For nearly every night for the last month, I have lived through the death of Christ. We begin in innocence and wonder, that soon becomes devotion to this man-who-might-be-God. But soon the cast and I descend into warnings, into fear, into the 3-headed Pharisees and the treachery of Judas. Then the worst that could happen happens---God is staked out to die before our very eyes. We sob, we weep, we mourn. Then we see his risen form---and our tears turn to clapping, dancing and, at the very end, a shower of confetti.
I do it again tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day. The challenge is to keep seeing, to keep feeling, to keep a willingness to enter this raw, hard, beautiful true story for the sake of others---for the audience who comes to watch and experience Godspell and it's portrait of the life of Christ for themselves.
I confess, it is hard. I am so very tired. And then, this morning, I woke up at 5 am and made a terrible mistake. I turned to the news. The wrong news. You know the headlines, too, and what came next---fear and dread and hopelessness---again. Like you, my fingers hesitate now, on the computer, the radio. What atrocity is next? Who can sleep—or prepare to give thanks? The more we hear and know, the more we fear.
But I am learning something from Godspell. And from these last months of witnessing so much terror on our screens. It is not weakness to fear. It is not spiritually wrong to fear. If we must fear---and it appears that we must---we must choose our fears well. Because there are thousands, millions to choose from. And If you do not choose them, they will choose you.
Here are the fears I choose:
in every form, especially the kind that seeps in under your skin, slips into your heart and starts twisting your words, clouding your eyes, making all people look alike, turning your hungry neighbor into a far-away stranger, turning the far-away stranger into a faceless apparition, turning the one who challenges your ideas into an enemy.
Fear an Unfeeling Heart,
that gathers all its muscle into stone walls and safety, refusing to see, to hear, to enter into other’s rejoicing and sorrows, a heart that gains sad strength through dispassion, protection through disaffection. A heart that believes it alone deserves long life, no matter how alone.
Fear the Enemy of our Body-and-Soul,
who wants us to believe the only threat to Life is terrorists, bombs, cancer, plane crashes, sugar, guns and the ten thousand other ways our heart could stop at any moment. Who wants us to fear the end of pulse and breath above all else.
Fear the enemy of our body-and-soul
who wants us to believe this life is all there is, so don’t withhold whatever we need to make our short passage safer, happier, more exciting, more successful, more enriching and, above all, more individually authentic, no matter what it costs others.
the sly insistence on "quality," our slavery to the choicest foods, the softest bed, the shortest trail, the plushest car, the happiest feelings, the brightest church, the best retirement, the easiest death.
Fear Pride and Self-Importance,
a many-headed monster who knows me well, who lies in wait around every corner and soapbox, insisting on attention, elevation, the proper introductions and prostrations---or at least some brief public acknowledgment that we are, in many ways, just a little more superior to others.
so much contentment with who we are and how we live we will allow no risk, no change, no growth, no relinquishment of our rights and our goods, no sacrifice, no reduction in all we know we are entitled to--because we're young. In all we know we're entitled to---because we're middle-aged. In all we know we're entitled to---because we're old.
Fear End-Time Prophecy and Despair,
those clever routes to excuses----that all is hopeless, nothing can be done, we can’t help anyway, God is sovereign, the world is soon to end, ignore the human crises, the toxic health of the planet; camp out like Jonah over the world and wait, with gloomy hands folded, for the inevitable (whew!) fiery end.
Yes, there is more to fear, but one last fear will cover all the rest: Above all,
Fear the Maker of our Body-and-Soul,
which is to say, LOVE the Maker of our body-and-Soul, He is our Father, our Redeemer, our Brother, our Savior, our Breath, our Light, our Bread, our Blood, our Hope. Our Lord.
Fear Him. This is the only fear that leads to love,
the only fear that leads to LIFE,
a life that goes on long past stilled breath and stopped heart.
Tonight, I don't know what will happen in the world, what tragedies will unfold, but I do know I will go onto that stage again, and I know what will happen there. Christ will go to the cross (again)---out of love for his children and his enemies. I will enact again the truest story I know---through joy and fear and sorrow---and out again, to rejoicing, as the risen Christ stands on the balcony, the spotlight from heaven as brilliant as Life itself, dispelling death and every fear that is not born of Love.
Friends, What essential fears have I missed??