One of the most popular phrases in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is “Have no fear.” It occurs most often in those moments when fear is the most rational emotion available. When an angel appears in your bedroom, it always comes with “Have no fear.” When Jesus who was dead miraculously enters your locked room, he says, “Have no fear.” When the boat is sinking, when the bush is burning, when life is crashing in, “Have no fear.”
I think the modern day equivalent is “Don’t be anxious.” We live in a world that is built upon anxiety: real and contrived. Advertising works by creating anxiety in order to relieve it. “Did you know that more than half of men over 40 have some sort of erectile dysfunction? Cialis is here to help.” The 24 hour news cycle exists because post 9/11 we are anxious for breaking news and quick answers. “We have no idea where this plan disappeared to, but we’ll spend the next 72 hours in a flight simulator offering speculation and conjecture.” As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the constant fluctuations of the stock market is a sure and certain source of anxiety. Even sports, created to a source of leisure are now rife with anxiety. Last season, when the Packers started 1-2 and their offense was finding little success, quarterback Aaron Rogers took to the airwaves with a simple request.
His words are wise, and our Collect for Sunday invites us to take them to heart as we ask God to grant us the ability to “not be anxious about earthly things.” This is one of those prayers that I wonder if we really mean it. I wonder if the congregation is praying along as I say the words or if they are leaving me out on a limb before God. “You can pray that, Steve, but we’re so conditioned to anxiety that we’re kind of happy where we are. Haven’t you watched the news lately? There is plenty of earthly stuff to be anxious about.”
I get it. Life in the kingdom doesn’t mean life on easy street. There will still be hardships: medical concerns, financial woes, job stress, family issues, you name it; but God walks alongside us, with a hand on our shoulder, saying, “R-E-L-A-X. Don’t be anxious. Have no fear. I am here.”