Let Our Souls Breathe Hope

Luke 21:25-36

What is it about fear that paralyzes us?

What is it about fear that moves us from the rational thinking to the adrenaline-pumping, fight-or-flight reaction?

What is it about fear that washes over us and makes us forget who we are and what we are about?

In today’s Scripture, Jesus describes a fear that is so intense that it makes people faint.  Jesus talks about fear with the disciples only days before he dies.  Jesus knows the anxiety they will face in the coming days and so he says to them – even in the midst of troubling circumstances – stand up and raise your head because God’s kin-dom is a-comin’.

Jesus is saying to them: Do not be afraid.

What is it about fear that makes us forget who we are and what we are about?

In the days that follow Jesus’ conversation with the disciples, Jesus is arrested and crowds cry out, “Crucify him!”  Fear runs rampant and people respond with violence.  In the midst of these events, Peter – Jesus’ friend and trusted disciple — is heartbroken and, not knowing what else to do, goes and huddles by a fire in the middle of the courtyard.

As he sits there, a man comes up to him.  “Hey you look familiar,” the man remarks looking into Peter’s face, “You are a Galilean … you were with Jesus, weren’t you?”

Peter’s whole world has come crashing down.  The One who Peter thought would save the people had been taken away to be crucified.  To say that hope seemed elusive is an understatement.  Terror surged through his body as Peter quickly responded, “No, no, I don’t know what you are talking about.”

What is it about fear that makes us forget who we are and what we are about?

We know that Peter’s fear is not the end of the story.  We know that even death could not kill Jesus and after three days Christ rose again and appeared to the disciples telling them again, “Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 28:10)

In an act of courage, the disciples went forth telling the Good News of Christ’s love and transformative power.  They went forth doing justice and embodying kindness.  Yet, even then, disciples were jailed, some were crucified and the budding Jesus movement was forced to meet in secret, not knowing what the future held for them.

Yes, even the early Jesus movement knew what it was to “faint from fright,” and so they wrestled with the question, “What do we do in the face of fear?

I am curious about the answer to this question because we, like the early Jesus movement, seem to live in a culture of fear – fear of failure, fear of death, fear of the stranger, of the unknown, of loneliness, of inadequacy. I too wonder:  How will we respond?  How will we live?  What will we do?

In response to these questions, Jesus says “When these things happen, stand up and raise your heard, for redemption is at hand.”

Jesus says, signs will appear.  The heavens will shake, the mountains will quake.  The sun and moon and stars will quiver with anticipation.  The earth and all that grows upon it wait in eager expectation as for it knows that change is afoot.  All of creation is yearning for the coming of God’s kin-dom!

The earth itself cries out for the salvation of our God!

The Advent – which means arrival – of God turns the world upside-down from the depths of earth to the heights of the mountaintops.  Christ is being birthed into the world and into our lives!

Even in the most unexpected places – even in places of death and violence and heartbreak – God is at work making us whole and making the world whole.

So I ask again, what will we do in the face of fear?

This is a question that has been asked through the ages.  During the colonial period in American History there was an eclipse of the sun. It caught members of a New England state legislature off guard. In the midst of panic, a member made a motion to adjourn.

In the midst of the panic, the member had forgotten who they were and what they were about.  All they could think about – like Peter in front of the fire – was saving themselves.

In response, one legislator stood, saying, “Mr Speaker, if it is not the end of the world and we adjourn, we shall appear to be fools. If it is the end of the world, I choose to be found doing my duty. I move you, sir, let candles be brought.”

Let the candles be brought.

Let our souls breathe hope.

Let our lives embody our beliefs, even in the midst of uncertainty.

Hope, Jesus teaches us, is an action; it is something that we are called to embody even when we don’t feel like it, even when we would rather run home and hide under the covers.

Hope is an act of courage.

It reminds us who we are and what we are about.

Even now, in the face of the turmoil of the world, Christ bids us to stand tall and raise our heads and remember who we are.

Yes, we are a people who has at times fallen down or lost our way.  Yes, we are a people who know what it is to be a stranger, to know heartbreak, to struggle to make the right decision, to wander aimlessly.  Like all of Creation, we have hungered with all of our being for God’s vision of peace and justice to be made real in our lives.  We cry out from our depths.

And, in the midst of those places, in the spaces of our darkest moments, we are people too who knows what it is to get back up again, to experience forgiveness even when we are wracked with guilt, to experience a warm welcome even when we feel like a outsider.  We are a people who have discovered that indeed God can transform our lives even in the places we didn’t think possible and even in places that seem complete dark, we have discovered a light that shines in the darkness.

And cannot be overcome.

So do not be afraid.

Let the candles be brought.

Let your souls breathe hope,

for the earth,

for the creatures,

for the human family,

let your souls breathe hope.

For we are a people of resurrection and the healing of the world is at hand.

Amen.

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