Minister's Corner: Experiencing fear

Rev. Ray Belford, pastor
Shawnee First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Ray Belford, pastor of Shawnee First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

It amazes me how many times I look at the Lectionary texts and discover that the texts are so timely. Many times, they are almost too timely, and I am not always sure that I want to go where they take us. (If you are unfamiliar with the Lectionary, see a brief definition at the end of this column.)

There are times I wish the featured text were more up-beat. This week is one of those timely, but less than cheerful texts from Mark’s Gospel.

The text is one that speaks directly to what so many people are facing today—fear. It might not be what I want to write and speak on; yet there are so many things that have people living in fear in this day and time, that, perhaps we need to talk more about it.

I am guessing that most everyone has been afraid more than once during their lives. Sometimes the fear is warranted.

This caused me to think about some times when I have experienced real fear. One event I remember was in Vietnam. As a reporter for Pacific Stars & Stripes, I was in the field with an infantry platoon, when suddenly the radio operator got the attention of the platoon leader with an urgent cry. It seems we had wandered too closely to a planned B-52 strike and were ordered to GET ON THE GROUND immediately.

We did not have to be told twice! We did not just get on the ground we hugged the ground trying to implant ourselves into the ground. Then a bomb exploded about 200 yards behind where we were on the ground, and I immediately thought we would all be killed. That was real fear.

But after that first explosion there was silence until several seconds later we heard multiple explosions going off a couple of miles beyond where we were. Then the radio operator received another message from the bomber group commander apologizing and wanting to know if anyone was hurt or wounded. It seems that when they opened the bomb bay doors a single bomb had not been secured in the bomb rack properly and dropped when the doors were opened. I am sure, I was not the only one praying that morning. It took a while for the adrenalin to return to normal.

Anyone who has been in a war zone knows what real fear is. Yet, there are other kinds of wars that we encounter in our daily lives.

The disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a terrible storm came up, and they were afraid they were going to die. They cried out to Jesus who was asleep in the stern of the boat, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!” Jesus then questioned their faith, and some interpret their response as having had the fear of God put into them.

The Rev. Michael Marsh, an Episcopalian Priest, writes: “Sometimes the sea of life is rough. The wind is strong. The waves are high. The boat is taking on water and sinking. We all know what that is like. Each of us could tell a storm story. Some of our stories begin with a phone call, a doctor’s visit, or news we did not want to hear. Some of them will start with the choices we have made, our mistakes, and our sins. Other stories will tell about the difficulty of relationships, hopes and plans that fell apart, or the struggle to grow up and find our way. Some storms seem to arise from out of nowhere and take us by surprise. Other storms build and brew as we watch.”

Most of us feel like we have been through a storm over the past eighteen months due to the pandemic, deep division within our government, insurrection at our nation’s capital, mass shootings, road rage, and on and on. It seems our faith is being tested every day, yet we should remember that Jesus has promised to be with us through all our trials and tribulations. Remember, Jesus was in the same boat as the others.

We are not promised that as Christians we will live without fear, but we are promised that during these hard times that we are not alone, as God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be with us. In Psalms, we are reminded that God neither slumbers nor sleeps. This should give us comfort when we are facing our fears.

(For those unfamiliar with the Lectionary, it is a book containing portions of the Bible to be the focus for each Sunday and special days during the year that are broken into four different readings that include: First Reading which is usually an Old Testament text, the Gospel reading, the Second Reading which include the Letters written by the Apostles following the resurrection of Christ, and a Psalm. These readings appear in three-year cycles. In Year A the featured Gospel is Matthew, in Year B the featured Gospel is Mark, and Year C the featured Gospel is Luke. John’s Gospel is scattered throughout the three years. Many of our mainline churches follow the Lectionary.)