Sermon snippets: Psalm 34:11-14 Come, O children, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord....
"...What does fear naturally invite us to do? Avoid, hide, protect. We create distance between ourselves and what we fear. That's pretty smart when we're afraid of swine flu or the guy with the gun, but we're NEVER going to be safe by running away from God.
So here's what Teddy Roosevelt says:
"Fear God, in the true sense of the word, means love God, respect God, honor God; and all of this can only be done by loving our neighbors, treating them justly and mercifully, and in all ways endeavoring to protect them from injustice and cruelty; thus obeying, as far as our human frailty will permit, the great and immutable law of righteousness…."
Yir'at Yahweh, fearing or revering God, is no running away, it's no hiding. To yir'at God we have to chase after love and justice and mercy. Hear the Psalm again, in another translation:
Come, children, listen to me
I will teach you how to fall back in awe
Who has a passion for life
Loves every day and exults in happiness?
Guard your tongue from crookedness
And your lips from deceit
Avoid evil, do good
Seek peace—pursue it (Norman Fischer’s translation)
Last week we learned from flocks of birds and schools of fish as they belong to one another, as they have greater intelligence and skill moving together than moving alone. Look at the dove on your bulletin, inviting you to seek peace and pursue it. How might a bevy of doves seek and pursue peace? We admire birds for their flight. When we're afraid, we say we have a natural fight or flight response. So maybe we see this dove and think she's flying away from something. But movement – whether a dove's flight or our own movement in this world – is always away from something and toward something. We can choose to fixate on our fears, to focus on what we are moving away from. But just like trying not to think of an elephant, we'll keep thinking about scary stuff. Like when you're backing away from a snake and you don't want to let it out of your sight, so you watch it while you walk backwards until you can catch your breath and turn around and run – at least that's what I would do!
But movement is always toward something, too, and while it might make sense to back away from a snake, keeping our eyes on what we're moving away from, birds never fly backwards, and we can't seek and pursue peace by staring at violence, by fixating on our fears. But we live in a culture of fear. Has anyone seen the Sharknado movies? I think there are three of them or something. I like scary movies, but I've never seen these, but I think the idea is that tornadoes are forming near the ocean and somehow picking sharks up in their swirl, and then people are trying to escape tornadoes and sharks at the same time. Pretty exciting. It took many millions of dollars and hundreds of people to make these movies. So many resources, so much time, so much money, so much creativity, poured into exploring the possibilities of fear. What would happen if we spent those millions of dollars and hundreds of talented people's time on designing films that teach people to start community gardens, or resolve conflicts peacefully, or use public transportation?
The evening news, the Journal and Courier, most of our media are joining Sharknado, backing away from the snake, fixated on our fears. We are called apart, by our faith, by a Creator who tells us "be still and know that I am God" by Jesus who calmed the seas and said, "peace, be still" by a faith that stretches back thousands of years as people have looked toward God, chased after hope, sought and pursued peace, resisting their culture's invitation to fixate on fear, anger, revenge, scarcity...."