I Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
I had thought that Lent would be an appropriate time to look at fear. But fear follows even the resurrection. And, very honestly, it is all around us. Six weeks of Lent barely scratch the surface of modern fears. We give fear a fancy name today – phobia. So I thought I would look up a list of phobias that we recognize today. Wikipedia had 17 phobias listed under the letter A. Some of them are familiar. Arachnophobia: fear of spiders. Acrophobia: fear of heights. Agoraphobia: fear of open places. Wikipedia also lists 27 phobias related to other human beings, phobias that are racist, xenophobic or prejudicial.
This morning’s gospel lesson is set in the evening of the day of resurrection. And the gospel writer tells us that “the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” (Today that would be called Judeophobia.) So far, in John’s gospel, the disciples have only Mary’s word that Jesus had been raised from the dead. We don’t know if they believed her. Yet, they had gathered together, behind locked doors.
I came back to the theme of fear when I read Anna Carter Florence’s reflections on this gospel lesson. She focused on “locked doors.” Those locked doors are a means of survival when the world threatens. They are the way we hide ourselves from the world – putting on a brave face while experiencing death, grief, and despair. Vulnerability is the last thing we want to share. We know the world doesn’t feel comfortable with weakness – so we lock ourselves away. My dad died in May of 1995. About a month later one of our nephews on Mark’s side of the family was struck by a car and killed. About a month after that, my great aunt died. About two months later, in September, I was at a board meeting for a denominational center – a spiritual life center. We had a time of quiet reflection and prayer – and I began to cry – to allow my grief to come to the surface. One of the national staff members, also serving the center, critiqued my grief. “You should be over it by now!” he told me curtly. I decided, during my drive home, that if the people from the denomination who were running that center couldn’t understand or make room for grief and pain, I wanted no part of it. So, I resigned – locked myself away from those who would condemn my mourning. Prince Harry has just begun to speak about the danger of “locking away” one’s grief – of putting forth a brave face while dying inside. For almost 20 years, he did not face his own grief. And that approach almost killed him – whereas it seemed that locking it all away was the only way to survive.
I had just read Florence’s reflections when I heard a wonderful interview on the NPR Program “Fresh Air.” David Greene interviewed Moshin Hamid, a Pakistani novelist. Hamid was asked about his response to the growing polarization in our world. Hamid talked, primarily, about the tensions that arise with migration. He has experienced those tensions. His family moved to the United States when he was about ten. As an adult, he lived in the US and in London. Now, he has chosen to raise his own children back in Pakistan. He noted that migration is nothing new. Human beings have been migrating since the beginning of human existence. So, those who want to go back to a “purer” time, a time before a particular culture was tainted by migration, are going to find that no such pure time existed. Migration is inevitable. And migration, the influx of strangers and their ideas creates anxiety. Yet, he noted, cultures have always been changing, adapting – influenced by numerous things, including migration.
Later in the week, on another program, a scientist reflected on the anxiety people are experiencing as they see jobs disappear as automation replaces human beings, as technology advances. NPR also had an entire series that asked the question, “What jobs are safe from robots?” One fast food owner has suggested that no human beings are needed in the fast food business. Already, in many places, we place orders through computer touch screens. He suggested the entire cooking process (and distribution process) would be more efficient, sanitary and cost effective if human beings were eliminated. Certain industries are disappearing because of changes in technology or climate or changes in the wants and needs of the public. Hamid says we are at a hinge point because the rate of change is faster. And that contributes to sates of high anxiety.
Greene asked what Hamid thought our response ought to be. Hamid said we need to reduce levels of anxiety. He noted that often we are terrified of what we think reality is instead of seeking to know what really threatens us. He spoke of our fears of terrorism and said, (this from a man living in Pakistan), that such a fear is blown out of proportion. Terrorism is not as much of a threat to our everyday living as we make it out to be. He suggested that a bigger danger is global warming. So, in the face of terrorism we need courage – courage that allows us to see the limitedness of terror’s power. The more we refuse to let the fears terrorists strive to engender prevail, the more weakened their power is. I was reminded of the days after 9/11 when President Bush said we were to go about our daily lives so that the terrorists would not win.
