a reflection Proper 14C by The Rev. Camille Hegg
Throughout the Bible the words, ‘fear not,” appear, encouraging us to trust rather than be anxious. “Fear not, little flock….” begins the gospel reading for this week.He also tells them to love one another. A new commandment
I grew up in a family that was very puzzling to me. They were all decent, kind, nice people, but there was an underlying suspicion that I detected and which confused me. I somehow decided that was no way to live and as I began to think theologically and reflect on my upbringing, I figured out it was fear and lack of confidence that I was trying to overcome. It is difficult to live in fear.
Certainly there are things to be ‘feared’, if and when they happen: rough water in the ocean if one is caught in them; icy roads, someone breaking into your house, more.
The key is not to be crippled by these but to use discernment to deal with them. I realize there are complex dynamics but if fear is our default position, our disposition becomes fearful and suspicious. We miss so much of the joy in life and the wonders of creation.
This week we marked the Transfiguration of Our Lord, August 6, in which Jesus shone with the brightness of the Spirit and gave his followers an insight into the power that would enable them, and us, to do his works.
Also on August 6 we marked the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan, and America became the only country to use nuclear weapons to kill in a war. I heard on public radio that there was a marking of that event in Japan this week and I understood the announcer to say that we sent no one to participate in that. I wondered: what would we say? “Sorry”?
Next week there is another feast day which has been added to our calendar. August 15 is the Feast of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian who was killed by a white segregationist who had a rifle. Daniels stepped in front of the shooter who was aiming at a young black girl. This was in Hayneville, AL, a small town south of Montgomery. I grew up in Alabama and remember when that happened forty-five years ago.
While I was a priest in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, people of the diocese, with the Dioceses of Alabama. Atlanta and others began a yearly pilgrimage to the site where he was killed. Imagine an August day in Alabama a group walking a good distance, from the church to the store, stopping along the way for prayer, to remember this young man. We are still dealing with racism today. I think it is a product of fear of ‘the other.”
There is a part of me that believes that the terrorists won on the beautiful day in September when planes and buildings were used as weapons. Many in America seem to live in fear and will engage in war so long as we are not attacked.
I sense fear at work in the way war has been discussed, assumed, as the solution. We lost 3000 people that day but now we have lost many more in these wars. And we never hear about deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, military and civilian.
I see fear reflected in the mean-spirited attitude toward undocumented residents and their children and the uncharitable attitude of those who think a mosque should not be built near Ground Zero.
At a local and much less violent level, I have experienced people in churches unwilling to make the changes necessary to accommodate and welcome “the other” (visitors and new members) as a kind of fear.
I’m not equating these examples except to say that fear is at work in them. I’m saying that fear is operating and is insidious and we need to watch for it and then to try to discern in what it is based. Fear can transfigure us in unfruitful ways.
Let us evaluate our actions looking to discern fear and let us do so in the name of Christ. Let that discernment process transfigure us and so enable us to walk as Christ did and follow his commandment to love one another.