The Rev. Janice Ford, Rector
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
5 North Main Street, Webster, MA
On Monday, the 11th, I will be heading to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with my family for six days of vacation. I am very excited to be going. I've not spent much time out west, and I know that where we are going is one of the most beautiful places in the country, with some of the very best skiing as well. I used to downhill ski--though not very well--but I stopped about fifteen years ago when I fell and ended up with a slight concussion (that was before an adult wearing a helmet was considered the smart thing to do). So now, here I am, heading to one of the best places in the country for downhill skiing, and I am scared to death to try it again.
It is certainly a good thing for us to be cautious about those things that can hurt us physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. In those instances, fear can be a safe-guard to disaster. After all, God never told anyone to be stupid! However, as we are in the season of Lent, it is good for us to consider the things we fear that will not harm us, but rather represent challenges to us.
I believe that one of the biggest fears many Christians have is to truly embrace the words of the Great Commission: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20a)
This is a very clear and direct mandate Jesus has given to us. There isn't much room for dissent or differing interpretation. It is what it is. It is also a huge job--one that easily engenders fear in us. It is too big a mandate. What if we don't know how to do it? What if we do it incorrectly? What if we don't think we are capable? What if we suffer a modern day brand of persecution because we do it? Too many "what if's," so we just shrink back in fear, and begin a litany of reasons why we simply cannot take it on.
Here's the good news--and thankfully, there is always Good News--there is a second part to verse 20: "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b). In those few words, Jesus tells us what we need to hear. Though the mandate is a difficult one, he will be present with us as we take it on. We do not need to fear, for God will direct us. We simply need to be open to trying, and God will take care of the rest.
I’m fairly certain I won’t do any downhill skiing in Jackson Hole. In this case my fear is well-founded, and common sense will prevail. However, when it comes to following Jesus’ mandate, I trust that God will give me and all of us the courage we need to face our fears and do as God has asked.