Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dealing with Fear

The lectionary texts for November 16 remind me of how our lives are influenced by fear. Our instinct is to withdraw or to hedge our bets and to act in self-preservation. Judges 4 has Barak hesitant to go on the offensive alone, not completely trusting in Deborah's oracle. 1 Thessalonians 5 contains words we read at funerals as does Psalm 90. Words intended to stop fear's damage, to put a halt to our tendency to react to our fears with careless abandon of responsibility or focus. We even lose our focus on God, the only One in whom we can trust.

5:5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
5:6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;
5:7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.
5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thess 5:5-8)

How wonderful and appropriate that these texts arise in a season of world fear. Certainly there is a level of hope following an American election at which the 'hope' candidate won. Still, watching the markets instills fear and we quickly lose any long-term perspective. Like the Thessalonians we forget that we belong to the day and need not live in the fear of the night.

The investors of Matthew 25 act out our fear on stage, each reacting in different ways and being rewarded or punished for faith (or lack thereof). How easy it is to read these texts with judgment and say, "Foolish men, could you not see the Lord's hand at work?" all the while we act in our own foolish ways. I worry about tomorrow, I watch the retirement balance fall, I change plans that sound too risky and I circle the wagons of projects and plans to return to a safe and defensive stance.

How very hard it is to walk in faith without sight. I know until I step off the cliff and place my weight onto the foot suspended in air, that I can't see God's bridge coming up to meet my foot. (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade image.) Still I hesitate to take the step - for fear. Interestingly, we only get better at faith by practice. The reckless stepping off of cliffs and trusting in God's bridge or hand to be there, is our calling. Recklessness and Christianity no longer go together like they once did when one risked their life to follow the WAY of the Lord. It's time to pair them up again.

I guess I'd better start with me

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