Feeling worried about recent events? Fearful? Please take a few moments to read Father Joe’s message on FEAR . . .
November 19, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’ve been having a good time this week milling around with all of the volunteers and helpers who are getting the ECW’s Christmas Bazaar ready (admittedly, as a priest, I cringe a little bit when I say the word Christmas as we haven’t even gotten to Advent yet!). It’s great to see the outpouring of generosity with the donations that are coming in and the amount of time and energy that so many of you give so willingly. It’s sort of neat to look at the different objects or toys or electronics that previously made life pleasant in someone’s home, go to another home for a spell. The best part is knowing that the proceeds of these efforts will go to help women and children in our community.
The Bazaar makes me think about things, objects, materials, stuff. I like stuff. My kids LOVE stuff. The boys would probably be occupied for weeks with all of the things we have in the church right now (which is why I’m keeping them away). It also reminds me of when Ashley and I moved. We gave away boxes and truckloads of stuff to Christian outreach groups, charities, people we knew personally who had need. It was very freeing to unburden ourselves of things that we had bought or had been given, things that we didn’t necessarily need but perhaps someone else could use.
There are things, however, that we have and don’t want but also don’t want to throw away. You know what I’m talking about – for whatever reason, we accumulate things large and small that we just don’t know what to do with and don’t have a good sense of where it belongs.
I have something that I don’t know what to do with, and I suspect you might also, and that thing is called fear. I see things going on in the world that make me afraid. I watch the news and hear the reports about ISIS or ISIL or whatever aiming their twisted version of “religion” at any and every ideology that isn’t theirs, making specific threats about specific places, including our own back yard. Right where many of us work and play. I don’t know what to do with that fear.
The fear is real, though. I know it doesn’t belong to my children. I don’t want to add to the boogey men that live in their little heads, those little innocuous fears that imprint the impressionable and developing minds of children (J.D. went through a season where he was afraid of the Cat in the Hat jumping out of his closet). I have to be careful because children pick up on fear very easily (so do dogs, by the way)! I also don’t think I should give it to someone else because, after all, fear manifested on someone else usually looks like violence, anger, hard-heartedness, bitterness, jealousy, shallowness, false pity, dishonesty, or pretty much anything that no one would want to buy and it would be a real insult to have to receive it.
So, I take that fear, and I put it in a box, and I make a decision. I decide to take my big box of fear and give it to God. Not as an offering or a gift or a sacrifice (although it might sometimes feel like it), but in a sort of “Know what I should do with this?” way. And God does know what to do with it. God knows what to do with our fear and he tells us to not hold onto it but to let go of it and he’ll take care of it.
After all, Jesus tells us to not be afraid in the Holy Scriptures, like, a lot. I mean, depending on which variation of the Greek word for fear we translate, those scriptures in the New Testament may tell us up to 95 times to not be afraid. Maybe I should listen. Maybe we all should.
So I box up the fear. I turn off the television. I engage in conversation with Ashley and the boys. We go outside and look at the fall leaves. We come up with lists of things we can be grateful for, take an inventory of all the things seen and unseen that make our lives full and rich and light. We open the door and talk to the neighbors. We smile at the people we see on the train or in the streets. We pray. I pray each day for God to take the fear away.
And it happens. Zap, just like that. The fear can go away. Sometimes I find bits and pieces of it that I have to box up and put on the pile for God to take, but for the most part, I’m not afraid. One of the safest moments I have in my life is when I am at the altar, praying over the bread and the wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ, hearing the voices of the choir sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”, looking out at your faces and feeling a connection to a love that is so much more powerful than anything of which we are afraid. It’s a feeling of rock-solidness. No anxiety, worry, panic. Just sheer, pure, awesome grace. I pray those people who make threats and kill innocent people could drop their own fear and experience that grace, because I bet they’d be making videos of meteor showers or waterfalls, flowers or children playing, videos and images of beauty juxtaposed only with beauty, instead of the death that they carry around in their hearts.
I guess when I box up that fear, it leaves a little bit more room for faith, and love. And I want to share that with others. Jesus dismissed all of the fear of humanity that night in the garden as he prayed before going to the cross. He left only room for grace, love, and forgiveness. That’s what he took with him. When the disciples went into the Empty Tomb, the only fear there was the fear that they brought with them. Which soon turned to faith.
Come on out to the bazaar. Take a trip into the city this weekend. Have a nice bike ride or fall hike. Play with your kids, your pets, your new toys you got at the bazaar. And box up your fear. God will take it up. And if you need help boxing it, come see me.
Unashamedly unafraid in Christ,