Sunday, September 18, 2011


     The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. – Exodus 16:2
     For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. – Philippians 1:21
     Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner… – Matthew 20:10,11

     It's what I felt ten years ago as a teacher trying to explain to young children what had just happened at the World Trade Center in New York City. The children were afraid, and my job as a teacher was to reassure them that they were safe with me in school, even though I was just as afraid.


     It's what I felt Friday night as I watched over two hours of coverage of the tragedy at the Reno Air Races. Finally, I just had to turn the TV off. I had gone from being afraid and horrified to simply being numb, as the video of the accident looped over and over again. I gave up working on my sermon, and just went to bed, turned out the lights, and prayed.

     We spend so much of our lives afraid. We naturally experience fear when we have to deal with terrible tragedies: The shootings in Carson City last week; the devastation of the hurricane on the East Coast; the suffering of the Japanese in the wake of the tsunami; the poor people of the nation of Haiti. But just in the day-to-day living of our lives, so much of what makes our decisions for us is fear.

     In our readings today, the Children of Israel were afraid: Afraid that there wouldn't be enough to eat; afraid that they would die of thirst. We live in constant fear of both living and dying. Yet in our reading in Philippians today, we hear Paul saying he's neither afraid to live nor afraid to die. And because he had let go of fear, he was able to act, and to teach, and to love. Even in our Gospel reading today, we see the commonest of all fears: Those who had worked in the vineyard all day were angry that those who had only worked a couple hours were paid the same. That anger was based in a common fear we all share: The fear that someone else will do better than we will. That they will somehow get ahead of us in this life that we so often turn into a rat race. And because we live in our own skin, we think our own personal fears are unique, but they're not.

     Michael Bernard Loggins is an adult living in San Francisco with developmental disabilities. He wrote a little book about his fears entitled Fears of Your Life. He says of his book, “I write down my fears, my scariness and my frightfulness. This is an understanding process. It helps me real good.” You and I may not seem to have a lot in common with a developmentally disabled 40-year-old man, but I invite you to listen to some of his fears and see if we don't share some just like his. 
  • Fear of hospitals and needles.
  • Click here to order book.
  • Fear of school and dentists.
  • Fear of black cats.
  • Fear of monsters being under my bed.
  • Fear of intruders coming to the house to steal things and hurt us all.
  • Fear of being followed.
  • Fear of dogs.
  • Fear strangers.
  • Fear of timebombs.
  • Feared of being left in the house alone afraid that there would be an earthquake in few more seconds.
  • Feared that if you are bad or naughty no one's isn't going to love you anymore.
  • People are fearful of me which I wonder is they think I am all that terrible or I'm thinking that they think I'm not human at all because when they sit next to me than they get back up and move away from me i may be a stranger but that doesn't make me a created monster or something like that… They don't think who's feelings they hurt at all they just do it no consideration for whatever.
  • Fear of you never known you were gonna lose your mother is very sad and scary experience you have to face and learn from and you wonder why she has to die I love her – and I had loved her once while she were alive. Especially if she was the mother that raised you and the others through birth and you only wish that you could have done all you can to help save her life. It gonna be a worse times and hard times for Michael Bernard Loggins and his sisters and brothers too. Especially when Mother's day comes.
      Yet, this man who faces so many challenges in his life also shares his wisdom about fears with us:
  • Does fear makes you smart or does it takes you over? It tries…
  • Want to know more about fears: and what it can happen to you if you still be afraid and you hasn't really truly over come the kind of fear that you happens to have on you? You look like you'll almost never get your chance of over coming it like if you are home alone.
  • Life will be… no matter what the circumstances will be. Whether it's good – bad – or worse than what it seems or even those things kind of get wacky, or slightly out of hand, soon or later, these things blows over and return to what they will be.
      I think Michael Bernard Loggins is right: Fear can take over your life. You'll never get over fear hiding alone at home. And finally, in life these things blow over and return to what they will be.

     It is tempting to blame tragedy on God. But God was not behind the throttle of the airplane Friday. There was just a good man by all accounts, an excellent pilot, yet human frailty or a mechanical failure – we don't know – overtook him. It was an accident.

     But I know where God was because I saw him on TV. I saw God in over a hundred people in the grandstands who responded to the plea for anyone with medical training to come help. I saw God in the many people who had no medical training who stayed and helped get the wounded to safety and comfort the terrified and grieving. And I see God in all the good, good people of this Valley who hold the victims of this tragedy up in prayer.

     Last week on 9/11, we talked about forgiveness. This week we consider fear. Next week, we will talk about the future. I am convinced that without forgiveness; without letting go of harm that has been done to us either intentionally or just because of the randomness of life… all that remains is fear. I am convinced that without looking to a future of love; without believing the God whose name is love is already standing there waiting in all our tomorrows no matter what they bring… all that remains is fear. I am also equally convinced that if we will unclench our fists and allow God to carry the burden of our fears… all that will remain is love.

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