Summary: This sermon explores fears and a response from God.
Can you hear the chorus sung between the verses in today’s Gospel?
It is one of the most constant choruses echoing through all of scripture.
“Do not be afraid. I am with you.”
“Do not be afraid” follows songs to people being called, songs to people being sent forth, and songs to people being tested.
“Do not be afraid” is a chorus we need to hear deep in our hearts if we are to take seriously the invitations and calls to follow Jesus and respond to God’s invitations to life and love!
I’ve been told that the phrase ‘do not be afraid’ occurs 365 times in the scripture! That is one for each day of the year! Other sources say a lot more! God knows the power of fear to limit our goodness and life!
I invite us to first connect to the destructiveness of fear in others and our own lives …
Fear is a Dream Killer! It’s the biggest and most common obstacle I see in me and others for not responding passionately to God and to life!
Fear paralyzes, and it magnifies failures. Worst of all, it brings an acceptance of the status quo, cost what it may. Our fears are the single biggest thing that keeps us from actually moving forward and accomplishing great things in our lives.
If you don’t name your fears then without realizing it, we make them a hidden companion railroading our lives. "Fear is a darkroom, where negatives are developed!"
So start by naming your fears and bring some light to them! Light destroys those negatives!!
Since the first step in dealing with fear is to name it, here are some of the things, silly or not that I am afraid of: Spiders, Caving, Being irrelevant or insignificant.
Letting people down and being rejected by people.
Failing to use my gifts
My deepest fear is a sense of Nothingness… it is difficult to find words to express that and the terror and influence it has had on my life.
I remember as a child having a constant nightmare of being in a car out of control on a dark, wet, foggy night, on a winding road along a mountain in the country– the car would eventually go off the road and I would awake … full of fear.
In my later life I sensed I was doing a lot of things out of fear … but I could not name that deeper fear … Then one time I read a quote from Thomas Merton speaking to Dorothy Day – it named my deepest fear.
“To some this quote will mean nothing, to others it describes an important stage in the journey .... We should in a way fear for our perseverance because there is a big hole in us, an abyss, and we have to fall through it into emptiness, but the Lord will catch us. Who can fall through the center of himself into that nothingness and not be appalled? But the Lord will catch you ... because of the prayers of the poor."
That inner abyss was real to me … and Merton offered me a path – to stop running from the fear – the abyss, and to fall into it – trusting that God would catch me. Because of the prayers of the poor.
I did that one night within my prayer and woke up the next day with a radical change to my life – a much deeper trust in God that shrunk my deepest fear. I’ve continued to do that process over and over again each time the fears appear.
I could now use so much of the energy of my life for good, and responding to God’s invitations rather than running and hiding from my fears.
What are you afraid of?
Fear of being out of control? Fear of Failure is common, or Fear of Financial or material Insecurity? or Fear of Disappointing Others? Or being rejected by others? Fear of being alone? Fear of being insignificant? These are all natural – but also so limiting to life!!
I could walk you through the Old Testament Characters – from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. All hear verses calling them to respond to God and life – that fill them with fear! They also all hear the chorus … “Do not be afraid, I will be with you.”
“Do not be afraid’s” are scattered throughout the Bible as ’stars’ are sprinkled through the night sky! In Isaiah we find constellations of them. Isaiah offers cures for our ‘fever of fear’: “Do not be afraid, I will be with you.”
This constant chorus within the lives of all the major characters of the Old Testament continues in the New Testament.
What were among the angel’s first words to Mary? “Do not be afraid – the Lord is with you,”