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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 111

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
   in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
   studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
   and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
   the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
   he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
   in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
   all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
   to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
   he has commanded his covenant forever.
   Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
   all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever. (NRSV)

So, I think about fear a lot these days, and I am constantly reminded about how debilitating fear is. Even though I haven’t read Dune in years, I always keep thinking, “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings about total obliteration.” It always winds up making me thirsty, somehow.

And although I’m well aware that “fear of the Lord” doesn’t mean “Yikes! Run away!” I do think about that basic expression of self-preservation that is Fear, and its effects.

I used to work with a guy who was in Naval EOD, Explosive Ordinance Disposal. A decorated combat veteran. Professional bomb maker and de-fuser. He used to talk about guys he knew, who would use small bits of C4 explosive to warm up their coffee.

(Note: This can be done.)

I’d say that that sounded crazy.

(Note: It is crazy. NEVER, NEVER DO THIS.)

He would then say, “Yeah, I never did it. That stuff scares me. All that stuff scares me.” And then he’d hold up his fingers and wiggle them and say, “I still have all ten of these because I never forgot how scary that stuff is.”

The fear of explosives, that respectful awe of their power, was the beginning of his wisdom. And his wisdom gave direction to his courage. No fear, no wisdom, no courage.

The Lord doesn’t especially relish blind action. That level of respectful awe of God and God’s purpose, “fear” in the biblical sense, is the beginning of aware, considered action. Somewhere in there is the source of the bravery that overcomes that human fear, that sense of self-preservation, and enables us do the work ahead of us.

So, to go back to the quote from Dune, face your fear, let it pass through you, and when the fear is gone you will remain, and your path will be before you.

(And maybe just use a microwave to heat your coffee.)

Lord, often our fear for ourselves is at odds with our fear of you. Remind us that fear of you frees us, while fear for ourselves paralyzes us, and that we are called to get moving. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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