For me, the most powerful part of the interview with Hamid was his response to Greene’s observation that he did not seem to blame those who are afraid – those who fear the changes and those who see terrorists around every corner. Hamid said that no, he didn’t blame them. Their fears are understandable.
“The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” There is no condemnation here. Jesus came to their locked away gathering. He did not come to condemn, to judge them for abandoning him. He came to show and articulate the good news of God's love. He came to invite them to move out of fear into trust – into proclamation – into service. This story takes us beyond the resurrection to remind us that God chooses to meet us where we are – not only in the incarnation, but through the ongoing presence of the Risen Christ – who comes to us, who abides with us, who does not judge, but invites us to live in and into the new reality of God’s death conquering love. We have John’s Pentecost story here. “Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” The disciples are empowered to move beyond their fears and offer God’s transforming presence to the world.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” That’s an interesting statement. Maybe it is, in some ways, a warning. They are empowered – yet that empowerment can be used in ways that are healing and in ways that harm. How often has the church taken as its role the “retaining of sins”? How often has the church been unwilling to “forgive”? I read an article reposted about Mark’s parents’ church which is celebrating 200 years. A history compiled by church members lists these items of interest:
• In 1825, church elders tried a member for intemperance and intoxication. He was suspended from attending church services for a period of time. The elders also tried a member for falsehood and another for gambling.
• In 1836, elders tried another member for theft of tea.
• In 1868, elders tried another for intoxication.
• In 1873, women were invited to participate in the election of a new pastor, and the elders tried a member for stealing a ring.
• In 1886, a member was tried for the sale of whiskey and for stealing a dress. (from Finger Lakes Times)
The church, throughout its existence, has been very willing to “retain the sins” of those deemed unacceptable. Scholars suggest that this is Jesus’ proclamation that the church is to continue his work – and his work was focused on forgiveness and inclusion, not judgment and exclusion or even seclusion. The empowered church is not locked away, keeping the world at bay, judging and fearing outsiders. The empowered church remembers the Christ who meets us in the midst of our own fears and sends us out to seek those who are locked away by their fears.
I love the way the story unfolds. We’re told that they gathered again, a week later. However, this time the doors were merely shut – not locked! They had begun to move beyond the fear. They still gathered – as God’s people always have, as we should, as they always will. However, they gathered not to retreat, but to support one another, to strengthen faith. Thomas was with them. And Jesus, again, came to be in their midst. Jesus came to Thomas who feared that the good news of the resurrection was not true. He invited him to faith – and in that invitation there is an implied message that he and all the disciples are to take the good news into the world.
Hamid suggested that we could combat the fears that are crippling people and societies by doing a better job of articulating what the world could be. I was humbled by his grace in understanding and not condemning. Is that not what Jesus did when he came to those frightened disciples, gathered behind locked doors? He understood their fear. He did not condemn. Instead, he offered a way forward.
Florence wondered if the doors were locked because the disciples were afraid, not only of the Jews, but also of the resurrection. The resurrection changed, changes, everything! She wrote, “If our worst suspicions are confirmed, if the dead will not even stay dead…then what could God have in store for us in this post-Easter world? What does God intend to do with our locked-tight selves?...The thing is, the disciples had been praying for this resurrection. They had heard tell of it from Jesus himself. Yet none of these predictions, none of this wisdom, prepared them for how absolutely terrified they would be when it actually happened. And isn’t that comforting, a a twisted sort of way? – to know that even when we hope and pray for it, resurrection never feels safe?!”
“The resurrection never feels safe!” She suggests God’s divine intervention is never predictable. Yet, it is trustworthy. In this age of fear, we can start with our own locked doors, our own desire to flee and seek some sort of safety that we think will protect us from the world’s evils. We can start there and recognize that God has declared again and again, God has shown us again and again, that God loves us and this world, God will not abandon us or the world. “Do not be afraid,” is the message of angels and the Christ. If we cannot unlock our doors, God’s meets us behind them, inviting us to emerge and trust. The resurrection is not a long ago event, it is a current reality and an ongoing reality. Every moment is a hinge moment – and God invites us to recognize our own fears and know God’s grace in the midst of them. Then, as God’s beloved and forgiven and empowered people, we can and should articulate God’s love and forgiveness and transformation for the people who are crippled by fear. Amen.
