Sankofa #15

Sankofa #15

Last Sunday, 47 people came together to celebrate the International Day of Older Persons with a lunch. I am glad that we could do that. Let’s not forget that many of our ‘older persons’ are our main contributors to the life of Manningham Uniting Church. Hope you have read my article on Ageism in the latest MUC Magazine.

Fear and Love
What I am about to muse with you is probably nothing new or extraordinary to some of you.

“There are only two things in the world: love and fear.” That’s what Leunig says, anyway, in one of his prayers. When I read this many years ago, I never fully understood what he meant, until now.

We all have fears. Big fears like our loved ones dying, terrorist attacks, not being able to pay the bills, increase in interest rates, pain, being alone, collapsing economies, or death. Smaller fears like botching a project at work, being taken advantage of, putting our foot in our mouth, making the wrong decision, or forgetting to do something we promised we’d do.

They’re the things that keep us up at night, gnawing at the edges of our minds as we play out different scenarios, thinking through what could go wrong or what we did wrong, the possible consequences of each minute decision.

Some fear is healthy. It may be a sign of openness, responsiveness, vulnerability, a willingness to take risks, and the possibility of scary, but significant change. But much fear is unhealthy. It alienates us from others and ourselves.

Religion of Fear
Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell famously said that religion is based on fear. Is he right? And should it be?

We all know that fear lurks in all religion. Some believe for fear of being damned. Some insist that others believe the same thing for fear that we might be wrong. Some build walls and hierarchies for fear that we might lose our power or lose ourselves.

Parker Palmer, a Quaker educator, says”Fear is the air we breathe. We subscribe to religions that exploit our dread of death. We do business in an economy of fear driven by consumer worries about keeping up with the neighbours and we practice a politics of fear in which candidates are elected by playing on voter’s anxieties about race and class.”[1]
Religion of Love

Fear and love are mortal enemies. They have completely different goals. Fear drives us to protect ourselves. Love drives us to protect others and our connection with them. Every day, we choose which goal we will pursue in our relationships with God and others. Whichever goal we choose determines the spiritual reality we’re drawing from, which will ultimately influence our behaviour.

Loving involves listening, and that’s hard because you might find out that you’re wrong. Being wrong is scary because it shifts the way you think of yourself and the world. It’s too easy to become dogmatic, but that’s just fear. 

Love involves making yourself smaller and less powerful, and that’s scary because you think you might turn into nothing. Love involves finding the similarities between yourself and other people, and that’s scary because you might realise that someone else is just as right as you are.

A Familiar Story
A grandfather is talking with his grandson.

The grandfather says, “In life, there are two wolves inside of us which are always at battle. One is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and LOVE. The other is a bad wolf which represents things like greed, hatred, and FEAR”.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”[2]

These days I think I have only one message to share, and I just keep repeating it over and over in different ways:  Each day increase love, decrease fear. We can choose which wolf we feed each day. It’s not easy but I believe with God we can.

… in the meantime, blessed be.

Rev Swee Ann Koh
5th October 2022

[1] Parker Palmer The Courage to Teach San Francisco, Josey-Bass, 1998, p 29.
[2] This is an edited version of the original story of “The Two Wolves’ from the Cherokee