Friday, April 07, 2017

God Hears Our Voices

Michelangelo, Jeremiah,
Sistine Chapel,
Public Domain,
Wikimedia Commons

By Colleen O’Sullivan

I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine… But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion. (Jeremiah 20:10ab, 11a)

In my distress, I called upon the Lord
and cried out to my God;
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears. (Psalm 18:7)

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” (Jesus said,) “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:31-33, 37-38)

May the words of the psalmist be ours as well: I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. (Psalm 18:2-3a)

Fear. We all know what it feels like. The quickened pulse, the clenched gut, the dry mouth, the cold sweat. The sense of impending doom.

Jeremiah was afraid. Maybe this was where his life was going to end. God had appointed him to turn God’s people away from their worship of idols and back to the one true God. But now the prophet was hearing people mutter against him everywhere he went. He was despised. Even his friends had deserted him, mocking his preaching and plotting his death.

Jesus, too, must have been afraid. No longer were the Jews merely trying to trap him with clever discussions/arguments. Now they wanted to stone him to death, because he referred to himself as the Son of God. To be sure, he still had his friends and many others who continued to seek him out, but they weren’t in positions of power. He had tried to no avail to reason with those who seemed all too eager to cast the first stone.  He was able to slip away on this occasion before even a pebble was thrown. But he must have known his days were numbered and that eventually disappearing into the crowd or escaping under cover of night would cease to be an option.

At some point God has asked or will ask each of us to do something that takes us out of our comfort zone. It will be the right thing to do but not necessarily the easy thing. Maybe it will be to carry a cross of some sort. Perhaps it will entail defending the poor or the stranger in our midst, when that’s not the popular stance to take. Maybe it will be to stand up for what’s right in God’s eyes even if your family, friends and co-workers think you’ve lost your mind.

How do we do this? Where do we find the courage and the support? The same place Jeremiah and Jesus found it – in the God who is our rock and our strength. We can be afraid and, at the same time, remain faithful to our calling. Courage isn’t about being unafraid; it’s about doing what God has placed before us even when we are scared to death.  We will have ample opportunity to witness this in Jesus during Holy Week as we walk with him from his entrance into the holy city to the Upper Room, as we watch and pray with him at Gethsemane and as we trudge beside him to Golgotha.

Today’s Scripture readings touch on fear, but they are far more about where to turn when we are afraid. When in your life has God asked you to move outside your comfort zone? Of what or whom were you afraid? Did you turn to God for the strength to be faithful?

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