Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fear Itself

            I wrote last week about the effect of fear.  The fear of the Israelites that triggered a 40 year addition to their wilderness wandering.  I tied fear to how our hope for change is dependent on trusting God and not on our ability to first think outside the box.  Innovation is good but limited because it cannot see the future and can only forecast from one’s current successes in increase or failures in adaptation.  In the end without a hope born of trusting God we are stuck in work that preserves more than it changes.  Some of our best efforts to preserve the church we know and love end up serving those very fears. 
            Part of trusting God is setting aside one’s ego or need for being credited with being wise custodians or insightful planners so that the new thing can emerge to be appreciated and accepted.  Otherwise we’ll just keep perpetuating the systems that have ranked us above others or allowed our banking or fed our self-justifying fears. 
            Maybe if we understood the value of Sabbath-making to our whole world, to everyone around us. rich and poor, back or white, educated or not, then maybe we’d be less prone to be selfish, rigid, and fearful.
            Here’s how my hero Brueggemann says it
“. . .  Ours is a time of scattering in fear. We are so fearful that we want to fence the world in order to keep all the others out:
– Some of the church still wants to fence out women.
– We build fences to keep out immigrants (or Palestinians).
– The church in many places fences out gays.
– The old issue of race is still powerful for fencing.
We have so many requirements that are as old as Moses. But here is only one requirement. It is Sabbath, work stoppage, an ordinance everyone can honor— gay or straight, woman or man, Black or White, “American” or Hispanic— anybody can keep it and be gathered to the meeting of all of God’s people. Sabbath deconstructs the notion of being “qualified” for membership.
Later on, John the Baptist dealt with the professional insiders. They were so proud of being qualified insiders. They bragged about their pedigree, their entitlements, their ancestors, their primacy, children with family trees back to Father Abraham.
And John scolds them and rejects their pedigree: Do not presume to say to yourselves , “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. (Matt. 3: 9)
Brueggemann, Walter (2014-01-31). Sabbath as Resistance: (pp. 55-56). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
            Yes, even in bucolic Morgan County we are afraid.  You can hear it when we justify not helping someone who has a nice car or LCD TV or iPhone.  You can hear it in the questions people ask about some of our outreach efforts.  Yes there are good hearts in each of us but so often that goodness has to work its way out.  You can hear it in the concerns raised about budget and attendance, even when the news is as good as ours is these days.  It’s hard not to sound like I’m advocating a kind of carelessness or recklessness, so I’ll whisper, “It’s OK to share.” 
            That’s really where our fears are often found; in worry and fretting that we will not have enough for ourselves.  Fear is a filter that keeps us from seeing who we are and so without the perspective of the truth we shrink into passivity.  But Sabbath making is NOT a passive accident or hiding place from ridicule.  It is a movement of one’s self into a future where God provides, where God defines, where God inhabits.
            It is the irony of our age that our money – so symbolic of safety, of having our needs met, and of our stations in life -- is stamped with “In God We Trust.” 

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