Fear or faith?

Second Sunday in Lent (February 28, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Gen. 15:1-18; Ps. 27; Phil. 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

It has been raining here for the last three days — a wonderful blessing in this part of the world! Normally, the rainy season is from November through February, with no rain the rest of the year. But the last several winters, rainfall has been below normal and Jordan is among the top five countries in the world for water scarcity.

Geraniums outside our home soak up the winter rains

This week we wrapped up details for MCC’s fiscal year that ends February 28, paying out grants and getting reports in order. We also prepared for an MCC learning tour that will arrive from Manitoba on Sunday. We will spend the next two weeks with this group in Palestine/Israel.

Rain-washed streets in Jebal Webdah, our neighborhood in Amman

In the region this week, Israel announced that it has a fleet of unmanned aircraft that are capable of reaching Gulf countries, including Iran. Israel has been critical of Iran’s nuclear program, asserting that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and occasionally threatening a military response. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes – energy and medical needs. The Israeli drones are able to fly for up to 20 hours and can be used for surveillance or for firing missiles.

Israeli Heron TP drones with a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737 (AFP photo)

The Common Lectionary readings for this second week of Lent are about fear and faith. Ultimately, the choice between fear and faith comes down to whether or not we trust God’s promises to protect us and provide for us.

In the Old Testament reading, God appears to Abram in a vision and says, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen. 15:1) At the time, Abram is old, childless and concerned about his legacy. God promises to make his descendants as numerous as the stars. In spite of his seemingly hopeless circumstances, Abram believes God. (v.6)

Even when evildoers assail him (Ps. 27:2), an army encamps against him (v.3) and false witnesses breathe out violence against him (v.12), the psalmist chooses not to be afraid because God is his light and salvation and the stronghold of his life (v.1). “God will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble,” declares the psalmist (v.5), “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”(v.13)

In the Epistle reading, Paul writes that there are many enemies of the cross of Christ whose minds are set on earthly things (Phil. 3:18). And yet, people of faith are to stand firm in the Lord (4:1) because our citizenship is in heaven from where we are expecting a Savior (3:20).

In the Gospel reading, some Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod is trying to kill him. (Lk. 13:31). But rather than being afraid, Jesus is focused on his mission of teaching, healing and seeking to restore people to God (vv.32-34).

People of faith are not exempted from hardship. God told Abram that his descendants would be oppressed for four hundred years in a foreign country. The psalmist was threatened many times by his enemies. Jesus was eventually killed.

There are many situations — in daily life and on the global scene — that can fill us with fright. It is precisely in times that we must choose whether to believe God’s promises of protection and provision. It is this choice that determines whether we live in fear or act in faith.

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