Do you remember the song, “Where Did Our Love Go?” by The Supremes? Released in 1964, it became part of my playlist — you know, the kind you put on your 4-inch reel-to-reel recorder after holding the microphone too close to the radio speaker? If you don’t recall (or weren’t around for its initial release), allow me to impart…
I’ve got this burning, burning, yearning feelin’ inside me
Ooh, deep inside me and it hurts so bad
You came into my heart so tenderly
With a burning love
That stings like a bee
This song has been haunting my waking hours this week because of Sunday’s reading from Jeremiah. The prophet is, seemingly, fed up. The prophet feels duped by God. Jeremiah laid bare his vulnerability before God and God exploited it. Now, Jeremiah cannot stop from preaching despite every disparaging word that surrounds him. Read his lament and compare it to the lyrics above:
O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.
For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
While The Supremes were wistful about a lost romance, Jeremiah is writing about this relationship with the Creator. Both were feeling the effects of a love so deep that it transformed them utterly: One experiencing the pangs of loss, the other realizing that the demands of being in love with God are so much greater than he planned on.
This week, we are invited into that place where fear is born, is nurtured and, if not careful, can take over. There is no singular phrase repeated more often in scripture than, “Fear not” (or, be not afraid). Is it because fear lies close to the core of our being and people for millennia have sought to wrestle and conquer it?
More particularly, the scripture readings this weekend are asking us to come to terms with the cost of living the Gospel of Christ. It requires that we first let go of the fear of death (our most primal fear), and to wrestle with the fear of change (our second most expressed fear – though some equate it to the fear of death). A portion of the Gospel tomorrow proclaims:
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
I don’t interpret this to mean Jesus wants me to hate my father, or a daughter to hate her mother and so on. I find here a warning that the high cost of loving God (and living the Gospel) demands changes in me that are uncomfortable – even upending. It may be even more dramatic than that: if our lives are NOT completely reformulated by the demands of the Gospel, then perhaps we are not doing it very well.
We hold so many things as necessary. So much in our lives has taken on the guise of truth, or the right way, the only way, or the way things are supposed to be. I believe that fear is the culprit when we find ourselves backed into a corner and defending this position. Please know that this isn’t wrong or even sinful. It is, I think, the natural position of humanity to become defensive rather than facing the unsettling consequences of reorganizing our thoughts, our beliefs.
Where fear may evolve into something sinful, however, is when we make a conscious decision and refuse to challenge our thoughts. In the reading from the letter to the Church in Rome this weekend, we are reminded that our baptism into the life of Christ has initiated us into a life free from fear, and reliant on the life-changing love of God in the actions of the Holy Spirit.
The people of St. John’s are coming close to a return to in-person worship. We will search out ways and volunteers to fill the many requirements for our return. It is a complicated road we are on, but it is one that so many of us are ready to mount and eager to trudge. As soon as we can muster the number of ministers and volunteers that we need, and when you feel safe to do so, we will be prepared to return.
In the meantime, be conscious of how fear might be playing in your heart and with your mind. Virus. Protests. Death. Change. These provoke fear in the most faithful people. Pray for the Spirit of Jesus who, when faced with the obstacles of doing the work of God and the threat of death said, “do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
We continue — and shall for the foreseeable future — to worship online on ZOOM. Morning Prayer at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We pray at night on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. In order to ensure online security the ZOOM links aren’t published, but it’s easy to get them; just email me and I’ll get them to you.
Godly Play for our youngest members continues on Sunday mornings, too, Email me for the link, please. Congratulations to our Godly Play student Sam, who is now a big brother to Sadie!