From The Rector…
There is a lot of fear in the world right now. Maybe there always has been and I was too naïve to see it, but it feels like there is a greater level of anxiety than I have known in my life. There seems to be a lot to be afraid of. We just came out of a pandemic in which our Spidey-senses were acutely aware of any person invading a safe social distance and the very air we breathed was potentially threatening. Now we are in the midst of inflation and rising interest rates as well as a war that could start a third world war. We hear of gun violence being played out in our own town and across the country. Political commercials play on our fears regarding our concerns for the future regardless of which side of the aisle you sit. Climate change, human sexuality, Never-Trump, and just about anything else you can think of have become words with the power of atomic explosions that threaten us and want to turn us inward—away from one another; away from the empty tomb we have just celebrated.
Though fear turns us away from one another at best and against one another at worst, there is another problem with fear—and that is what fear is rooted in. My on-line running coach broke down the acronym fear in a recent run. She said the word FEAR really stood for False Evidence Appearing Real. How many times as a child was I terrified that there was a monster in the dark, only to turn on the light and realize it was the tree outside my window casting shadows on the walls? How often in the middle of a run will I tell myself I won’t be able to finish because I am afraid I have set myself up for failure and cannot realize my own personal expectations? How often in life do I fear I cannot meet the expectations of another? How often do I avoid a situation because I don’t know the outcome and have allowed myself to believe that I will be hurt in the taking and, when I finally engaged, discovered transformation and joy? How often do I hear part of a message and believe it to be one thing when it is truly something else—but because of my own fears of inadequacy and judgment have disconnected and cut off relationships with others? How often have I believed false evidence and made it real?
I know that fear was a survival instinct in our ancestors. It is probably a good thing to be afraid of rustling grass you can’t see through when you live with saber tooth tigers. But I am less convinced of its salvific nature in our current time. I even wonder how harmful fear has become—how limited it has made our world and our relationships and how much damage it has done to us as individuals. I think fear tears us apart instead of mending us and making us whole.
The angel of the Lord says, “Fear not!” to a bunch of shepherds keeping their flocks on a cold Christmas night. Jesus climbs onto a cross and lays his fears aside, “Not my will, but thy will.” He appears to the disciples in an upper room and asks, “Why are you frightened?” The life of Jesus begins and ends with a reminder to us to not allow fear to rule our hearts—for if we do, we may well miss Jesus and the gift of salvation he offers to each and every one of us.
I am convinced that the opposite of fear is not security but peace. That is what Jesus offers those who follow him. Peace is always the path to compassion and love, justice and mercy. Fear breeds hate. Peace brings hope. As Christians, we do not have a choice in this world. We are to bear witness to hope by dismantling fear and all those things that would contribute to it. We are to turn on the lights and point out the shadows that appear real but never are. We are to hold up the light in dark places so that those who are afraid can follow us and find their way and God’s peace. We do not give life or salvation, but we always point to the one who can and not to the fear that destroys. And we must start with ourselves.
Light and Life,