One of my many useless talents is knowing the lyrics to old TV commercial jingles.
“Choo Choo Charlie was an engineer. Choo Choo Charlie was his name, we hear….He used Good & Plenty candy to make his train run.”
“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer weiner. That is what I’d truly like to be.”
Just recently I found myself singing, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”
For those who didn’t have preschoolers in the 1970s, Weebles are small, roly poly figures that, if you tip them, or even hit them all day long, they may wobble, but they will always return to an upright position.
On Aug. 9, 2020, Pope Francis gave a message about trials that shake a person’s faith. The next day, the headline in the National Catholic Reporter read: “‘Faith wobbles sometimes; what counts is calling for God’s help, pope says.’”
Faith, like Weebles, can and does wobble. Circumstances and situations, other people, our own self-centeredness and sin, things happen to push us down, tip us over.
Do you remember how 2020 started? It began with the continent of Australia on fire. Then came the global pandemic, then a record-breaking hurricane season with 30 named storms, several of them catastrophic. Add murder, hornets, racial unrest, political upheaval.
Then 2021 started with an insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, followed by more coronavirus deaths and more political unrest, factions and fighting, fires, drought AND floods.
People everywhere, losing their temper, losing their homes and their jobs, losing their sense of security, losing their minds and losing their faith. Last year, Barna Research reported that one in three practicing Christians have stopped attending church altogether, including online worship at home on your couch in your jammies. One third simply checked out. With so much coming at us all at once from multiple directions, constant and unrelenting, we are wobbling all over the place.
If you’re feeling wobbly, I have good news: Even though we’re not Weebles and we do sometimes fall down, God stands ready, willing and able to pick us up and hold us up.
In his message, Pope Francis shared the gospel story in Matthew 14:22-23 where the disciples were in a boat traveling across a lake during a storm. As they struggled and fought against the wind, Jesus came walking on the water toward them. At first, they thought he was a ghost and screamed. But Jesus told them not to be afraid. “I am Jesus,” he said. Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said, “Come on,” and Peter stepped out of the boat and took a few steps on top of the water. But when he realized how strong the storm was, he got scared and started sinking.
“Save me, Lord!” he shouted. And Jesus did just that. Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and helped Peter back into the boat.
Pope Francis said, “Lord, save me is a beautiful prayer, and believers also should reflect on how Jesus responded, immediately reaching out and taking Peter’s hand, showing that God never abandons us.” The secret to Weebles is their foundation, their “stable equilibrium.” They are built to stay upright no matter how they’re battered about.
And so are we.
Our faith is often weak, we wobble, but if Jesus is our firm foundation, if we belong to him, his hand is ever ready to lift us back to stable equilibrium, to peace and sanity.
The last stanza of the hymn, “How Firm A Foundation” goes: “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to His foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
Take heart, dear friend.