Fear is having a field day in our land. Who would predict 30 years after razing the Berlin Wall, as Isis makes its last stand in Syria, so many succumbing to fear? Why fabricate fear as fearsome threats fall away and we enjoy full employment?
In the ‘80s, some propagated a narrative of Japanese efficiency crushing our way of life into the dust heap of history. That never happened. Funny how in an era of 7-year growth in prosperity, we act like we are getting only raw deals in trade. Or illegal Mexicans will steal our daughters. Or that Muslims mount a massive, hidden conspiracy to undermine our way of life and supplant our Christian faith.
If our faith is beleaguered today, it’s by our own indifference and apathy, not by pagan barbarians at the gates. In my own head, I often find my fears to be a kind of lofty interest I’m paying in advance on an imagined debt that never comes due. The superb author Marilynne Robinson writes, “No one seems to have an unkind word to say about fear these days, as unchristian as it surely is.” Think about it.
Fear does have a proper place. I fear not serving all of you in a manner befitting my lofty calling. I fear my hurts or grievances can blind me to my vast blessings. But these are more in the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” category.
We had a bumpy summer at FCC. I sensed fear afoot as we withstood a sudden, untoward change in leadership. But in my 6 weeks back, members with heartfelt emotion approach me and ask me: “what can I do?” I sense common resolve to move us into the future. Attendance during our lowest season of the year was as high as I have ever seen it. We galvanize in the face of threat. We go on offense.
What if the Christian faith doesn’t require a defense, and FCC, Darien is not a besieged people? What if God now gives us all we need to become the church God expects us to be? What if it is not about “fighting back” but living our faith as expressively as we can? What if God always wants this, but we only dig deeper for this as the metaphorical roof caves in, just like the literal roof two years ago?
Speaking of living faith more expressively, this week is Welcome Back Sunday, one of our jazz Sundays. Every year, as we reunite with friends we have missed, I feel such great joy in the room. Smiles greet me from all sides as I walk in from the wings. Hearts soar to hear a daughter of this congregation and our splendid choir sing of God making whole what is broken. Deep joy is the order of the day.
The Evil One lurks behind lingering fears haunting our night’s sleep. How do we respond? Not by raging back in an angry tit-for-tat. Instead we offer laughter and celebration. Singing and movement. Feasting and hugs. That tells the Evil One we know that he doesn’t have the last word, but that Christ’s resurrection does. A favorite verse of mine is I John 4.18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear all fear.” See you all on Sunday at ten, and at the following picnic.