“Fear not” is a phrase repeated over and over throughout scriptures. It is advice that I think we desperately need in our world. Over the past few months fear of “the other” and hatred for that which is not like us has continued to brutally take lives. This past weekend we heard of another mass shooting, this one at Congregation Chabad in California as those of the Jewish faith gathered on sabbath to pray. These shootings are not a distant echo of the Christchurch mosque shootings or the bombings of churches in Sri Lanka during Easter and countless others over the past few years. These attacks often done in the name of “religion” are a distortion of the call for God found in each religion to love our neighbor. These attacks are done from a place of fear, privilege, power, and control.
The disciples themselves were afraid after witnessing those who were fearful of Jesus and wanted to silence him. Those in power thought their need for control and power were successful when they saw Jesus on the cross. There is a reason that crucifixions were done in such a public way, to strike fear into others who might dare to act in a way that challenged the power and systems.
One of the resurrection accounts is of Jesus appearing to the disciples who are hiding in a locked room. It is important to note that the scripture says they were hiding for “fear of the Jews.” This isn’t all the Jewish people, but has often been distorted to give cause for hate-filled actions like we witnessed last weekend. They were fearful of the leaders that might also want to silence those that were part of the movement that followed Jesus. There have been leaders that claim all different types of faith that use violence to try to control that which seems outside their power. When Jesus appears to these disciples he says “Peace be with you.” Despite all that had occurred the command, the gift, was peace, not a call for retaliation.
As Easter people we know that Christ enters these broken places, that he even breaks into our locked spaces of fear, and speaks peace. One of the things I am most grateful for at Valpo is how we try to create a space to engage across difference. How do we listen deeply to one another through wonder? Wonder that helps us lean in and try to understand our neighbor. Wonder that helps us look at ourselves and examine where the feelings of fear and threat come from. As Easter people, may we work for peace, and may we work for new life in the midst of brokenness. May the Holy Spirit breathe into this world so that we may find new life in the ways that we live together in this place.
May 1, 2019