Summary: To paraphrase FDR, when we walk with God, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Lost and Afraid
June 18, 2006
Today’s sermon is the third in a series on LOST. Being lost is an experience of having our world torn apart. Being lost is having the familiar things that get us through the day disappear. Being lost is not knowing where to turn or who to turn to. Being lost is having familiar resources suddenly disappear. We’ve talked about being lost and lonely, and about being lost and confused. Today we want to talk about being lost and afraid.
I guess that we are all afraid of something or other. What are you afraid of – snakes, bugs, the dark, heights? Go to www.phobialist.com and you can find all sorts of phobias. I am amazed at the number of things people are afraid of. Have you ever heard of these phobias?
• Dentaphobia fear of dentists
• Automatonaphobia fear of ventriloquist’s dummies
• Ecclesiophobia fear of the church
• Microphobia fear of small things
• Octophobia fear of the number 8
• Papaphobia fear of the pope
• Photophobia fear of light
• Tachaphobia fear of speed
• Zoophobia fear of animals
Wouldn’t you like to have a day now and then when you could go about your activities without fear of any kind? Wouldn’t you like to have a day when you could, for instance, go for a walk in the sun without sunscreen? Wouldn’t you like to take a trip out of town without getting a hotel reservation? Wouldn’t you like to choose the deviled egg instead of the cauliflower with the low-fat yogurt dip? Wouldn’t you like to buy that new hair dryer without first reading Consumer Reports? If you could live a day without fear, what would you do that would be wild and crazy?
We all have our own fears. For example, I’m afraid that people will find out that the only A I got in seminary was in my course on “The Discipline.” I am afraid of that because I don’t want people to identify me with all those church geeks who like that kind of stuff. Sometimes our fears are trivial and goofy. Other times, they are not.
My uncle Ora was a Michigan farm kid back in February, 1942, when he received a letter from Uncle Sam telling him that he was needed in the fight against world-wide tyranny. So, off he went to army bases far and wide. Kentucky, Arkansas, California. Then it was on to the Pacific Theater of Operations and places he had never heard of before: Guam, Saipan, Tinian.
A few years ago, one of his sons thought that his experiences should not be lost to time. Uncle Ora was getting well into his eighties and he had never really told anyone about his war time service. We knew that he had been in some terrific fighting, but really didn’t know any details. So, with my cousin’s prompting, he recorded a three CD recollection of his part of the war.
As I listened to it, I realized that he was very reluctant to talk about those years. He had to be prodded by his son to tell the stories. And even then, we all knew that he was not telling the worst of it.
He was driving a tracked landing craft toward the beaches of Saipan when enemy fire hit the vehicle, sinking it and throwing everyone on board into the ocean. Many of those soldiers were killed. Miraculously, Uncle Ora was not injured. He found himself, however, alone and adrift. He was in the water for two days. During those two days, he heard the constant roar of the big guns and the sounds of the raging battle. He was drifting closer and closer to a Japanese held island about which they had been warned. Almost at the last minute, he was picked up by a Navy ship. I can’t imagine the fear he felt. I can’t imagine what that sort of fear is like. Few of us can, except those who have similar life-threatening experiences.
This isn’t quite the same thing, but is another story of conquering your fear. Four years ago when Toni was on the pastoral staff of Trinity UMC in Elkhart, they were preaching a series on facing your fears. As the staff sat around and brainstormed how they might make that message come alive, someone asked everybody else to list their greatest fears. They then decided that, as a staff, they would confront the greatest fear among them.
Finally it was decided that the greatest fear among the staff members was the fear of heights and the fear of falling. So they decided that the whole staff would go skydiving to prove to themselves that they could conquer their fears.
On a Saturday afternoon shortly after that decision, the two pastors, the Youth Pastor, the Director of Worship Arts, and the lead pastor’s youngest son went to the Goshen airport for several hours of training. A week later, they went back to take their jump. I was invited to go, but fibbed to them. I said that I wasn’t afraid of heights, so there was no use for me to spend the money to take the lessons! I’m not sure they believed me.