OUr Easter service was based on the Advent/Christmas tradition of lessons and carols. The service included a creation story, God's Covenant with Israel, the Coming of Christ, his resurrection and the promise of the Spirit who would send us out into the world. We sang hymns connected to these passages. We celebrated Salvation History!
God created. That’s where the story begins. God created the earth—and the earth beings—adams—giving them the beautiful creation. The Biblical witness begins with testimony to the God who loved creation into existence, and, who created human beings, giving them the breath of life. We learn, quickly, that this breath of life includes freedom, the freedom to stray from the very goodness and grace that gave and gives us life.
Yet, God persists in love. God called Abraham and Sarah, promising that from them a nation would grow. Then, when their descendants were enslaved in Egypt, God acted to deliver them. As they found a new freedom, God pledged to continue to be with them, and offered them what we call the Ten Commandments. We hear commandment and think of limitations on our freedoms. Jewish scholars suggest we see them as a pathway that helps us move into the freedom that God intends.
Over and over, in what we call the Old Testament, God’s people stray – and God persists in seeking them out, in offering redemption, in bringing them back to the goodness that the loving God intends for them.` Ultimately, God chose a new way, a radical way to show love to people who strayed. God, the almighty, entered into the very creation God had created. John’s prologue tells us of the Cosmic Christ, the eternal Word, who entered the world and offered a new relationship with God. “To those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
The theologian Juergen Moltman suggested that the incarnation and resurrection were a defining moment in human history. In fact, they were a transforming moment in human history. It changed the way God interacted with humanity and the world. If we were to diagram his theological hypothesis, we might think of an hourglass lying on its side. Human history leads toward the center when God enters the world in the person of Jesus. In Jesus, God and God’s ways are newly revealed, intimately revealed. Then, God’s very self, present in Jesus, is crucified. It is the ultimate rejection of God, of God’s ways and of God’s good intent. Yet, God persisted in love. God responded to the rejection the cross represents and raised Jesus the Christ from the dead three days later. In that resurrection, the divide between the creation and God’s presence was bridged. Matthew’s account of the crucifixion told us that the curtain in the temple was torn in two – that is, the curtain that separated the outside world from the Holy of Holies – the place where the very presence of God dwelt.
That new reality – that God is not remote, that heaven is not remote, then infuses human life. And those who have seen the Christ are invited to participate in God’s continuing work in the world. The Spirit continues God’s persistent, loving presence and we are invited to join in that presence, guided by the Spirit.
When we celebrate this day only as an event that took place several thousand years ago, we miss sight of God’s redemptive presence, poured out into this world in its creation and in God’s calling people to know the goodness of life. We miss sight of the good news of Jesus the Christ, who brought God’s presence to earth in a new way. And, we lose the power of the resurrection – not a someday promise, but a promise for today and for tomorrow – a promise that matters for the very creation which God has given us. I wish I had chosen a different title for today’ meditation. I think a better one would have been “God’s Persistent Love!” Christ is risen. That is a today reality – not yesterday. We look back because the story grounds us for the joy to be found in God’s triumph over all that would separate us from God’s great love. In that love we are freed. Amen.
Consider these questions as you read/hear this story of Jesus’ death.
What fears contributed to the crowd’s willingness to see Jesus condemned?
What or who did Pilate fear?
If we dwell in this story, how does Jesus appear to us? What does that say about God?
Fear permeates this story. Jesus was brought to Pilate because the Jewish authorities feared his influence. The disciples abandoned him because they feared the Jewish and Roman authorities who appeared to have more power than Jesus did. The crowds turned on Jesus because they feared the authorities. Pilate’s wife feared for her husband because of a dream. Pilate was caught by fears: the fear of looking weak as a riot threatened, the fear of the unruly crowd, and, perhaps, fear of his own superiors.
