Fear Factor

April 11, 2018

Reflecting on Luke 24:36-48

When I was in high school, I went to Tae Kwon Do classes twice a week.  I wasn't much of an athlete in the traditional team-sports way, so it was something of a shock to find that I didn't just enjoy the martial art - I was also pretty good at it.  Some of my favorite classes were the ones in which we practiced self-defense.  We'd set up real life examples that you might actually encounter, and we'd practice getting out of them.  But even as we learned pinches and close-range-kicks, our teachers impressed upon us this one rule: run.  Everything that we learn is to help us run away in the end.  Running, they said, is your best defense.

 

My puppy has this skill mastered.  A couple of weeks ago we had to snake our shower drain - with a real, metal snake.  At first the puppy was curious as to what we were doing; she walked up next to Lauren and put her head over the side of the bathtub.  It was pretty cute.  But then the snake twisted and made a loud metallic sound.  The puppy jumped back and ran out of the bathroom and halfway down the stairs before she even considered pausing and turning around.  Eventually we coaxed her back up to the second floor, but she ran every time the snake turned.  

 

 

I wish that I had the running thing down as well as she does.  When I get scared, I usually find myself rooted to the spot, as if my brain had suddenly decided to give my body the silent treatment.  Once, when I was maybe 8, I went upstairs to get ready for bed.  The hallway that led to my brother's room and mine was pitch black - someone had turned off the light.  But I told myself that I wasn't going to be a baby; I wasn't going to be a wimp.  I could make it to my room and turn on the light there!  So I started walking - quickly enough to show my apprehension but not so fast that I was running.  Suddenly something jumped out at me from the darkness of my brother's room, making a horrific growling noise.  I was terrified - but I couldn't move.  Fear shackled me to that one little spot.

 

Which seems like what happened to the disciples too.  After Christ's death it seems like they

 

were so afraid that they couldn't get their brains to talk their feet into moving them out of a locked upstairs room or their ears to hear the truth of what the women were telling them.  They were so afraid that it confined them as well as any prison.  

 

That's what fear does to us.  It binds us - it limits us.  Whether we react by running away or standing like a deer in the headlights or lashing out and fighting, fear limits our ability to act in ways that we choose.  It leads us to take action that we might later regret or refrain from action that is sorely needed.  It leads us to say the wrong words at the wrong time or no words at the time when they're needed most.  And not because we decided that's what we wanted to do, but because fear hijacked our minds.

 

In the midst of the disciples' fear, Jesus appears.  He stands there and he says, "Peace be with you."  Peace be with you.  He offers them words of assurance.  He helps them move from terror to trust, which ultimately enables them to go out and continue Christ's work.  Peace be with you.

 

How badly do we all need this?  How badly do we all need for Christ to stand next to us and say, "Peace be with you?"  How different would the world look if we were all just a little bit less afraid?  Would there be fewer police-involved shootings?  Would there be fewer guns?  Would there be less structural racism and oppression?  Would there be more support for our youth?  would there be more creativity and risk?

 

In the church, we profess to be "The Body of Christ," which leads me to wonder - what are we doing to help address the fear in the world?  How are we following in Christ's footsteps - standing in the midst of those who are fearful and saying, "Peace be with you?"  How are we helping others move from terror to trust?  How are we doing this for ourselves?

 

It seems to me, especially in this season of Eastertide, that these are questions that we need to be taking seriously.  As people who proclaim the resurrection - the truth that God overcame injustice and violence and even death and their hold on the world - then we should be seeking Christ's peace for ourselves, moving outside of the prisons that fear and anxiety have constructed brick by brick, and offering that peace to others.  Do we see God breaking down the jailhouse walls - as happened for Paul and Silas?  Or are we instead proclaiming through our actions that Christ is still dead in the tomb, even as we sing 'Jesus Christ is risen today!'?

 

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