The Struggle Is Real
Given by Rev. April Blaine on Sunday, January 31, 2016
Early Friday morning around 2:45am, two individuals, who had snuck into the church building earlier in the evening emerged from, most likely, the Freedom Hub and began to wander around the building. They set off the alarm, of course, and not knowing the access code, they ripped the keypad off the wall – shattering it into pieces. They went outside and came back in this time with a large brick which they then used to smash through the glass in Sile’s office, climb through the window and start rummaging through the boxes of the staff and others who work here. They were obviously looking for cash since they left all the checks unharmed. Unfortunately for them, we A – don’t keep cash lying around in our boxes and B – don’t have much cash to begin with so they didn’t find much. Also unfortunately for them – they cut themselves when smashing the key pad and so left a trail of blood on the floors and in the office. Somehow, the alarm company didn’t think it prudent after the 14th trip of the alarm to call Lynne back and let her know that something very wrong was going on in the building (something to which we had a long conversation about Friday morning) - so no police came. And finally a little after 3:30, they realized that they weren’t going to find anything and out they went from the front door.
Needless to say when staff arrived on Friday morning – they were alarmed. The police came out and took a sweep of the area, collected blood and fingerprints and along with the security company, helped us piece through what at happened.
We were all relieved that nothing had been stolen, but we were all a little shaken. Knowing that I had been the last one out of the building – along with Ekundayo, our new Freedom School Executive Director – and that as we were doing the final walk through and checks… they were already there.
We’ve been talking this month about the call Jesus makes – Do Not Be Afraid.
But Friday’s events reminded me that this call to Not Be Afraid – comes to us in a world where there are lots of things to be afraid of.
A world where, unfortunately, our fear is not always unwarranted.
Where there are real dangers.
And people who wish to do harm, to steal, and even to do violence.
The Struggle is REAL.
So, what is the call for us as Christians in the face of real danger – in the face of those who wish us harm?
How does the phrase, Do Not Be Afraid become more than just a cute phrase – and really address the real fears and dangers of the world we live in.
So, in our Scripture today, Jesus and the disciples have recently learned of some really horrible and horrific news.
Their brother and friend, John the Baptist – who had been taken into custody in Mark 1 for his preaching by King Herod. John the Baptist, in a sick and twisted story of power and coercion, has been beheaded by Herod – in an attempt to appease his ego and his queen.
I can’t even imagine what they would have been feeling. The grief, the sorrow, the fear.
And on top of this, our Scripture today tells us that the tides are beginning to shift for Jesus. He goes home – to the place where he was raised and nurtured. He teaches and preaches about the Kingdom of God.
And they absolutely can’t hear him. They don’t understand. Their hearts are not open. Maybe it was the fact that they remembered him as the carpenter’s son, or maybe they just couldn’t be open to what God was doing. Either way – the response was the same.
Just after this, Jesus sends the disciples out – in pairs for the journey. He warned them that people would likely not always welcome them. That there would be dangers and that some would not be ready to receive them. Shake the dust from your feet – he said – and move on.
And so they went – and the Scripture tells us – that King Herod took notice and worried about what they were doing. Thinking that somehow John the Baptist was rasied from the dead.
The reality of our lives and worlds is that we are not always safe. We are not always emotionally safe – we walk into places and spaces where others might judge or reject us.
And for some of us – there are actually spaces – where someone might actually wish to do us harm.
The struggle is real.
My African-American brothers and sisters and my Muslim brothers and sisters have shared with me story after story about what it is like to live in a world where they are not always safe. Where their fears are warranted. Where people seek to cause emotional and even physical damage and hurt because they do not understand and they themselves are afraid.
The struggle is real.
8 years ago, after a dear friend of mine was assaulted in her home one morning, she was too scared to come out of her door. The fear was real and powerful.
Her struggle was real.
And fear is a powerful emotion. It’s also a useful emotion. Fear often helps keep us safe – it is what reminds us to lock up our cars and houses – it’s what reminds me to not walk alone around campus at night – and to not stand too close to the edge of a cliff. We are thankful for the contribution that fear makes to our ability to make more sensible decisions.
But fear can also consume us. It can skew our perspectives – It can cause us to build up walls to protect ourselves, convincing ourselves that if we stay where it is safe, then no one else can hurt or harm us.
The problem is that when we are consumed by fear, it is hard for us to really heal from trauma and real hurt.
And so I find it so fascinating that in the face of real danger – in a world where it was not safe for Jesus and his disciples – physically or emotionally –
Jesus decides to send the disciples out on mission. Instead of walling themselves up and keeping safe, Jesus sends them out – into the place of vulnerability and risk.
And he does two things that are noteworthy.
He doesn’t send them alone.
And He tells them that they must embody a life of trust. Trusting that God will provide a place for them to eat and sleep every night.
It appears that trust is the antidote of fear.
And when, not if, people reject them and ridicule them – they are to shake the dust from their feet.
And keep on moving.
So, that is what we will try to do here at Summit. We won’t be closing up our building or cease to provide hospitality.
We will be who we are and we will continue to welcome all people.
But we’ll also be smart. We will rely on the support of each other. We won’t lock up the building on our own. We will trust that God will be with us. And we will not let the actions of the minority impact the mission we have to do in this place.
So, in the face of the real danger that is present in our world – where is God inviting you to Not be Afraid – to surround yourselves with support.
To trust in God –
And to prepare to shake the dust from your feet when you encounter those who cannot accept your message of love.