Needing to take some time after the grand jury in Ferguson, MO decided not to indict the officer responsible for shooting Michael Brown, my heart is dismayed but not surprised. It seems to be an open and unwarranted escalation of the fear of presence, as a legitimate excuse to shoot-to-kill a human being. So much needs to change, from the systematic degradation of the body and mind by a society on people of color to the strengthening of our communities to fight back by building up the body and minds of our posterity and their gifts, in order to strangle this continuous perpetuation of the lie which says that the presence of black men and boys are to be feared. I am thankful for my husband, father and grandfathers who have worked to provide for their families and contribute to society. I can honestly say that their participation in this world is evidence of a strong and passionate heritage. I am thankful for my two sons who continue to work towards their own future and God willing, for their future families. I am thankful and excited about the gifts they too will offer to this world. I am thankful for the major cities which stood in protest of the Ferguson event and encouraged by the diversity of faces expressing the value and importance of respecting the dignity of every human being. Tonight I pray for all families who have lost precious lives to the absurdity of this fear in which no one deserves to be subjected. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
“…the one who received the one talent came forward saying; Master, I knew that you were a harsh man…I was afraid and I hid your talent in the ground. ” Matthew 25:4-30 The very first time I read this (more that 45 years ago) I assumed that the “Master” in the story was in fact a harsh man who took what didn’t belong to him. Why would anybody want to be in service to someone who is constantly taking things away from them? The story actually tells of a Master who is giving something of value to his servants and when the those servants who worked hard increased that value, the Master gave them more! I think I can understand the servant who was afraid. Perhaps he just wanted to make sure that he didn’t screw up the one talent that was given to him. However we learn from this parable that allowing fear to hinder us won’t move us in the direction that God wants us to go, nor will we fully experience any of God’s rewards. We should never be afraid to use the “talents” God has given us.
If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? John 7:14-36 One of the news highlights of this past weekend featured a 911 call and conversation between a nurse at a private nursing home and a 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher did everything she could to convince the nurse to perform CPR on a resident who was dying. The nurse vehemently refused to be guided by the dispatcher to perform the procedure because the rules of the nursing home did not allow their employees to perform the procedure. After the call is made, their responsibility is to wait with the resident until the medics arrived. The good news is that the nurse performed her duties perfectly. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The bad news is much deeper than the reality of a woman dying as a result. Immediately the first thing we want to do is judge the nurse. Admittedly, I asked myself why didn’t she just allow herself to be instructed to perform the CPR? However the second question that immediately came to mind was; “What might have happened had she chosen to ignore the rules of her employer?” Of course we like to think the resident may have lived; but for how long – who knows? Then there is the issue of whether any additional damage would have occurred because the nurse either received bad instruction or she did not follow the instruction properly. Most prominent in my mind is the fact that the nurse may have lost her job. Unless of course one is a CEO of a major company, I don’t know of many people in today’s economy who can afford to lose a job. Had anything gone wrong 10-1 she would have been the scapegoat. The saddest thing is that there are those who have already made her the scapegoat because she chose to follow the rules. Perhaps we all like to think that if we were in her position we would have chosen to help the resident. The reality however is that fear is the enemy’s most precious and favored tool against a willing heart. Who among us can say that fear has never played a part in making a decision to do something or not do something? This nurse’s dilemma is a glaring example of the “work” of the world. Christ was very aware of this. We may never find ourselves in a situation surrounding a life and death decision that will affect both ourselves and someone else. Throughout his ministry, this is what Christ did for us; he gave his life. Now we know what Jesus did; the question is “What will you do?”
