Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Be Afraid, Don't Be Very Afraid

"Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Mark 6:50

When I was in seminary, I interned in a church where I was responsible for the youth group and some other Christian Education programs. I had a group of about twenty young people and we did lots of fun things together. Every year the state fair grounds would host a haunted house sponsored by Young Life. I found it amusing that Young Life, then a fairly conservative Christian College program, could take Halloween so seriously. The Haunted House was great and very convincing. The lines were long to get in. I remember standing with my kids. The boys, who were all football players, were bragging on about how fearless they were. They told gross stories about blood and guts and broken limbs. The girls talked about turning around and leaving, about how they hated to be scared and how they had only come because they had nothing else better to do. There was a lot of baiting and teasing, all pretty good-natured fun. When we got into the old converted barn, which housed a multi-story haunted house, the screaming began. We remained together as a group, several of the girls hanging tightly to one another, or to a boy if they were lucky. And then the screaming began. It was dark, so at first I thought it was the girls only, but no, the boys were testing the capacity of their lungs too. One came running back in my direction and grabbed on to me for dear life. When he calmed down, he laughed it off, saying he came to protect me. But I wasn't screaming. We had a great supper after the event and laughed at our common humanity and how darkness and confusion can terrorize the human heart.

In our Gospel story we find Jesus walking on the water and a bunch of terrified grown men in the dark. He tells them not to be afraid as he climbs into the boat. But they have a normal reaction - it isn't every day that we see someone, an apparition walking on the water and then speaking. Being on the water in the dark is scary enough. Normal things transform in the fog and mist as the day cools. Early in their ministry, Jesus tested their limits by showing them what we would call supernatural things. Evidence of his divine capacity. And he showed them their human vulnerability. Jesus told them to take heart. He did not demean them for their humanity but rather encouraged their capacity to receive tenderness and comfort.

May this day be one where we can forgive ourselves our humanity, our vulnerability and take heart. Jesus is near, climbing into the boat, just as we are completely exhausted from hard out rowing and scary visions in the dark. Jesus climbs into our lives to provide comfort ad tenderness, compassion and reassurance. May we rejoice in our Savior who hold us tenderly and forgives our lack, our humanity. May we receive the faith we are given and rejoice that God is always more faithful and constant than we can be human and afraid.

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