Do Not Be Afraid
Given by Rev. April S Blaine on Sunday, April 20, 2014
Luciano Berio, was one of the most famous classical composers of the 20th century, a man internationally recognized for the dramatic power of his compositions.
One of the unique things about Berio was that he was a part of a musical school who intentionally wanted to move away from the creation of music that was repetitive.
A couple of years ago, Music psychologist, Elizabeth Margulis, a fan of Berio’s music, decided to test an idea.
Margulis knew that 90 percent of the music we listen to is music we've heard before. We return again and again to our favorite songs, listening over and over to the same musical riffs, which themselves repeat over and over inside the music,
So she wanted to know - what would happen if she took this brilliant music by Berio and digitally edited it? Could she make people like it more – by making it more repetitive?
So, she got to work with some digital editing software. Anytime there was a pause in the music she would grab the clip of music and put it back in. No focus on making it aesthetically pleasing or compelling. Just making it more repetitive.
And then she gathered in her subjects – comparing the work of one of the most famous composers of the 20th century with the work of a psychologist with some digital editing equipment.
And you know what happened, right? It wasn’t even close.
The people reported more enjoyment of the music that was more repetitive.
They reported it to be more interesting.
And they even reported it to be more likely to have been composed by a human artist.
We are a people who like rhythms and repetition – it is easier for us to hear – it is easier for us to process.
Every year, we gather in this space and we read the story of Easter and we sing the songs and we celebrate this day with joyfulness.
In many ways, it has become a familiar tune to us. A repeating, rhythmic part of our year.
Almost comforting – the empty tomb, life conquering death -
it is a story that we have heard before.
But in Matthew’s Gospel in particular – we are reminded us that on that first Easter – it was jarring, it was terrifying.
When Mary came to the grave, there was a great earthquake.
The ground was literally shaking beneath them
And when the angel of the Lord appeared before her, it was like lightning.
The guards were so afraid that they appeared like dead men.
And so the word from the angel to the women – is DON’T BE AFRAID.
Everything is different. Out of death, God has brought forth something entirely new –
But DON’T BE AFRAID. For it is good news.
The first Easter was anything but rhythmic and repetitive and comforting.
The first Easter turned the world upside down and while there was joy in the new thing that had happened – it was coupled with a great fear and a great uncertainty as well.
The new life that came in this moment –
It came at a cost –
The old ways had to change – for a new song was being written.
During this Lenten Season, we’ve been trying together, in a sense – to listen to the new song – we’ve been thinking about our own journeys – and where God is doing a NEW thing – and where we are being invited to step out of our comfort zone, to step away from our rhthyms and routines and to take the next step…
And I’ve got to say – that I am blown away at how many of you are truly wrestling with what that really means. There have been conversation after conversation in these last weeks about this very question –
How do I let go of this person I loved?
How do I find the clarity about my vocation and make the choices I need to make?
How do I listen to a new call on my life even though the future is filled with uncertainty?
How do I find a way to forgive?
And How do I say yes to the love that Jesus seems to have for me – even though I feel so unworthy?
But the truth is – it’s one thing to talk about it in church and it’s another thing – to sit at someone’s bedside and have to find a way to say the thing you need to say –
or to sit in the office where you work and make the choice you know you need to make – or to proceed toward a new calling – without a lot of certainty about what this will look like –
And it isn’t just because the new and beautiful song is more difficult and challenging –
But to walk toward the new thing – by definition means we are leaving the safety and the security of the old thing behind us. Even when the thing we are walking toward is good and exciting - What was familiar, what was known – is being traded for the unknown – and it leaves us feeling very unsettled, very exposed, very vulnerable.
I’ve been asking quite a few questions of God myself during this season – questions about my own next steps and about the places where I’m called to be faithful –
And wrestling with the depth of the UNKNOWN and the UNCERTAINTY around some things in my own life and my own call.
And Thursday evening – we gathered for Maundy Thursday service at Maynard Ave. UMC. We started our time together with a time of communion.
And the heaviness and the weight of my questions and my uncertainty and my hopes for the future seemed to come together all in that moment – and I just kind of lost it.
So here I am – the pastor, the one who is supposed to be there to help all of you – and I’m crying like a baby – so much so that this sweet lady, Anna, noticed that I was a bumbling mess and brought me some tissue.
Sometimes the journey leads us to a place of vulnerability and exposure – and let me tell you that this is not where we would choose to be -
But the story we have seen this week – the story of the cross and the story of resurrection – reveals to us – that it is actually out of a place of weakness and vulnerability and even out of a place of struggle and even fear – that new life and resurrection was born.
The message of good news didn’t come to a group of people who were comfortable – it came to a people who had just experienced an earthquake – who found themselves standing on shaky ground and very, very afraid.
Somehow – in this very moment of vulnerability and weakness – these women were invited to hear the words of good news – the story of Jesus’ resurrection – and they were invited to participate in the resurrection of Jesus – that new life might be born in them
Standing in the rubble,– they could hear the new song –
With courage and bravery –
Do Not Be Afraid
The waters of baptism for me are a helpful reminder of this.
Baptism is a rite of initiation. And so The waters first remind us that we are openly invited into this Christian community -
an initiation that is not based on our merit or accomplishments – but on the extravagant love and grace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, reminding us that whether we like it or not – we are LOVED – beyond our wildest imaginations.
And even in our places of weakness and vulnerability, we are loved and welcomed into the family of God.
And in the waters of baptism, we are also invited to go. Baptism is also a rite of rebirth. Just as water is most alive when it is moving, we remember that God is making us new all the time – and grounded in this love – that is deeper than we know - we can say yes to a life where we don’t run from the change that is coming – but we remain open and willing to walk ahead into the places of uncertainty. To listen to the new song and to respond in faith.
Do Not be Afraid. He is not here, for he has risen.
Go – and share the good news.
For the new life that has come has also come for you.