It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them (John 6:15-27). Does this sound familiar? Where is Jesus? The disciples decide to go on without him and lo and behold he comes to them walking on the water! I often wonder would their response be any different, if when they arrived on the other side of Galilee, Jesus had already been there waiting for them. No doubt, that would have taken them by surprise as well. The disciples waited as long as they could and apparently they needed to get to the other side. Much like the disciples we find ourselves in a position of having to make a decision before we are ready. What I find encouraging about this story is that Jesus did not appear to be upset because they had left him. In fact I believe that perhaps Jesus was encouraged that they chose to move forward. Once the chaos of the crowd dies down Jesus makes his way to be with his disciples just as the sea became rough. Jesus said to his disciples; “I am: do not be afraid.(Gk translation)” Sometimes making a decision, in the midst of darkness and storms, is the last thing we want to do. Nevertheless in faith we too should not be afraid to move forward because one way or the other with Christ behind us supporting our efforts, before us making preparations, and let’s not forget the times he carries us along the way, we will get to the other side.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, the one in whom we believe, said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side” and the disciples agree to go (Mark 4:35-41). At this point the disciples had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t make it until a storm arose. After waking Jesus from sleeping in the stern of the boat they immediately questioned him “ Do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus responds; “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Are these not the same two questions we must ask over in our hearts today as we face unexpected storms in our own life? We know that submitting in fear to an overwhelming situation isn’t the answer, and yet we forget that simply submitting the situation to God is. Thus, when our comfort level in life becomes distracted, falling back into unproductive behavior is often a form of fear; keeping us from moving forward in this journey. We know that God never promised us a storm-free life. In fact he assures us that we will encounter many storms (Matt 5:1-12). However, I believe in some ways his sleeping in the stern is a form of command to stop trying to fight battles we most assuredly can not win on our own, claim God’s peace and confess that God is with us! Blessedly assured that when the storm is over we will find our selves on the other side, not only as survivors but victors as well.
Lent: Day 27 – How many times have we found our selves alone and “sitting by a well,” not realizing that in the well there is life-giving water? Even in his fear, God provided for Moses. We mistake a lot of things for love and we mistake love for a lot of things. Christ was despised, rejected, suffered death and was buried. In spite of all he endured, he simply loved them more. No matter our circumstance, we must be transformed by his love, not by what we think it is but rather by what we know and believe it to be according to God’s word. Then his resurrection will be our resurrection.
Exodus 2:1-22 Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.
Mark 9:2-13 …for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way…if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
But you, O Lord, are enthroned for ever;
your name endures to all generations.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to favor it;
the appointed time has come.
Is it possible that Peter’s denial of Christ was because he didn’t want to believe what was actually happening? This kind of denial is based in fear. We think denial protects us. We think denial will eventually make a situation go away. We even think that perhaps the situation is just an illusion or a keen diversion attempt by the enemy to keep us from believing in the true power of God. The fact is that if it were just an illusion there would be no need for the power of God. The works of the enemy such as fear are real, and we conquer fear by confronting it with our belief in the power of the Word of God. Even as newly transfigured followers of Christ, fear becomes a greater enemy. Previously, like Peter, when we journeyed this life with a veil, what was once used to protect us, now convicts us, because like Peter, it conflicts with what we now believe, as a result of being transformed by Christ. Peter’s multiple denials are not unfamiliar to our lives. More than once I myself have been there. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him (John 13:38). Jesus also knew that Peter would not always live in contrast with what he knew to be true within him self. He knows that about us too. We have only to be encouraged by his Word, and know that Christ is the faithful neighbor that we seek who always forgives and redeems us from all our troubles.
John 18:15-18, 25-27 …Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
Philippians 2:1-13 ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Proverbs 27:1-6, 10-12 …Faithful are the wounds of a friend…
Psalm 9 …And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
I just recently saw the movie “The Help” in which the mother of a main character said something that still rings clearly in my mind; “Sometimes, courage skips a generation.” I suppose it’s easy to say one has courage when life is comfortably isolated or protected in some way. My guess is that each and every one of us has or will have an opportunity to display courage. It is the opportunity to change the course of events if not in our own life, but in the lives of others, and very often both. From the movie we know that courage is not the absence of fear. On the contrary fear has everything to do with it. The question is, fear of what; change or remaining the same, the greater good or physical self-preservation, God or Man? We also see that courage takes sacrifice, and if you truly believe in the action or path you have chosen to take, one must be prepared to lose some things that were never intended to be lost. The good news is that we never lose God’s love as expressed through people who have always loved us; parents and family, the dearest of friends, and sincere mentors (council). So when the day of courage comes take confidence in knowing that you are steadfastly prepared and God has chosen you not because of your fearlessness but because of your fear. (Exodus 1:8-2:10).
Exodus 1:8-2:10 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.
Matthew 10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Romans 12:1-8 Do not be conformed to this world,* but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD