In the story of creation as described in the Book of Genesis, we read about Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, something which had been specifically denied them. Knowing that God is searching for them, they attempt to hide.
It is a scene perhaps reminiscent of the childhood of many of us when we had done something that we were not supposed to and we literally hid from our searching parents. Finally God finds them, as we know that He will, for, after all, where can we go to hide from God? God asks them why they are hiding. Do you remember the response that Adam gave: “Because, I was afraid.”
I think this very poignant story reminds us that fear is so basic to who we are as humans, it goes all the way back to the beginning of time. To be human is to experience fear.
In Germany in the Harz Mountains is a particular peak that is called the Brocken.
For centuries it was a place of dread, because of stories of a giant who lived on its top. These stories were verified by many travellers through the mountain range who had claimed to have seen him.
Then someone discovered this about the giant: he was only seen at sunrise and sunset… when the sun’s rays were horizontal.
Also – only when the Brocken was free of cloud.
What, of course, had been perceived to be a giant was only a magnified and distorted image traveller himself.
How often we tremble at our own reflections & flee at our own shadows.
Perhaps the most surprising fear of many people, and one that we do not like to address is the fear of God. It is the fear that God is not really on our side. It is the fear that God will put us out on a limb and leave us.
It is not a new idea. One of the great fears of the ancient people was that God would fall asleep. Can you imagine such a thing? When the prophets of Baal could not get their Gods to rain down fire on the top of Mt. Carmel, Elijah taunted them: Maybe your God is asleep, he said. On the other hand, the Jews took great comfort in the fact that the God of Israel neither slumbered nor slept.
Over and over again the message of the Bible is fear not. When Abram took his family to the Promised Land he feared that he was turning his back on everything he knew, his security for the unknown. God spoke to him: Fear not Abram, I am your shield and your reward will be great
When the Jews stood at the Red Sea and could see Pharaoh’s chariots coming on the horizon, they cried out that they would all be slaughtered. Moses said to them: Stand still, fear not, and see the salvation of the Lord.
When the angel of the Lord came to Mary and said that she would bear a child, she trembled with fear. What would become of her? Said the angel: Fear not Mary, for you have found favour with God.
Fear not! It is how we would like to live.
Into what kind of a world have our children been born? We look around us and we often despair, when we see what kind of a society we live in and what kind of a planet we inhabit. A dangerous and often desolate place.
There is much to be fearful about around us in this day and age.
But so there was also when the Gospels were written.
To anxious people in our day, Christ says, as he has said down trough the centuries to countless other fearful folk: “Do not be afraid; be of good courage!”
Regardless of what happens, God never deserts us. And as Christ says, “Remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”