This week's devotion was given by William Mills, a member of the tenor section in the National Lutheran Choir. First, let's define FEAR: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Sound familiar?
We are very complicated animals. We have evolved with emotions and desires that have helped us form successful communities all over the world. We have developed technology so far beyond the understanding and scope of a single individual that none of us can even begin to describe the gadgets that we currently have on our bodies. While we currently live in a time of war, violence and disease, it is the most peaceful time in recorded history.
Per capita the life expectancy has risen astronomically and the chance that any of us will die by a violent means is lower by an order of magnitude than even a hundred years ago. Medicine will save countless lives while we meet here tonight. Crop production that could not have been imagined last century means that if the US, China, and Russia eliminate food waste we could easily feed all of the people on the earth all the food they would ever care to eat. But even in light of all these comforts, these very complicated animals, are sometimes driven by baser instincts.
So many of us are afraid. We fear for our jobs, our homes, our children and families. We fear for our safety, our status, and our way of life. Fear looms large when we deal with those that are different than us. It leads us to say rude things about people we think are better than us and ignorant things about people we look down upon. Pundits use fear to work crowds into a roar. Candidates use our fear of difference, of violence or our fears for our safety, and for our freedom to manipulate us into saying and doing things we would never have done before. Terrorists and fundamentalists use our fears to prove their bigoted ideologies.
Though our fears are often used against us and manipulated for other’s gain, we must recall that there were and are times for fear. A violent home. An illness. An unexpected absence. Being taken from one’s home and family to be forced to toil for an unyielding master. Being told that your life is not worth protecting or saving. Being told to sit down because your voice isn’t worth hearing. Seeing your leaders killed. Seeing people like you beaten and murdered in the streets. Having it demonstrated that a broken justice system will not defend you even after your death. These are fears that must be. They can not be ignored.
Fear is inevitable. Some let the fear wash over them allowing it to build into anger, hatred, bigotry, malice, terror, and even murder. But some, like Dr. King, fought and will fight fear. Not allowing hatred or violence to cloud their vision. Remembering that in difference we are enriched not diminished. Knowing that in resisting our fears and in serving those that we might not understand or who might cause fear in us that we do what Christ has called us to. Fear is always present; may it never be our master.
The Lord be with you:
Creator of the universe, maker of all that is seen and unseen, in our smallness reassure us that your presence is here with us, leading us from our fear into the light of your hope and peace. May we serve all those who fear that they may know peace and may we be served by others that your peace should fill all of our lives.