I attended a small Baptist college in Minnesota. Every weekday, Monday through Friday, the campus came to a standstill in the middle of the morning. Classes ended. The coffee shop closed. The post office shut its doors. The administrative offices locked up. Everyone was encouraged to go to the field house for our daily chapel service.
It was not required, but I always found it beneficial, so I went every day. I can remember very few of the messages I heard over those four years. Even though we were supported by the Baptist General Conference and most of the speakers came from that tradition, still pastors of other evangelical churches were invited to speak as well.
One of the few United Methodist preachers who spoke regularly was Dr. C. Philip Hinerman, pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. I remember vividly one particular January morning when Dr. Hinerman spoke at a chapel service. In the depth of Minnesota winter, when most of us were as pale as ghosts, Dr. Hinerman stood before us with a deep bronze tan. He went on to explain that he had just returned from a vacation in Miami. (That was impressive, that Methodist preachers could take mid-winter vacations in Florida.) He went on to talk about how unnerving it was in the late 1960s, to be on the beach while aware that there were nuclear missiles pointed our direction from ninety miles away in Cuba.
I originally was going to write something entirely different, but recent reports from North Korea brought his sermon back to mind. We live in a dangerous world. Whether it is danger from Cuba or North Korea, al qaeda or ISIS, we do not know what lies in our future.
In his very brief sermon, Dr. Hinerman spoke about it this way. We can either live our lives in fear or trust our lives to God. I could shake in fear as I lay on the beach or I could put my life in God’s hands. I chose to trust God. I encourage you to do the same.
When he was done, many of my friends were not even sure what he had said. But it struck me profoundly. So profoundly that almost 50 years later, I still recall it. Life offers us many choices, some mundane and some life changing. But every day, we are faced with a simple choice: do we live in fear or do we live in faith? Do we trust God to take care of us or do we trust ourselves and our human leaders?
The psalmist put it this way: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses (the ICBMs of their day), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
Later in book of Psalms there is a line that one of my college friends (Dave Shupe) used to sing: “My times are in thy hand. O Lord, I wish them there.” (from Psalm 31:15)
Ultimately, that is our only safety.