Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thinking about preaching on Sunday...

What truly scares you?

I am not talking about the stuff that causes worry. I worry about the health of my wife, my pets, my family. My sister was sick the other day, and I worried about her. I worry about cash flow for the family...Making sure there is enough money in the accounts to do what needs to be done, and to allow for a little to make life pleasant. I worry about friends and family who might be in harm's way. I worry about a lot of things...But what scares me?

That is a tough one, because it means that I have to answer honestly questions that I may not want to answer. Too often, we substitute worry for fear/being scared. Easy to do. And yet, I think, it takes us to the precipice of sin.

God tells us not to worry. In the teachings of Jesus, in the words of the prophets and in the witness of salvation history, there is truly little that we have to worry about. God is. God keeps God's promises, for "good" or for "ill." God calls us home, again and again. God promises us life in Christ. So, what is there to worry about? You know, that whole "lilies of the field" thing.

Still, there is a lot that can scare us.

Hurricanes scare me. Floods scare me. Losing my job scares me...Or, is that a worry? I guess God is telling us that it is ok to be scared, frightened. Those are visceral reactions to threatening situations. If someone has a gun to my head, or if I am trapped in a burning building, then fear can be my friend. Fear will keep me from moving suddenly. Fear will get me moving suddenly. Fear as a biological experience is designed to get my bad animal self up and out of its chair of comfort in order to do and act.

But fear as a way of life is worry.
Worrying too much makes me afraid of everything. It makes me afraid to take a chance, to allow God to work through me. It erodes faith and trust in God and in my neighbor. That sort of paralysis robs me, and my community, of life.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark. Not your average, run of the mill afraid...I was terrified. Terrified that the clothes in the closet, those lurking, dark and shadowy forms were going to come to life and "get me." I was afraid of vampires and werewolves lurking outside the window, waiting to come in and bite me when I let me guard down. I would go through elaborate rituals...Closing the closet doors before bed, arranging the sheets around my neck to prevent the biting...Even bargaining with my parents about the exact amount of light needed in the room by cracking the door and allowing light from the hall to come in.

Imagine the time lost to fear for that little boy.

And imagine all the little ways we engage in those protective behaviors to keep our fears from overwhelming us in this present day and age.

We keep terrorist kits in our basements.

We keep our resources close to the hip, just in case.

We conserve our political influence, choosing carefully just which "ditch is worth dying in" over the long haul.

We hold ourselves, our very God-created selves, in check...In reserve.

Fear too easily dominates our lives.

But what happens when we live in hope? When we allow ourselves to simply be present, to exits in the moment?

One of the most moving testimonies I heard in the wake of the hurricane came this week from a colleague who had weathered the storm in the Louisiana area and was in the process of figuring out what her community was going to look like in the years to come. The neighborhood around her church was nearly wiped out. Her congregation has been scattered, literally from New York to Seattle. What was it that she had learned?

"I had no idea just how much ministry I could do online!"

Confronted with the worst thing most pastors could imagine, the destruction of her church and the dispertion of her worshipping community, she discovered that there were indeed new ways to build a church out of the ruins left behind after the worst imaginable thing had happened.

Small consolation? Or, perhaps, an invitation to new life?

I am sure none of us would choose her experience as a life event. Best to NOT have that at all, really...And yet, isn't that just what we truly fear? Having it ALL swept away. And then having to pull it all together again.

And she is doing just that.

It makes being scared of the dark seem a little comical, but I have learned that I can indeed trust God to be with me, even with the closer door open at night. It just takes a little faith. A little hope, a little trust.

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