As the story unfolds, power is in the hands of earthly rulers who impose order through violence. Maybe the ultimate fear for those who had seen something in Jesus was that Jesus demonstrated God’s own weakness in a world ruled by the sword.
Christianity has, through the centuries of its existence, proclaimed God as the all powerful – the Almighty Ruler, the Omnipotent Judge. We have done theological gymnastics to reconcile this image of God with the cross. So, we see the cross as God’s will, God’s demand for a righteous sacrifice to satisfy God’s hunger for justice in the face of our failings. If God is the Almighty, the Ruler of the Universe, then the cross must be God’s will. We then take that assumption and let it shape the way we look at the world. Everything must be a sign of God’s will. So, hurricanes are punishment for our sins. Or, as that congressman in Oklahoma stated, women experience rape and incest because it’s God’s will – God is in charge – nothing happens that God has not ordained. It’s no wonder people ask, in the face of deep, distressing challenges, “What have I done to deserve this?”
It’s easy to be afraid of the God who seemingly inflicts suffering on the world and/or to be afraid that God is powerless in the face of such suffering – and therefore irrelevant.
The Reverend Adam Erickson spoke about the events of Palm Sunday and the Passion, contrasting Jesus with the world’s understanding of power. Even in Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem, we are presented with a very different picture of “kingship.” A Roman emperor would have ridden into a city on a powerful steed, a war horse. Jesus rode in on a donkey, a humble beast of burden. So, immediately we know that this king does not come as a threat. He shows us a new way of being human. Erickson goes on to contrast the understanding of peace. Pax Romana was a cherished accomplishment of the Roman Empire –even if it was, at times, more of a dream than an actuality. This Pax was accomplished by way of the sword. Jesus, the king who would not threaten, presented a new way of being political (that is, of living in human communities). He lived and offered the idea of peace through non-violent love. He demonstrated a love that sought out the lost, the marginalized, the forgotten, the disdained, the powerless – and, yes, the powerful, the insiders, and even enemies. And, in doing so, he refused, every step of the way, to engage in violence. The cross shows us his unwillingness to choose the world’s way of “right through might.” He loved – all people –even his enemies. He loved until he died. He loved in the face of rejection. He loved in the face of fear. He loved in the face of abandonment.
The problem is that love, in the face of the sword, looks weak. It led to Jesus’ death. Through the centuries of Christianity, it has led to theologies that justify violence. We speak of “just” wars – wars that can’t be avoided, wars that need to take place in order to bring about justice. In Florida, we speak of the necessity for “stand your ground” laws that justify a violent response to violence or even to the perception of threat. Until recently, violence was an accepted parenting tool: spare the rod, spoil the child. When I was in college, I read the book Situation Ethics which declared that the use of the Atomic bomb in World War Two was an active of love – bringing about the end of a terrible war. Years later, we are re-evaluating that perception and justification. We may be able to see the horror of Rome’s approach to a non-violent man. But we still embody it – because Jesus’ way looks weak in the face of earthly powers.
This week I came across a letter a man named Jay McDaniel wrote to his son. The letter accompanied a college graduation gift of a book by John D. Caputo titled, The Weakness of God: a Theology of the Event. In his letter, McDaniel talked about Caputo’s reflections on weakness and power. Caputo wrote that acts of violence contain raw power, but not grace. Strong power silences the voices of others. We can see that in the story of the crucifixion. What was it but an attempt by the strong powers of that day to silence Jesus? We might look at the events of this week and ask about the intent of the strong power our nation has shown in the face of Syrian tragedy. We are attempting to silence the powers that we condemn. I will say that many who are reflecting on the US’s air strikes say that we need to seek, ultimately, a diplomatic solution. Yet, at the same time, we condemn the diplomatic attempts that seem week in the face of power. And if we look at the world’s history of strong power being used to force peace, we know that the silenced eventually find their voice and their power. We are caught in an unending cycle of violence. As God’s people, it is a struggle. I read an introduction to a book written by my Quaker grandfather. He was a member of the Army Corps of Engineers and was detailing a way of building temporary bridges for the armed forces. He could see war coming (I think World War One), and wrote of his desire that war be avoided, if at all possible. Yet….yet…we live in and participate in this world’s brokenness.
