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Sabbath Day – Fear and Desperation

January 31, 2013

First thing this morning I posted the following on my Facebook wall:

“We live in a culture of violence-acceptance, with undercurrents of fear and desperation.”

We are going to talk about this statement in my congregation during Lent. So, two questions for my Facebook friends:

What are we afraid of? What is the source of our desperation?

 Personal thoughts please.”


I have deeply appreciated the responses throughout the day. The sentence being discussed was lifted from the social witness policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) called Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. It’s a good document that I recommend highly. The sentence provoked a good deal of conversation when the congregation I serve recently dedicated four weeks to studying the proposals outlined in the document. Several participants suggested we might set aside some time to talk about what we are really afraid of – and the list was long.

Since then I have had a line from the Brief Statement of Faith running through my mind. The phrase I am thinking of comes from the section on the Holy Spirit and begins “In a broken and fearful world…” It then proceeds to describe how, in this world, “the Spirit gives us courage

to pray without ceasing,

to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,

to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,

to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,

and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.”

But first, of course, we must acknowledge and face the brokenness and fear, in our world and in ourselves.


Anyway, I’ve been thinking of using the words “fear and desperation” to guide my congregation through the Season of Lent. We could then use the statement of the Spirit’s call to guide us through the Easter Season on our way to Pentecost. I’ve been studying the Sunday Lectionary passages for Year C and they quite nicely attend to many of these existential anxieties that lead either to trust in God or our futile attempts to secure for ourselves some approximation of safety, legacy, happiness, etc. Thus six weeks on the fears with which we live and which tempt us to take shortcuts to satisfaction, and the six weeks on the path charted by the Risen Christ for his disciples.

I will certainly incorporate the observations of my friends in the sermon series, as well as any comments left on this blog post.

Earlier today I came upon the following while reading Dana Greene’s biography of Denise Levertov:

Not yet, not yet –

there is too much broken

that must be mended,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So much is unfolding that must

complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

The two phrases come from Denise Levertov’s poem “Beginners” and capture nicely the two moves of what I am now envisioning as a series of Lent-Easter sermons: facing brokenness and attending to God’s unfolding promise.

So friends, what do you think we are really afraid of? Why are we so desperate?


PS. for those who watch these posts to make sure I observe my weekly sabbath, I spent most of the day reading (and reading about) Denise Levertov, completing my month long listen to the music of Bob Dylan (60 albums [82 CDs] in 30 days), having lunch with Noelle, taking a walk with August, and successfully climbing two V3s at the gym. Happy Sabbath!

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