6 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. 8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.
I am not sure how many times in the Bible someone is instructed to “be not afraid.” Pinterest has a lot of cute pictures with a lot of different numbers, and the more scholarly sources don’t totally agree. But it is a lot. That much I know. Over and over and over again God calls out to “Be Not Afraid.”
Oh. Okay. No problem. There is a pandemic and my governor is suing my mayor because she wants everyone to wear a mask. Some of my friends are facing eviction and don’t know how they will eat pretty soon, churches are navigating an environment when “normal church” is one of the most dangerous things you can do, but sure I will just be over here not afraid. Got it. Does binge eating ruffles on my couch qualify as not being afraid? It does not? Oh. I may have some work to do…
In the western world we have a deep disconnect between what we think/feel and what we do. When we hear “do not be afraid” we hear “do not FEEL afraid, do not THINK about fear.” That isn’t what this original audience heard. They heard do not ACT in fear. To be was more like…to embody than to think or feel. Do not embody the fear.
Do Not Embody the Fear: I know you feel afraid. I do too. How could we not? Do not act in that fear. Sometimes fear makes us freeze, tells us there is nothing to do done. There is not good work. We must succumb to the inevitability that the world is going to hell in a hand basket so we should just distract ourselves with endless TV. But God says that isn’t true. God says God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the redeemer of ALL THINGS, even the things currently in a hand basket. Do not freeze in fear, instead ask God for the next right thing to do, for the next tiny way to embody hope. Do Not Embody Fear.
Do Not Embody Fear: Do not fight with the small things that are making us distracted, but instead bear witness to the power and principalities that insist that there is even one who should be sacrificed on the alter of the economy. Fear sometimes makes us fight battles that are not worth it, that are not ours. Instead bear witness to the good trouble we are meant to continue to embrace. Now WHO you are and WHOSE you are and WHO God is asking you to fight for, those who are most oppressed by the things that seem to be making us all afraid, those battles we fight, but not out of fear. Fear tells us to fight for our “normal” back so that we can all feel safer. God calls us to fight for a better way where we actually all do get to thrive. Do Not Embody Fear.
Do Not Embody Fear: Do not flee the things that are scary. Stand with the God who is first and last. Stand with the Lord of hosts. Look at what exactly the world is asking us to fear. I will not be fearing the mothers who are just trying to give their children a chance. I will not be fearing lack of resources causing me to hoard what I do not need. I will not be living in fear and making parenting decisions based only on how my kids can get theirs. I will go to the zoom board of education meeting even if it makes me feel afraid. I will face the realities of pastoring in a pandemic even when I want to just pretend my congregation will be fine. The world says if it makes you scared don’t listen, flee, run as far as you can from that reality, but God says “do not be afraid” there is nothing we can’t face when God is with us.
And God is With Us.