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Choosing Jesus in a Time of Fear

The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon

Scripture: John 1:43-51

I’ll be honest with you. I’m feeling scared about what might happen this coming Wednesday, January 20th. Inauguration day. I’m not normally a person who lives in fear. After all I’ve lived a lot of life in the past seven plus decades. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and my gut. I don’t spend my energy on things over which I have no control. And I don’t walk down dark streets alone. I obey most traffic rules and always wear my seat belt in a vehicle. I don’t usually live-in fear.

The one time I remember truly being afraid was a trip in a sailboat owned by my ex-husband and myself. We were traveling home to Seattle from a summer vacation off the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada. As we sailed down the Canadian waters of the Straits of Georgia across and into the USA by way of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and down the waters of Puget Sound, we were in the middle of a terrible storm with constant huge waves of sea water crashing over the bow of our boat. We had had a mechanical failure to the engine of our boat a day earlier and we could only use the sails for the entire journey to our moorage in Anacortes, Washington. We sent our boys down into the cabin of the boat for safety. We dawned our rain gear then hooked our safety harness to our life jackets and secured those to the lifelines of the boat. The captain was at the helm wheel and I sat on the floor of the cockpit of the boat (that day also happened to be my birthday) crying, praying, and trembling in sheer terror. Obviously, we made our way to port because I’m here to tell you the story some 35 years later. But I still remember the deep fear I felt that day for the lives of my little family. We were alone in our fears that day.

Today I don’t feel alone in my fears, I’m certain most of my family, friends and neighbors are also deeply troubled by the recent events in our state and national capital buildings and want what I want, which is some measure of tolerance and respect for each other - and no bodily violence to any people or destruction of public property.

Last week as our liturgical calendar led us into the unfolding life and ministry of Christ, we remembered and celebrated the baptism of Jesus. As a community we recited our Baptismal vows and refreshed ourselves with a sprinkling of water. Rev. Sara talked to us about belief, belonging and behavior. With her indulgence I’m going to quote her because what she said is so important:

But our baptism is not just a rite of belonging or a proclamation of belief, it’s a call to action. When we are baptized, we vow to let God’s love change how we live, how we behave. In our Book of Common Prayer, the baptismal vows ask, Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. These two questions directly reflect the only two commandments Jesus gave us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He said, on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ In other words, our belief is anchored to our behavior just as much as our behavior is anchored to our belief.

Today’s gospel leads to the next step in living out our beliefs which is following Jesus in our own lives and inviting others to join us in the journey. Jesus is beginning to gather around and teach his chosen flock of disciples– in the verses which precede this passage he has called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. Now Philip is coming into the group and he has invited Nathanael to join him. Philip is just beginning to have an inkling about who and what Jesus is, however, his testimony falls short of the reality of Jesus. But isn’t that the truth of all of us – we tend to put Jesus in narrow boxes and think we have the total knowledge of God’s plan for this world. Becoming a disciple is first a willingness to walk with Jesus just like the journey Nathanael accepted in that passage.

How will I deal with my fears over the next few days? First, I will be talking to my husband and loved ones. I know it’s much better to talk out powerful negative emotions than to let them build up inside of me. Praying, praying and did I say praying. I’m going to remind myself that I’m part of a loving parish community with lots of people who are also praying. On Wednesday, January 20th at 9:00 a.m. (which will be noon in Washington, DC.) I’m going to sign into St. Luke’s Morning Prayer worship (link on current email for this Sunday worship) which will be led by Sister Marlene. (Note: this worship time has been rescheduled to Thursday 1/21) During this time, the community will be praying for our nation and our leaders. And I’ll remind myself to take some deep breaths periodically during the day and stay connected to other people for comfort.

Becoming a disciple is a long journey in a person’s life. At times, the road is full of potholes, sharp turns and the map is often ripped, torn and less than complete. Discipleship is first a willingness to walk with Jesus: it's not obedience to an abstract set of codes but consent to a costly joyful relationship. As we are walking with Jesus we learned who he is; as we learn who he is, we learn what it means to follow him. We have established a relationship with God, and it is a two-way street with both parties talking and listening and reaching out to each other. As a verse from the spiritual states “Every Time I Feel the Spirit”: “there ain't but one train that's on this tract, it runs to heaven and it runs back.” God wants to be in relationship with us: reaching out to us and inviting us to reach out to God - even in our scariest times. Amen.

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