Of what are you afraid By its very notion we often don’t know of what we are afraid because fear is predominated by lack of knowledge. We fear because we do not know or understand.
When we know something is going to be painful we fear less. Fear of the unknown is the major issue. For most people it is the fear of death, fear of change in their lives which frequently is like a death experience, or at least saying good bye to one way of life that was understood to embrace another way of life that is not yet formed.
This fear of death is the ultimate. with a healthy fear of death others smaller fears remain just that, small and insignificant. The problem lies with Christianity. By its very nature we are not afraid of death, because death is not ultimate, death is not the end of the story, it is simply another beginning. Yet before death humanity needs to address every stage of life in life.
Many strange people in adulthood are strange because they have missed out a stage in their growing up and then regress to that stage at a less appropriate age in later life. So I missed my twenties because I was training to be Priest and then was a Priest, so it’ll probably be that in my 60’s I start listening to Dylan and smoking Pot.
So just as we need to experience every stage in life so we must also experience fear. But if we don’t fear death, what do we fear? That is the problem. If we don’t fear the big thing, then we begin to fear the small things, the inconsequential things, the petty things and the Church does this very well, it is a hotbed for disrespectful petty things. So because we don’t worry about death we worry about what type of service we have, we worry about where the service is, what time the service is and a whole myriad of other things to which people look at us and say “really?”
When was the last time you signed a petition against poverty, against the privatisation of the NHS, against the killing of Whales, Rhino’s. The Church has as its identity, in the UK the fact that it is more hung up with who and who not can become a priest than prayer. It worries more about liturgy than the prayer which ironically is the driving force behind liturgy. Although things are planned it isn’t worth getting anxious or frustrated over. The essence of our liturgy is prayer, the essence of prayer is to grow closer to God’s love and the essence and clearest form of Gods love is the love we share with one another. If we are worrying about things that no one outside of Church understands, then we are are worrying about the wrong things.We are called to worry about our communities, to quote Archbishop Temple, the Church is the only organisation set up for the benefit of its non-members. So our concerns should be the concerns of them out there- and for many in this community it is how are they going to afford the school uniform? is their child safe? how are they going to afford childcare for the holidays? They worry about mental health, drug overdoses, and what do we worry about.
No wonder Churches are empty and we are seen as increasingly irrelevant. So we need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions why do we come to Church? How does it help others that we come to Church? how do we change lives for the better that we come to Church? what does church do for the wider community? We cannot be afraid of the small inconsequential things like Change. John Henry Newman said- “To live is to change and to be perfect is to change often.” Everything about our liturgy, the building, our governance should be different every seven years as we reflect the needs of our community. Instead in essence we are still the same Church that we were 150 years ago, the apostles would be turning in their graves, what was the point of radically changing the way that religion was done 2000 yrs ago only then to protect that change instead of letting it continuously evolve and adapt. We have become pharisaical so the ultimate question is, what is the point? So I ask, in the words of Jesus, of what are you afraid?