that we are surrounded by fire (the virus is just as dangerous, though invisible), but he won’t let us get burnt; or lonely (a problem many are facing in this pandemic) but God is always with us so we are never truly alone; or exiled away from home (perhaps in the sense that the culture around us is changing rapidly and makes us uncomfortable) but never far from God’s love.
The final verse reminds us again that we are God’s children and that he loves us. That’s what it all comes down to: whatever the pandemic brings, whether anxiety, fear of physical harm, loneliness or just life moving too fast for us to keep up with, the one constant is God’s love, so we need not fear.