Archive for the ‘Fear’ Tag

Devotion for January 29 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   12 comments

Above:  A Crucifix

Victory Over Shame

JANUARY 29, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 8:1-23

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

2 Timothy 1:1-18


Have no fear; take courage!

–Zechariah 8:13b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7, The New Jerusalem Bible


With this day the Lutheran daily lectionary I am following departs Romans and skips to 2 Timothy, an epistle of doubtful authorship.  It reads as if it comes from Paul during one of his imprisonments.  Yet sober scholarship raises questions about that traditional understanding.  I have no reason to doubt such sober scholarship.  Yet this weblog is more Benedictine in approach than not.  The Benedictine approach to scripture is to read it for formation.  As much as I respect academic analysis–especially of the Bible–I am a devotional writer, not a biblical scholar.

So we have Paul–or someone writing as Paul–addressing Timothy, a younger associate–indeed, an important figure in nascent Christianity.  Timothy was young, and his faith owed much to his mother and grandmother.  As I read the lection from 2 Timothy, the word “ashamed” attracted most of my attention.  Timothy was not supposed to be ashamed of his witness for God or of Paul, a prisoner.  And “Paul” was not ashamed of his incarceration, suffering, and witness for God.  And why not?

…because I know in whom I have put my trust, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to safeguard until that Day what I have entrusted to him.

–2 Timothy 1:12b, The New Jerusalem Bible

Shame and honor are social constructions.  One has shame or honor because others say so.  And often we humans, as social creatures, internalize these standards.  But Jesus overturned these standards by his life, death, and resurrection.  He associated with social outcasts, earned the enmity of many religious elites, and died as a criminal.  Then he did not remain dead.  This demonstrated that, among other things, he was beyond the power of those who had attempted to shame him.

The exiles whom Zechariah addressed knew shame.  Yet they would become a blessing to the nations.  Thus they were to take courage and have no fear because of what God would do.  This was not cheap grace.  No, the people were, among other things, to

Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one one another, and do not love perjury…..

–Zechariah 8:16-17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Divine grace requires us to become vehicles thereof.  We cannot do this as long as we live fearfully and bound by human concepts of shame and honor.  We are at our worst when we are fearful.  At such times selfishness and cruelty are most prominent in us.  And the cross of Christ was scandalous by Jewish and Roman standards.  One who died on a tree was cursed, the Law of Moses said.  And crucifixion was a Foucaultian (to use an anachronistic adjective) method of execution designed to make an example of one and to cause shame and humiliation.  Yet the cross has become the main Christian symbol, a sign of victory.

By grace and free will (mostly grace, thanks to which we have free will), may our lives reflect this victory.










Fourth Day of Epiphany   9 comments


Image Source = D. Sharon Pruitt

No Fear

JANUARY 9, 2023


1 John 4:11-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

My dear friends,

if God loved us so much,

we too should love one another.

No one has ever seen God,

but as long as we love another

God remains in us

and his love comes to its perfection in us.

This is the proof that we remain in him

and he in us,

that he has given us a share in his Spirit.

We ourselves have seen and testify

that the Father sent his Son

as Saviour of the world.

Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,

God remains in him and he is God.

We have recognized for ourselves,

and put our faith in, the love God has for us.

God is love,

and whoever remains in love remains in God

and God in him.

Love comes to its perfection in us

when we can face the Day of Judgment fearlessly,

because even in this world

we have become as he is.

In love there is no room for fear,

but perfect love casts out fear,

because fear implies punishment

and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love.

Let us love, then,

because he first loved us.

Psalm 72:1-2, 10b-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

so that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts;

all kings will do him homage,

all nations become his servants.

For he rescues the needy who calls to him,

and the poor who has no one to help.

He has pity on the weak and the needy,

and saves the needy from death.

Mark 6:45-52 (New Jerusalem Bible):

And at once he [Jesus] made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side near Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away.  After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray.  When evening came, the boat was far out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  He could see that they were hard pressed in their rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea.  He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke to them and said,

Courage!  It’s me!  Don’t be afraid.

Then he got into the boat with them and the wind dropped.  They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Fear can have certain advantages.  For example, I fear the negative consequences of touching hot objects.  So fear protects me in such cases.  Yet fear, when turned against self and others, can cause great harm to self and others.

When I grew up my father imparted pearls of wisdom.  Among them was this:  We fear what we do not understand, and we hate what we fear.  History confirms this.  I point, for example, to interreligious strife rooted in misconceptions, as well as to how many parents and students mistreated Ryan White in the 1980s, the early years of AIDS as a major news story.  The scientists had determined how one does and does not contract AIDS by then, but this fact did not prevent people from acting cruelly toward a hemophiliac teenager and gentle soul.

Out of fear agents of my nation have tortured people, an immoral act which endangers the United States further.  Out of fear people have overgeneralized and blamed innocent people for the crimes of others.  On September 11, 2001, I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.  Campus police officers had to protect exchange students from certain nations, for these pupils were potential targets of revenge attacks.  They had done nothing!

But love casts out fear.  God casts out fear.  Let us follow the path of love and God.


Written on June 8, 2010