McDaniel acknowledged our discomfort with “weak power.” But said of Caputo: “He suspects that ultimately there is something stronger about weak power than strong power, about love than brute force.”
The Weakness of God is a challenging title – it confronts all of our expectations of who God is and what God is all about. And it challenges our acceptance of the ways of this world and our justifications that allow us to participate in its brokenness. But these stories – of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem not on a war horse, but a humble work animal, and of Jesus’ unwillingness to engage in violent resistance to the evil of the world, but remain faithful to the way of love—invite us to consider the God who always chooses the way of love instead of violence, of invitation instead of coercion. These stories challenge us to see how we are willingly complicit with the worldly power that continues to assert itself in ways that diminish and silence others. They challenge us to see the ways in which we are unwillingly complicit – caught up in the way things are. The cross is not a symbol of God’s destructive power. It is a reminder of our destructive ways. The hymn “Ah, Holy Jesus” has a verse that I often remember: “Who was the guilty? Who brought this up on thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.”
“I crucified thee.” The cross still looms as a sign of weakness and failure. Yet, Jesus chose to go to that cross, trusting that God’s love would somehow, eventually triumph even over death. In the cross, in the weakness of the ultimate victim, we see that God will not remain silent, or absent. God’s love, Caputo wrote,like a gentle breeze, hovers in the midst of the evil ways and powers of this world, inviting us, encouraging us to love. We can do so because we know, through Jesus, that God loves us.
The minister’s group in one of the towns where I served was beginning to fracture. We represented mainline churches, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic and American Baptist, and lesser known denominations as well as some independent congregations. For years the ministers had focused on what could be done together. But a new group came in that was more interested in theological consensus. “I can’t be part of this group if you don’t have the right theology,” was a statement that came from some of my colleagues in ministry. They finally agreed that we would look at the Apostles’ Creed and determine whether or not it provided an adequate foundation to hold us together. I can’t remember exactly how the discussion (over several months) went, but I do know that theological disagreements ultimately divided the group. No longer would a segment be involved in helping host Lenten Lunches – or in supporting a Christmas ministry – or working with the Thrift Shop and the ministries it supported. They refused to associate with the rest of us – and, then, were angry when left out of something they thought was important! Even the Apostles’ Creed couldn’t hold us together!
The Presbyterian Church is known as a church that values our creeds – sometimes to the extent that the creeds replace the scriptures. In some ways they are instructive, telling us about the times from which they come. For example, the Confession of 1967 speaks of peace, responding to nuclear proliferation and the Vietnam War. It also responds to the problem of racism. Our newest creed, the Belhar Confession, comes from South Africa and has as one of its central themes the inappropriateness of a “separate but equal” theology. The creeds helped Christian communities, sects, and denominations clarify their boundaries and solidify their traditions. “I believe in God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.” So, begins what we know of as the Apostles’ Creed – oftentimes a weekly portion of worship. This congregation used to recite a version of that creed weekly. It is probably the most well-known creed in the Christian faith – partly because it is relatively short. So, it became our “study” document for the clergy group so that we could clarify our boundaries.
I don't remember what I contributed to the discussion. I imagine I was pretty quiet. It wasn’t because I find the Apostles’ Creed to be wrong, objectionable, or heretical, exactly. I just find it to be woefully incomplete – and in that, somewhat unhelpful. “…conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.” That’s all that this creed has to say about the life, the ministry, the witness, and the testimony of Jesus. Actually, the creed says nothing about the life, the ministry, the witness and the testimony of Jesus! What mattered to the authors (or author) is how he was born, how he died, and the fact that God raised him from death.
