I knock on the door before I walk into hospital rooms. Often when I knock, the people in the room look up with anticipation. Family members stand up. Sometimes they say, “Doctor.”
They have been waiting for news, sometimes for hours. As soon as they see someone older, not in a uniform, they assume that they are getting their news.
When someone says, “Doctor”, I say, “Not the kind you are looking for, I’m the chaplain.”
When the looks of anticipation are so great that they seem close to panic, I quickly say, “I don’t know anything. I don’t have news. I’m one of the chaplains.”
Sometimes people look disappointed. Sometimes they look relieved and say, “I’m glad you are here.” Sometimes they go ahead and panic. If the chaplain has come, things must be awful.
Anticipation and its feeble cousin worry are familiar to families in those rooms and to us, and to the writers of the texts we read this morning. Their debilitating relatives, neglect and despair, are often sitting in the corner.
Jesus told the stories we read, like the one for yesterday from Luke 12, to help us think through those responses. Do not be afraid. Live in love and anticipation.
“Do not be afraid” are words that we often read in the Bible. When angels appear, when Jesus appears, they say, “Do not be afraid.” It suggests that a typical response to the presence of God might be fear. But even more practically, when we are in the middle of uncertainty and darkness, awaiting a diagnosis or a doctor, aware of what could be happening and assuming that its bad, God’s presence arrives quietly and starts with the words that might help us listen to everything else.
Do not be afraid. I’m here.