Matthew 14:22-33 and An Excerpt from ‘Despair is a luxury we can’t afford’: David Suzuki on fighting for action on the climate crisis By Adam Morton
August 13th, 2023 10:30 a.m.
By Nicole M. Lamarche
Good morning! Happy Sunday! Thank you for supporting the rest of your Pastor! I did a lot of sleeping and I didn’t worship anywhere. I was curious what people did. It turns out that they were at the farmer’s market. But not the same as worship! So it’s good to be back ehre. Big things happened while I was away. A fifth fundamental force in the Universe was discovered! And also the Friday’s Meb’s Group has something like an excel spreadsheet. I have never seen that level of organization. Big things happened!
So it’s wonderful to be back with you today!
I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, to let yourself arrive a little bit more fully to tune into the gift of being here together, like this.
And I offer this prayer from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
On the other side of fear.
That’s always where I wanted to be.
When I was coming of age and coming into the world and wondering where I fit and what my life could be…
I had so many ideas and big dreams…
But I was afraid, like really afraid…afraid of disappointing my parents, afraid of going to hell, afraid of going into the big bad world and getting it wrong, afraid of using up my one chance to come home, I didn’t want to use it up. And here’s the other thing, at some point, I also became really afraid- maybe even more afraid -of what would happen if I stayed there and never went out to see, never tried for any of the things on my life’s to do list that I continued to embellish with time…
I spent a week in the place of my childhood so I have been pondering these things and many other things.
It feels like one of those things where the places is at the same time familiar and foreign. Where the language and the symbols and what is expected is all known and clear but not quite comfortable. Are you with me?
I have learned and am learning the delicate art of holding and keeping relationship with people who see the world entirely differently than I do. Do you know what that’s like?
The place where I grew up in rural Eastern Washington is precious to me and to many.
I loved being raised among trees and feeling that the outdoors was our playground- dirt roads and dusty trails, rope swings in trees, walks to the lake…
And I love that that a big part of the culture there still is quite literally guided by church people like my mom, people who still attend funerals (people don’t do that so much anymore) and still visit shut-ins and still makes pies for the widows. And that’s part of what people do there for each other.
I give thanks for the best of what it was to me as a kid, but what really stuck out at me this time, was how so much of the culture there, and seen the faith life, the Christian path is about what and whom to fear. What is present and active, alive and well is the idea that yes there is a God! Oh and this God is the best one and also this God is a presence to fear… Have any of you been introduced to that God before?
The confusing part is that this God is still love! But be afraid. A bit of a confusing message there. But’s everywhere.
On billboards and bumper stickers, church signs and messages of all kinds, sharing a word like that- letting the world know that their God, sides with some and not others… And so much of it is driven by fear. And maybe even in American life, so much of our conversation. Our political conversation. What and whom to fear.
And I think I know why: it gets a quicker response? It fuels us!
I guess there is less of a bodily response to the message: You are pieces of stardust, a sacred expression that will never happen again like this and the Universe already claims you! It’s all grounded in love! Love each other as different parts of the same thing! That doesn’t make you angry. It doesn’t incite a response.
The message that there is something to fear, literally starts a cycle in us. Science tells us that fear puts our bodies in a particular mode. Because it’s in our mind, then it also at some point gets our other organs. It starts physical reactions. The amygdala (small organ in the middle of your brain) activates communicating to the nervous system, which responds by releasing stress hormones our. Blood flow changes — flowing away from the heart when we are drien by fear.
When we are driven by fear: We might say things we can’t take back or make a short-sighted decision or … go to war. I bet you have a list of things you did when driven by fear.
Understandably we developed these responses in order to survive hard things like tigers and terrible storms. And that makes sense. But I wonder in this time, if being rooted in fear isn’t generative or life giving- it’s not leading to thriving, a loss of hope and despair. I am also seeing that it leads to silos, disengagement, and more sadness, and also anger to mask the pain. And then sometimes coping mechanisms that make it all worse.
Fear quite literally distances us from our hearts, and it can sink us…
I think that is part of what this ancient teaching has to say to us today.
It’s being guided by fear that will stop us, restrain us, try to contain us, or keep us stuck. When we are beckoned beyond our safe place, when we are called out into what is sure to discomfort, it isn’t not knowing how, that will bring us down, it isn’t doing it wrong that will, it it’s not having enough money that will sink us!!! It is fear!
Because as the story goes, the teacher had left them to have some time alone to center himself and they went on ahead in the boat. Then a huge storm came. And he comes to them during the wild winds and they freak out because they think he’s a ghost. And he tells them not to be afraid. Maybe the most repeated texts in our Bible, in our ancient sacred text is something about don’t be afraid or fear not. Fear not. Do not be afraid! But still they aren’t sure that it is him so they try to make him prove it and one of them tries to go to him, tries to meet him there on the water, standing on the water. And as the story goes, Peter gets out of the boat, and actually starts to walk on the water! But when he became frightened, he starts to go down. Now I don’t know about you, but I know a little something about that…I don’t mean the walking on water part!
But I know what it is like to feel like you are sinking because of fear. I know what’s like to not have faith in the right things and to start to drop. I know what it’s like to need to let go in order to rise. It is fear that will sink us!!! Are you with me?
Where are sinking because of fear? That’s what I have been pondering.
And how can we help each other walk around the walls of fear that we have built?
I love how vacation gives clarity to some things, the gift of new eyes from a rested mind…I kind of had this funny thought.
Many of my worst fears have already happened! Here’s a non-exhaustive list: being alive for beautiful places burning, moving to Colorado and being impacted by a mass gun violence event, being here for things so hard in the ocean that the whales are gathering together for a ritual before they stop trying to live, a global pandemic that takes millions of lives and changes some things forever, feeling helpless with so much technology but still wars that seem never ending and sometimes feeling like we are literally an inch away from nuclear disaster, over my career watching forty million Americans stop going to church.
So do you know what? I can cross those off! And the other thing I have realized is that when I am worrying, I am not here. I miss all the beautiful faces that are here right now, the beautiful birdsongs, the glorious trees, the flatirons.
What if part of the reason that fear sinks us is because it is either in the past or the future and not right here in the present?
What if it is not God, not Universe, not Spirit we are to fear, but fear itself? Fearing what we humans do when we are driven by fear? That’s the thing to fear. That’s something to be afraid of! Scared humans…
What if the Spirit lures us to the other side of fear in part because we absolutely don’t need fear? We don’t need it anymore. What if there is something liberating in that place? When we are no longer afraid? When we are freed to act, not seeing despair as an option? As we heard from David Suzuki, “despair is a luxury we can’t afford any longer,” we “have no choice but to try.”
It’s being guided by fear that will stop us, restrain us, try to contain us, or keep us stuck in the status quo of sadness and the past.
It isn’t not, not knowing how, that will bring us down, it isn’t doing it wrong that will throw us off, it’s fear that will sink us.
Beloved of God, what do we have to lose? And what is fear stopping you from doing that God is calling you beyond? What is possible on the other side of fear? Beyond sinking fear? God is with us on the water.
May it be so. Amen.