"I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus told Martha. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” A few months ago, I read a wonderful article (blog) by Morgan Guyton, titled “Five Alternative Facts of Toxic Christianity.” One of those “facts” was the elevation of the notion that the most important question of faith is where you will go when you die. He wrote: “If it isn’t nihilistic enough to believe that your observations and intuitions can’t be trusted and that you cannot possibly damage creation because God’s in control, then you can add to that the belief that our entire world is a mostly irrelevant passageway to the afterlife that really matters. Not to mention the fact that God wants to torture the vast majority of the people on this planet in hell forever. That leaves very little incentive to do anything to improve the world. As the great evangelist Dwight Moody said, ‘I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said, Moody, save all you can.’ Hence, you end up with a nihilistic politics which has zero interest in the common good.” It struck me, this week, that perhaps the central place of the Apostles’ Creed in Christian tradition has had a profound influence on the Christian Church’s obsession with “where someone will end up after death.”
I saw that obsession when I was an intern at a large church, working with the Senior Highs. I wasn’t their Sunday School teacher, but I was expected to be in class each week. One Sunday morning, the father of one of the students collapsed as he was crossing the street. When he fell, his head hit the curb and he was gravely injured. The young people arriving at church saw the ambulance and knew that something bad had happened. An elder stood before the class. I expected him to encourage these students to care for their classmate whose life was being turned upside down. Instead he said, “Your friend’s father was injured today. If he dies, I don’t know if he will go to heaven. It certainly looks like he was a good man and should be able to get into heaven, but I can’t know for sure. We can’t know for sure. So, I want you to think about this. If you died today, would you be saved?”
I was horrified. Instead of compassion, instead of encouragement, instead of calling them to be Christ’s presence for their classmate, he focused on a message of fear – the fear of death and what that would mean for them. A colleague in an emergency room after a heart attack said that someone managed to get in and ask, belligerently, “Do you know where you’re going when you die?” He answered, “I think so. But I wasn’t planning on going today.” He still had work to do. He suffered the heart attack while serving as a volunteer firefighter in his small town. He was never able to go back to fighting fires, but he continued to serve as a chaplain for the department.
In this morning’s gospel story, Lazarus died. In response to his death, Jesus talked about the gift of life that he brought, a gift that had the power to render death powerless. “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” The boundary that we see and that we know and that we often fear, the boundary that is death, for Jesus, doesn’t really exist. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” The world is so permeated with the life-giving presence of God that death is not to be feared – for even when our physical bodies wear out or are damaged beyond repair, our lives continue in God’s presence. Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The story of Lazarus’ death does not end with a theological promise that Lazarus will someday live again. It ends with Lazarus’ resurrection – in this world. The promise of life eternal has implications for the world in which we live. We are invited to live without fear of death – so we are freed to live as God’s people.
What does it mean to be freed to live as God’s people? It does not mean that we are invited to be daredevils, tempting death and tempting God. Was that not one of the temptations set before Jesus? “Throw yourself down from here and God’s angels will bear you up!” Instead, we are freed from the need to be focused on preserving our own lives, we are freed from self-obsession. But, we are also freed for a purpose: to live into God’s ways, to proclaim those ways and work for the values of God’s realm. We speak and work for reconciliation where the world sees division and enmity as the only safe path. We speak and work for justice when the world says “me first” is the appropriate approach to life. We speak and work for compassion – especially for the most vulnerable—when the world says people get what they deserve. We support ministries of compassion, of healing and wholeness, and of education. Our One Great Hour of Sharing offering is one way of working on behalf of the values of God’s realm. Through it we feed the hungry, we respond to the suffering, and we work for and with people to help them have a brighter future.
The world may disparage such ministries. It may label them ineffective and naïve. But, we see in the life of Jesus the value of such endeavors. We see that he persisted in living according to the ways of God – even when his own life was threatened – even to the cross.
John’s gospel told us “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” I agree with Guyton that we do a disservice to the faith when we think that one of the most important aspects of faith is where we will be after we die. The gospel speaks powerfully of God’s concern with how it is we live now. The gift of eternal life is not a someday promise. It is a today, a now, promise so that we might be freed from fear – and live as God’s people in a world that is bound by fear. Amen.