We all have fears… some of them rational… some of them not so rationale… Last week, you heard my story of being fearful while on a retreat at Tatamagouche Centre… an irrational fear…
Fear serves a purpose. In the beginning, we were given instincts to help us survive. We had a heightened sense of our environment so that we could nourish ourselves and procreate. As time went on we became more dependent upon machines and technology for our quality of life and survival. As a result, our instincts and senses diminished and our mental processes strengthened. As we became more and more identified with our minds as our source of supply and safety, our thoughts and emotions carried more weight. Fear shifted its focus from our instinctual nature to our emotional nature.It is the imbalance of our emotions that create toxic levels of fear.http://www.santimeunier.com/ART_nature_fear.php
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can keep us safe and prevent us from engaging in harmful activities. However, fear can easily cross from healthy and practical to unhealthy and irrational. A fear that reminds you to be cautious in strange places or with unknown people, is reasonable and smart until it prevents you from going out of your house or making friends with your neighbors.
Those of you who have been at funerals have heard me quote Psalm 27 at the beginning of the service, “God is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear? God is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” And Jesus, as a faithful Jew, would have been very familiar with this psalm which goes on to say… Teach me your way, O God, lead me on a level path, safe from those who lie in wait for me. Do not give me up to the will of my enemies, for liars and false witnesses arise against me. I believe that I shall see God’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for God; be strong, and take courage; yes, wait for God!
Hear those final words again: Wait for God; be strong, and take courage; yes, wait for God!
How can we keep from being held hostage by our fear?
Fear is an appropriate response to danger and that primal instinct is part of how humanity evolved and responded to danger. However, when that fear response continues to manifest itself in ways that are actually counterproductive, when the danger doesn’t exist, what can we do? What are the fears of the faith community?
In the brief time I have been here, there seems to be a fear of conflict, fear of not having enough, not enough money, not enough people, not enough, fear of the future
But what is the faithful response to that fear? Is it to hunker down behind walls of habit? Is it to simply cower and hide? Is it to run away and disconnect? Or what if we look to scripture? To the life of Jesus. A life that ended… not in death, but in resurrection… and we live on because of him.
Jesus was grounded in scripture… and that grounding gave him the courage to be about what he is about… and not to be dictated by anyone else’s agenda or timetable. The Pharisees warned him, or at least some of them did. Verse 31 says, At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” We often cast the Pharisees in a bad light… but from this exchange, and others where Jesus eats with them, it is apparent that he is a respected opponent. His response to the Pharisees who warn him about Herod?
“Go and tell that fox (meaning Herod) for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. In other words, I am going about my mission to make this world a better place.
Scholars mostly agree that Jesus never planned to set up a different religion known as Christianity, but wanted the Hebrew people to go back to the roots of their faith… not all the laws that had built up around it, but the fundamentals… or as he said, “Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself… these are the two greatest commandments…
He lived out of faithfulness, not fear.
And that interesting turn of phrase, “On the third day, I finish my work.”
The third day… The day Jesus rose from the dead and his disciples were transformed from fearful to faithful followers.
How can we do the same? What unique and innovative thing is God planning for us? I don’t know… But I do know that God is with us.
This morning, you all have received a letter that invites you to participate in a Listening Circle. I hope you all respond to the invitation. During these Listening Circles, we will be listening deeply to one another and to God. And through them, we will discern our way forward. And the future will not look like the past… But God will be present. Over and over again, our scripture tells us that God is faithful to us. And Jesus, with that beautiful, very female imagery of a mother hen with her chicks, longs to tuck us beneath his sheltering wings and protect us. And while we can’t stay there, safely tucked up… we can return to it over and over again, with the words of scripture that encourage us and challenge us.
We can take heart from the stories of God’s faithfulness. We can take heart from the stories of our history. Fearful living, faithful living… which one will we choose?
Thanks be to God, amen.
Luke 13: 31-35
February 21, 2016 – EPC
© Rev. Catherine MacDonald