Dear Fear (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost)
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Today’s message is based off of Jesus’s pledge, “Do not be afraid, like flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” and the utter incongruence of that with the disturbing world we find ourselves in: one full of pain, shock, hatred, and violence. The latest shootings in our nation are just one example of how suddenly fear can overtake us.
Truth is, there are MANY things to fear; many things that cause us anxiety; many things that weigh us down. Jesus telling me not to be afraid is like telling me not to breathe. I almost can’t help it. And, while I know Jesus is trying offer you and me comfort and promise, the cynic in me is like, “Right, Jesus have you been paying attention lately?” which then causes me to dismiss or gloss over everything else Jesus has to say, because my feelings don’t feel honored by his unintentional dismissal.
However, frequently in the Bible fear is told to step aside. And, I believe that is because fear is faith’s most formidable adversary. When my courage dies, my faith falters. And fear sets itself firmly down in the drivers seat of my life, and suddenly faith ends up locked in the trunk.
I believe that faith allows me t have the audacity to undertake a journey just because God has asked us to (at least that’s a bit of Abraham’s story, and has been my experience too).
And so, I decided that today, I would write a letter to Fear, bringing it out of the shadows to strip away some of its power. I want to to live by faith, like the writers of Hebrews beckon us to.
I also want to say that I got the idea to write a letter to fear from a book. I know that’s a surprise… I read a lot in case you haven’t noticed. But, I mention it, because I borrow the image from the book, Big Magic, and I wanted to acknowledge that.
Dear Ominous Presence Fear,
I know you believe you have a very important job in my life. To protect me; to keep my expectations in check; to heighten my senses when needed; to keep me small.
And so, thank you. Thank you for how hard you work. You are suburb at your job.
I recognize you must take your job very seriously, because there is not a day that goes by that I’m not aware of your presence. Apparently, part of what you do is induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting or courageous or new.
And, you flood my heart and mind with crippling worry and anxiety when uncontrollable things happen, causing me to doubt in God and the goodness of humanity. Which is, frankly, not cool.
Well, I wanted to let you know that Jesus and I are going on a road trip, a journey, if you will. And, I understand that you’ll be joining us. You always do. That’s fine. There is plenty of room in the car for all of us.
However, I’m going to need you to sit in the back seat. Jesus and I are the only ones who will be making decisions along the way. You are allowed to have a seat and you are allowed to have a voice (a quiet, whisper will do). You can even look out the window and proclaim, “Cow,” each time we pass one.
But, you are not allowed to have a vote. You are not allowed to touch the road map. You are not allowed to suggest detours. You are not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. And, under no circumstances may you touch the radio.
Jesus is in charge. He and I have work to do. And, just like we recognize your contributions, it’s time you let us do our job. So, faith will be driving this go ‘round.
Where will faith take us, you ask? You think faith is just blind trust built on silly fables and archaic ways of thinking? You think that by looking to faith that I have somehow stuffed logic and responsibility in the glovebox?
Quite the contrary – that’s just what YOU would have ME believe.
I’ve done a fair amount of thinking on this, so why don’t you listen to me for once!
Faith empowers me to set out for new places, to anticipate new arrivals, to wait for big changes, and search for new homelands. Faith is the itch underneath my skin and the ache in my heart that turns my face towards distant stars… and helps me believe that there is more. And that I’m part of that more.
Faith is longing. Faith is hunger. Faith is engagement. Faith is diligence. Faith stirs up holy restlessness.
And you, Fear, always try to squelch it.
I know you HATE uncertain outcomes. I know you made Abraham and Sarah anxious and apprehensive, because you were afraid to hope. I know you caused the stewards to have sleepy eyes and greedy hearts, because you were afraid to trust. I know you want us to believe that things can’t change, that protecting oneself is the only way, that life was better before, because you’re afraid of the journey.
However, faith empowers us to take the first step, and the next, and every step after that – even with you muttering in the backseat.
So, as I said, Jesus and I (and a whole lot of other people) have places to heal, people to love, things to change, mountains to move, lamps to light, and stars to wish upon.
The world is waiting for us. So, get in the back seat and enjoy the ride!