I hope you are healthy and well. I missed you all last Sunday but look forward to seeing you in a few days in the sanctuary and over Zoom. Our service this week is about fear, faith, and community. The title, “Be Not Afraid!”, refers to one of the most frequent commands found throughout the Bible (Hebrew and Christian). Be not afraid. Do not fear.
What’s that all about?
How would we NOT be afraid in this world?
Well, as a character in the biblical stories, God would say – have faith in ME! I got your back! But it’s a bit more complicated than that. We as Unitarian Universalists have many different understandings of faith, of scripture, and of God. So what, then, do we do with fear?
When I was training as a hospital chaplain at a level 1 trauma center, I spent long days and nights with people facing serious illness, dealing with crises, and preparing for death. Many of them were not religious. Yet I still offered to say a prayer or share a reading when I sensed they were looking for comfort. I was shocked by the number of patients who asked me to read the 23rd Psalm. So many that I had it memorized by the end of my time there. Do you know it?
Even though I was weary of biblical language at the time (the number of people telling my patients that everything happens for a reason left a bitter taste in my mouth…), I did fall in love with Psalm 23. And the funny thing is, the reason I find it comforting is that although the psalmist writes “I will fear no evil”, I actually find that it invites me to accept my fear. Not get rid of it.
Perhaps what our Unitarian Universalist faith offers us is not a God who takes our fear away, but a community where we can bring our fear and still be accepted. Still be cherished. Still belong. Perhaps it is not God’s rod and staff that comfort, but those metaphorical ones in the hands of those we see on Sunday mornings. Those who send us cards and drop off soup. Who offer us a moment to check in before the meeting starts.
Our theological tradition is one of reinterpretation and of meaning making. There are no easy answers. So we’ll look at some old texts together and we’ll see how they might meet us where we are on our faith journeys now. Until then, may your days be blessed.