Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid in the deepest night where terror has free reign. Do not be afraid when rulers threaten death and destruction. Do not be afraid when you are lost and alone. Do not be afraid when there is no way through the wilderness. Do not be afraid when the prophets cry out for repentance and reformation and repairs to the breach. Do not follow the fearful and pick up stones to build walls or terminate the cries for justice. Do. Not. Be. Afraid.
We are not meant to live in fear is clearly a consistent message throughout scripture. Why are we to live without fear? Because God loves us and chooses humanity again and again – through prophets and saints, and ordinary sinners like you and me. We are called to live in trust more than fear. Yet, we don’t. Over and over again we give into the fear-based messaging of those with power. It’s what keeps them in power because fear keeps the rest of us divided. This isn’t news.
I’m tired of the fear, though, aren’t you? I’m tired of the voice that whispers of my inadequacy when night wraps around me. I’m tired of the anxiety that comes when the leaders of this world announce plans to build walls, drop bombs, keep food from hungry children, and prevent those without resources from having their basic needs met. I’m exhausted when confronted with story after story of those who wander in the wilderness with no place to call home. When the cries of the prophets are loud enough to break through the fear, the outcry against them swallows hope. Violence always threatens any who seek justice, liberation, and peace. How can we not be afraid given the state of the world?
Jerusalem, Jerusalem… All the world has become Jerusalem. We have been poor followers of Christ. We have not heeded Jesus invitation to follow him from death to life. We have allowed ourselves to be caught up with fear. We do not trust God’s love. We do not trust God’s claim on us. We do not believe that we can bring Divine Love into the world. Abundant life continues to lie just beyond our grasp. We live as if there is never enough of anything for anyone. Why is that?
Today I went in search of a shop vac and a squeegee because, like many folks, I woke up to a couple inches of water in my basement. At first I was angry because, you know, houses aren’t supposed to leak and I had a busy day ahead of me. Then as I set about removing the water and wondering how much damage was done to the things in my basement (wall boards and flooring yet to be installed upstairs), I realized my mistake. I should be responding with gratitude rather than anger. Not gratitude for the flooding, exactly. More like gratitude for a home that is safe and mostly waterproof. Gratitude for having the resources to deal with the flooded basement. Just gratitude for my life. In the grand scheme of things, a flooded basement isn’t a big deal. It’s a nuisance and it’s time consuming. Nothing more. Why waste my energy on being angry?
And that’s really it. Why do we waste our energy on being angry, hateful, and/or afraid? It’s not that anger and fear don’t have their place; they do. Anger can protect us from deep pain until we are ready to face it and it can motivate us to change. Fear can keep us safe and alive. But when the anger and fear bring hate along, nothing good can come of it.
Imagine how different our faith history would be if Abram gave into the “deep and terrifying darkness”? Or if Jesus succumbed to the fear that the temple authorities and Roman authorities had it in for him? What if the person most integral to your faith formation or mine gave into the fear, anger, and hatred all around them? How different would life be if no one taught us that we are loved, even in those moments when we give into fear?
As we continue on this Lenten journey, let’s be intentional about choosing Love first, putting our energy into bringing goodness into the world. Let’s see what happens when we choose trust in God’s promises first.
God is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
God is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
RCL – Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – March 17, 2019
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18