“Do Not Be Afraid” – Minister’s Message

“Do Not Be Afraid” – Minister’s Message

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid;

I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here;

for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

(Matthew 28:5,6)

By the time you read these words from me, Easter is round the corner (Sunday, 17 April 2022). I asked myself, “What can I say to you before we celebrate Easter?”

It’s been said that this world is a tough place to live in. We are living in uncertain times. The coronavirus, war in Ukraine, looming national and personal debt, strained family relationships, and corruption within political parties have provoked a rising tide of fear and an increasing sense of vulnerability amongst peoples.

Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response. As such, it is an essential part of keeping us safe.

However, when people live in constant fear, whether from physical dangers in their environment or threats they perceive, they can experience negative impacts in all areas of their lives and even become incapacitated.

Seriously, one of the most common phrases in the Bible isn’t God helps those who help themselves (which spoiler alert isn’t in the Bible at all) but what does show up basically all the time is “do not be afraid”.

We have heard the words spoken repeatedly, “Do not be afraid.” 

“Suddenly Jesus stood before them and said, ‘Shalom!’ The women came up, embraced Jesus’ feet and worshiped. At this, Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Go tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where they will see me.” 

And so, I close my eyes searching my mind for Galilee where I shall see the risen ONE. 

Where is the risen ONE to be found?

Well, just as surely as Galilee remained in the darkness of the persecution of Empire, our world remains in the darkness of the perils of pandemic and war in Ukraine. And yet, it is into the darkness that the early followers of the Way found the courage to go to Galilee, so that they might meet the Risen ONE.

The Easter message has long sustained people through bleak and hard times. It has buoyed war-torn communities, lifted those in the grips of oppression, comforted the mourning, and inspired those who have lost everything to evil and destruction.

Don’t be afraid, but when you are, come and see what leaning into your courage can produce, what picking yourself up and dusting yourself off can bring, what helping someone else who needs to be picked up, or to borrow some of your courage can do. And then, go and tell. Let us remind each other of these stories, saying that good news of God’s presence among us, even amid death. For that is Easter.

Let me end with a reflection from my favourite Old Testament professor, Walter Brueggemann, ‘You Who Cast Out Fear’:

You are the God from whom no secret is hidden, and so
we tell before you our great fears:
We have fear down to our toes because of the danger of the Covid-19 virus;
We have fear up to our ears from violence all around us;
We have fear for the fragility of our economy and our place in it;
We have fear for the threats our democracy faces;
We have fear for the safety of immigrants in need of refuge among us;
We have fear that causes us loss of sleep;
We have fear that skews our vision and distorts our judgment.

We know that fear is contagious; it passes among us; it flows from issue to issue, and our negative adrenalin is magnified.

Our fear evokes our worst selves and summons us to shrivelled, demeaned, and demeaning lives.

But then You! You as perfect love; You who crowds in against our deep fears:

Cancel our fears!
Veto our anxiety;
Nullify our uneasiness!

O perfect love, cast out our fear;
cast out our parsimony,
that we may become generous in self-giving,
that we may gladly risk more and more of who we are 
and what we have.

O perfect love, cast out our fear;
cast out our anger,
that we may become more forgiving,
that we may more readily transform circumstances of threat 
into venues for shared wellbeing.

O perfect love, cast out our fear;
cast out our guarded isolation,
that we may be more welcoming of the “other” in our midst,
that we may be more accepting of those unlike us.

O perfect love, we turn to you so that we are not eaten alive by our fear.

In your presence we move toward fearlessness;
let us be fearless in our generosity;
let us be fearless in our forgiveness;
let us be fearless in our hospitality.

Let us put ourselves down in your deep embrace that holds us closely,
along with all those whom you love.

We pray in the fearless name of Jesus.  Amen.”

Do not be afraid.

Have a safe and blessed Easter.

Swee Ann Koh

April 2022