The Last Word

Acts 18:5-11; I Corinthians 2:1-5

I’ve been spending lots of time over these last few months thinking about the ways in which fear has been shaping the lives, the worldviews, the mind and spirit set of our children. When I was a kid the great existential threat we faced as a nation and world was the specter of nuclear holocaust. We were locked in The Cold War with the Soviet Union and there was much chatter about who might or might not “push the button”. It was a frightening time. Lots of talk of the impending Apocalypse in churches. But a few years later, nuclear disarmament agreements were signed and around 1989-1990 The Cold War came to an end. We left that collective angst behind and moved forward with hope into a brighter future.

Things have changed. And I’m not quite sure when this change set in. Technology and social media have played a large role. Our world is much smaller than it used to be. We are aware of what’s going on all around the globe in a way we just weren’t when most of us were kids. Today, our kids are graphically aware that endless wars sweep our planet. They know about famines and genocide happening in real time. They are painfully in tune with gun violence in schools. They see and hear about the natural disasters unfolding at unprecedented rates.

I was so sad that hours after our country learned about the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian general Soleimani, World War III began trending and the selective service website actually crashed because so many parents and young adults were trying to find information about the draft. Both of my kids came home talking about the draft and World War III in connection with conversations they were a part of in school. That there might be a World War III is only too believable for them based on all the dystopian literature they read and all they see unfolding around them daily.

And this landscape of fear is having a pretty major impact. Among our children and youth, we’re seeing a lot more anxiety, a lot more depression, a lot more suicide. We’re also seeing a lot more teenage activism. And I love this movement. Agree with them or not, it is an expression of health for our kids to be facing their fears and taking action to defeat them by working towards positive changes in society, defiantly and boldly embracing hope.

Sometimes there are things we feel very strongly about and we wish scripture would say a whole lot more to back us up on our opinions. Sometimes scripture talks quite a lot on certain issues we wish it would be quieter about. And sometimes scripture speaks loudly and repeatedly the exact words we want to hear. Though fear’s voice seems a little louder today, our struggles with fear and the way fear manipulates us, makes us dance like a puppet on strings – this is nothing new. We have struggled with fear forever. Thankfully, scripture speaks often, in its entirety, on the topic of fear. The conclusion, in a nutshell: the only thing we have to fear is God.

Leading into this morning’s message, a collection of gospel verses were read that have Jesus addressing both fear and worry – two feelings that often bleed into each other. One of the things I find interesting about these verses is that the people experiencing fear or worry have every right to feel those things. We do worry about putting food on the table, paying rent or the mortgage. If we didn’t worry about tomorrow, there wouldn’t be much need for insurance of any kind. Martha was worried about making sure the evening went well, with guests…with Jesus (!) at her house. We can relate. And the