The Sigma Kappa alumni and friends of Nina held a prayer vigil to lift up all these concerns last Tuesday, October 14th. We want to share words of steadfast faith, encouragement, and unyielding hope spoken and prayed that evening. In this moment of thanksgiving for Nina’s renewed health, this message delivered by TCU graduate student and Brite seminarian Erin Taylor invites us as a community to ever deeper faith, hope, and love.
Opening Prayer (given by Erin Taylor): As we gather here this evening Lord, take our lights and let them shine. Light a fire of courage, resilience, and peace within us. Thank you for meeting us in this place and we pray that we will recognize your presence. As we gather to lift Nina up in prayer, we also ask that your hand will be on all of those whose lives have affected by this horrible disease. For those around the world with limited access to medical care and support, we pray that your arms will enfold them and comfort their weary hearts. For the health care providers who give selflessly of their time and hearts, may we recognize their dedication and sacrifice. And ultimately God, may we enter this time of prayer with open hearts, receptive of whatever you are teaching us. May we listen with our souls as well as our hands – embodying your love and equipped to share it wherever we go. Amen.
Scripture (read by Associate Chaplain Rev. Allison Lanza):
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore (Psalm 121).
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any chargeagainst those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
Message (delivered by Erin Taylor):
“In times of uncertainty, in times of darkness, and in times of anticipation, we often turn to scripture in the hope of finding a comforting word. As we hold Nina, the Pham family, her church family, her Texas Health Resources family, and her horned frog family in prayer, let us turn to the promises of God as depicted in the books of Psalms. The Psalmist lifts his eyes to the mountains, seeking reassurance from the Lord. Our help comes from the Lord – the Lord who made us and called us very good. Our help comes from The Lord – the Lord who watches over us, who does not allow our feet to slip, and who guards us even in the stillness of our slumber. Our help comes from the Lord – the Lord who raises hope from death and promises to bear all things with us.
We do not know what is to come but we can cling to what we know is true: We know that we serve a God who is compassionate, present, and much larger than we can ever imagine. Our God does not promise perfect endings and pleasant story lines, but our God DOES promise to hold our hand through the fear, to guide our shaky steps, and to surround us with more love and grace than we can ever fathom. In the upcoming days, we will face uncertainty. We will ask questions and beg for answers. We don’t know what the answers will be, but we can rest assured knowing that God hears our prayers and and feels our pain.
We can find peace in the words of Christ that he passed down to the disciples so many years ago: “For where two or three are gathered, there am I with them.” We find peace in knowing that Christ is always with us. As we look at the life of Christ, we are reminded of the beautiful things that come from desolate circumstances. We are reminded of a God who brings life from death, healing from brokenness, and a family from solitude. If God can turn water in wine, a burning bush into liberation, and a carpenter into a king, then surely God can use this moment – this moment of fear and sorrow – as a vehicle for love. As a community, we have been called to surround a friend, sister, nurse, fellow frog, and child of God with unsurpassable love and prayer. We have been called to embrace Nina and all of those affected by this disease with open arms and open hearts. This evening we have gathered not out of fear, but out of hope. We have come together as a family, eager for God’s healing and God’s presence. We have come together because we know that with God, all things are possible.
The power of Christ is made known through many stories in the Gospel – one of which being the walk to Emmaus. Following Jesus’ crucifixion, two of the disciples walked toward Emmaus with heavy hearts. I imagine they recounted the events of the past few weeks – how their friend and teacher suffered and died and how they had awaited his resurrection and a new Jerusalem but it had not come to pass.. Or so they thought. As they’re walking, a third person joins them. They begin to tell this man about what has happened and as dusk begins to set in, the disciples invite this stranger to have dinner with them and to rest at their house. Still unaware of who exactly has joined them, they gather around the dinner table, and as the dinner guest breaks the bread, the disciples’ eyes are opened. In the breaking of the bread, the disciples realize that Jesus has been with them the entire time. In that very moment, the disciples know that God’s promise of hope and new life have been fulfilled. No matter how destitute, heartbroken, and alone we may feel, Christ is always made known to us in the breaking of the bread and when we gather, just like we have now, as God’s beloved children. God meets us where we are and in moments of panic, doubt, and sorrow, we are never alone.
The past few days and weeks have been a whirlwind of emotion. We have been confronted with a disease that has claimed thousands of lives and now the reality is made much clearer. One of our own has been touched by this disease, and as a community, we have gathered to join in prayer and ask for God’s presence and healing to be made known. Though we come from different backgrounds, we unite with a common purpose – to lift up our sister Nina. TCU and the extended TCU community are resilient. We have faced many hurdles, successes, road blocks, and celebrations. We believe in something much greater and far more powerful than ourselves. Just as we recognize that Christ is with us in this moment, may we also recognize the support we find in one another. We are a family. We are a faithful, purple family, and we can do incredible things through the power of Christ’s love. We will undoubtedly face many more tribulations, but I hope and pray that this evening is a testament of our love for one another and our faith in a sustaining God.
May we find comfort in knowing the presence of Christ is here. May we find comfort in knowing that God is holding Nina’s hand, as well as all of those who are sick and in pain, and that God will not let go. May we cling to one another as a means of support and solidarity. And in all things, may we rest in the promises of God’s truth and goodness that Christ has risen and meets us here. No, we do not know what is it to come or how Nina’s journey will unfold, but we do know this: We serve a risen Lord. We serve a Lord who loves us so much that he would rather die than give up on us. We serve a Lord who embodies love and made that love tangible using an empty cross and an open tomb. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In times when we are shaken and in times of glad thanksgiving alike, let us continue in prayer, hope, and love for neighbor as individuals and as a united community.