Thursday, February 28 – Fear Transformed into Purpose

There is another striking word in the gospel sentence we highlighted yesterday: They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. The “departure” Jesus faced was something that he was going to “accomplish.” Death—the object of terror—as accomplishment, made possible because life was lived as radically open to others. Fear transformed into purpose.

Miriam Greenspan gets at this in her book, Healing Through the Dark Emotions: “Our only protection is our interconnectedness. This has always been the message of dark emotions when they are experienced most deeply and widely….Fear is not just ‘my’ fear; it is everyone’s fear—of anthrax, of nuclear war, of truck bombs, of airplane jackings, of things falling apart, blowing up, sickening and dying.

“If fear is only telling you to save your own skin, there’s not much hope for us. But the fact is that in conscious fear, there is a potentially revolutionary power of compassion and connection that can be mobilized en masse. This is the power of fear. Our collective fear, which is intelligent, is telling us now: Find new ways to keep this global village safe. Find new forms of international cooperation that will root out evil in ways that don’t create more victims and evil. Leap out of the confines of national egos. Learn the ways of peace. Find a new ceremony of safety so that not just you and I but all of us can live together without fear.”

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

Wednesday, February 27 – Naming Our Fears

Suggesting that fear may be put into perspective is not the same as saying that it is merely a projection of overactive imagination. There are things of which we ought legitimately be afraid, and experiences and potentialities which rightly cause our hearts to tremble, our hair to stand up, sweat to bead on our skin. One striking sentence in this week’s scripture reading is about Jesus conversing with the figures of Moses and Elijah on the mountainside: They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. “Departure” is just another word for: he was about to die. And it wouldn’t be a peaceful, go-to-wakeless-sleep kind of death. It was to be the death of a criminal at the hands of the Roman empire. Brutal. And terrifying. Yet faced with the help of a support system. The fear was not bottled up, where it could grow unchecked in the silence. It was named. It was discussed. What are your fears? With whom can you talk about them?

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

Tuesday, February 26 – Taking a Risk Instead of Stoking Our Fears

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

 

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

Sometimes our fears are manufactured—not purely imaginary, but stoked, fed, nourished by media and industries that count on our fears to give them repeat business. Too often we read the papers, surf the internet, and turn on the evening news only to be confronted with stories of human inhospitality and brutality. A selective lens that highlights only the worst of human behavior encourages isolation—which ironically nurtures the fear rather than heightening a sense of safety and wellbeing. Do you recognize this in your life? Have you shut out people or opportunities because you have imbibed the message that the world is unsafe? What would it look like for you to take a risk, instead?

Monday, February 25 – Terror

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

 

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

Darkness, the absence of light, is often a symbolic marker of that which makes us afraid. In Luke’s narrative, it was a cloud enveloping the small mountainside group; for Jane Kenyon, it is signaled by evening, the setting of the sun and the growth of shadows. What is so terrifying about the dark? It represents the unknown. We are much less afraid of the things we can control; the unknown is, by definition, uncontrollable. But sitting with the fear for a while is its own form of reclamation. Naming it allows a willful coexistence with it that begins to relegate it to a portion, not the totality, of our existence. Are you afraid today? Name your fear. Welcome it, even. And in doing so, recognize that, while very real, it is only partial.

Friday, February 22 – Jesus as Companion

The story of Jesus in the wilderness facing temptation is the introduction to this time known as “Lent”.  In these forty days of journeying toward Easter, we follow Jesus’ story and invite him to accompany us in our own.  Have you ever felt Jesus companion you?  What might it be like to imagine that today?

Thursday, February 21 – Facing Temptation

Can you think of a “minor temptation” – something that you face regularly or occasionally that presents a challenge to you?  Try imagining that you are confronted with that temptation, but before you make a decision about how to act or begin to feel, imagine that you reach for the mental photograph or image of a time when you were able to trust in the midst of difficulty.

Notice how that feels and what that’s like.  See if you can find – within yourself or from One who holds you – a strength, a sense of trust, a sense of security.  Claim that the next time you feel faced with temptation.

Wednesday, February 20 – Claiming Trust

Today, think back to a time when you were able to feel trust in the face of a difficulty or challenge.  Remember that time, play back some of the details of that experience in your mind.  What did it feel like?  Sound like?  Smell like?  Take a mental photograph of that moment.  Or if you prefer, identify an object which somehow symbolizes that moment and the experience of trusting in a difficult time.

Mentally, put that photograph or image of an object somewhere that you could reach it in the future – in your “virtual” pocket, in your heart, etc.

Give thanks for that experience of trust in the midst of difficulty.

Tuesday, February 19 – Feeling Safe

What if we thought about temptation not by listing those things that tempt and seduce and taunt us?  What if we thought about temptation by, instead, remembering times we experienced security and trust and claimed those resources already within us for those wilderness moments that may come?

Remember a time when you felt safe.  Close your eyes and replay that experience.  What was it like?  How did it feel?  For now, just remember that experience, hold it close and give thanks for it.

Monday, February 18 – You Are Not Alone

February 18 – 23:  Lent 1 – Temptation

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

You Are Not Alone written by Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco), sung by Mavis Staples

You’re not alone, I’m with you.  I’m lonely too.

What’s that song, can’t be sung by two.

A broken home, a broken heart, isolated and afraid.

Open up this is a raid, I wanna get it through to you,  You’re not alone.

You’re not alone, every night, I stand in your place.

Every tear, on every face, tastes the same.

A broken dream, a broken heart, isolated and afraid.

Open up this is a raid, I’m gonna get it through to you, you’re not alone.

An open hand, an open heart, there’s no need to be afraid.

Open up this is a raid, I wanna get it through to you, you’re not alone.

I wanna get it through to you, you’re not alone.

Monday

A raid?  Pretty strong language.  And yet, that is what it often takes for some of us to get the picture or hear the message that we are not, after all, alone.  Here is someone who raids our heart and reminds us that we find ourselves in the wilderness, in the face of temptation, in despair or fear or whatever is hard – that we are not out there on our own.

Listen to this song, poured out by Mavis Staples.  Can you hear the emotion in her voice – the power, the comfort, the challenge, the plea?

Listen to this song.  Who is it – for you – that has stood or could stand in your place?  God, Spirit, Jesus, Wisdom, something else?  Stands with you, stands for you, holds you when you can’t stand?  Imagine what it would be like for someone to stand in your place.  Or at your side.

Listen to this song again.  Close your eyes and allow yourself to be held by it and by the One who holds you.