When we use the word fear, what are we talking about? Fear, by
its very nature, is future oriented. Our sign in front of church
this week read, “…fear is the worst of prophets.” That is because
fear’s prediction of the future is always negative—the future
will be painful.
Loneliness signals a loss. The loss of a valued relationship can
be disorienting bringing pain and sometimes panic. For those
experiencing grief, loneliness often sets in after everyone has
gone home and returned to their regular routines…except you.
Moving through loss is a universal human experience. We call it
grieving as if it were some simple emotion that just had to be
handled. In fact, grieving brings forth a constellation of
emotions that can be confusing and painful.
In its most robust dimension a sense of shame gives a
person “a sense of who one is and what one hopes to be.” If guilt
concerns what we have done, shame concerns who we are. Guilt
addresses correctness, but shame addresses worth.
Aristotle and the ancient Greeks took the view that anger was
normative—an ordinary and useful emotion. He wrote, “We praise a
person who feels anger on the right grounds and against the right
persons and also in the right manner.”
And most certainly, God is found in the commonplace. We need only
look beyond what we expect, to see the unexpected. We need only
to listen beyond the noise, to hear the music of life. We need
only to feel beyond our barriers, to touch another soul with
Compassion is our heartfelt response to another person’s pain or
suffering. A range of emotions becomes amplified when
compassion is in play: sympathy, sadness, affection, anger,
guilt, and concern are just a few.
In the Christian tradition joy occupies a privileged place as
the register of the good news. Savoring that we are born in
the image of God, recalling that our failures can be forgiven,
sharing in the community of faith— in all these realizations our
response is a healing movement of joy.
Unity—solidarity, forms of justice expressed through the love
that nourishes our spirits. Justice moves us beyond our
small worlds into the larger world of God’s amazing love and
grace. We get to participate with the Lover of the Universe
in the cause of bringing forth the reign of God which Jesus has
When we are searching for meaning, searching for the sacred, the
holy, searching for life abundant, we would do well to remember
Zechariah. That said, our spiritual search does not always
lead down an easy path, sometimes taking us to places we never
intended to go and that turn out to be quite difficult. We
need God’s help, just as Zechariah and Elizabeth did.
God probably has plenty of reasons to be angry with us; yet
instead, God continually works for peace, justice and mercy in
our human lives. When we have completely failed, God brings
comfort and challenges us to start again: every day is a fresh
start with God.
Ubuntu is an idea present in African spirituality– the essence of
being human. We are all connected. You can’t exist as a human
being in isolation. We cannot be ourselves without community;
health and faith are always lived out among others, an
individual’s well being is caught up in the well-being of others.
Practicing our faith can be a vigorous workout. When Paul
writes to the Christians in Thessalonike, he is encouraging them
to not get too lethargic in their faith practice, but rather to
live out their convictions with energy and vitality.