First Word, April 7th: The Litany Against Fear

By April 7, 2020First Word

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” (‘Litany Against Fear’, Dune)

There is a lot of fear in our world right now. Fear of getting sick. Fear in the face of losing one’s source of income. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death. Yet, through all this, I keep hearing the voice of the angel in Matthew 28, saying “Do not be afraid…”. But really, how easy is it to just “not fear”? Sometimes it feels impossible.

The angel’s words seem to go against everything we hear in popular culture. Right now many of us are being bombarded with social media posts and memes likening current events to the end of the world. News sources are littered with ever-rising death counts, infection rates, lack of supplies, and more. The constancy with which many of us see these things is mind-boggling. It hurts just a little bit, doesn’t it? “Fear is the mind-killer.”

But consider this: when the angel says “Do not be afraid,” it is not so much a command as it is a reassurance. We, like the women at the tomb, are allowed to be afraid, but we are also to be reassured by the promise of resurrection. The passage continues, “…for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has Risen!” The Litany Against Fear says “I will face my fear, I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.” Jesus took the form of a human, just like you and I. Jesus died. Think about that for a minute. Jesus DIED. And if you take it from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 27:46), he was afraid to die. Just like so many of us. But the promise of Easter is that, in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are redeemed. So how about we change the context of the Litany Against Fear? If fear is the mind-killer, but God, through Jesus, is the bringer of new-life, then fear is not the end. When we face our fears, knowing that our lives are in the hands of God, then “Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only [God] will remain.”

Yes, we are looking ahead to an Easter that doesn’t really “make sense” to our usual context. There will be no mass gatherings. We will not be in the ornate sanctuary settings we are used to. Things will be different. And that is just one more sadness on top of everything else right now. But remember, it is okay to be sad, to be scared. The Good News of Easter is that fear – dare I say, even death – is not the end. Trust in God, and may you find a new resurrection from each of your fearful little deaths each day.

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John is a former FLBC counselor, now living in Anchorage, AK. Growing up, John came to FLBC regularly with his parents, both ELCA pastors. Now 24, John is the Young Adult delegate on the Synod Council for the Alaska Synod of the ELCA, as well as an active member of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, in Anchorage. Currently, John is filling his social-distancing time by producing much of the virtual worship content for his church, spending time with his family and catching up on Netflix.

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