Fear, Faith, and Love: The Rock – Building a House for Storm and Calm

Matthew 7:24-29

Learning to Build: Hearing and Doing Jesus Words
We've talked about fear, anxiety, and love. Now let's think together about building. Jesus uses the image of two builders as the climax of the Sermon on the Mount. One person hears Jesus' words and does them. Another hears and does not do them. He says it's the difference between a house founded in bedrock and one sitting on sand. The fearsome storms hit both. One stands. The other collapses. "Doing" Jesus' words is the difference! How? Is this Grace?
This "doing" is not "earning;" it is participating: Jesus' words / life become my own real life.
It reflects our unity as embodied creatures (as Jesus came in body) uniting mind and action. Doing also changes the way we hear: Hearing a chef's recipe on TV or really cooking the dish. We come to know and trust God's love in Jesus, abide in it, complete that love -- boldness! It's a process: We hear and do. We listen again; we do more. We abide, grow, share life.

Fear, Faith, and Love: “Perfect?” The Love that Throws Fear Out

1 John 4:7-21

Fearless Love in a Fear-filled World
“Fearless?” We live as vulnerable physical creatures in a dangerous world. Death is part of being human. In our bodies, in our circumstance, we’re often beset by anxieties. We all struggle.
1 John 4:18a (ESV) “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear!” It’s strange to say! In common experience, love and fear/anxiety can be close companions. “Love” often means someone/thing has become deeply important to me. I need it/them. My “love” creates fear that I might lose the beloved. Love is deep emotional vulnerability. I hover, protect, worry!
What does John mean? Many in his day advised keeping distance from emotional ties as the way to life without fear. But he stresses love! Maybe I don’t have “perfect love.” A new fear! John challenges us, but not to perfectionism. He calls us to participation in God’s life/love.

Fear, Faith, and Love: “Don’t Worry!” Looking at Life with Anxiety

Philippians 4:4-7,11-13

Anxiety, Vulnerability and A Secret
Anxiety, worry, fear is a deep problem of human life. What can "Fearless" mean? Anxiety tends to point to uncertainty of many kinds. Often magnified in my own mind. Fear of loss of control or unfettered choice. I create worst case scenarios. Merging into anxiety disorders/phobias.

It's amazing that Paul in prison, uncertain of sentence, can say, "Don't be anxious about anything." Or that Jesus, talking to poor farmers and laborers, says "Don't be anxious about your life."

What can they mean? We all are vulnerable to death, disease, danger -- the human condition! Paul himself is explicit not only on the dangers he faced but also the worries that plagued him. We today are far healthier/wealthier/long-lived than ancients, but still we all worry and all die.

Fear, Faith, and Love: “Don’t You Care?” - Fear in the Storms of Life

Mark 4:35-41

Can I be Fearless in a World full of Fear?
Our retreat theme starts from the word “Fearless.” What can that mean? Fear has myriad forms. We all experience fear. It’s built into us as creatures (Gen 3:10 “I was afraid.”). Fear touches every scale of life from war and terrorism, to pollution and ferocious weather, to injustice and corruption in society, to unemployment and poverty, to broken relationships and loss of one we love, to our children’s future and our own death, to failure in doing something and peer pressure, to flying and germs, to what friends will think if I wear this. Even the best things bring fear.
You are the only expert in your own fears. The experience of fear is a given. Fear is not a sin. But our experiences of fear teach us that it can be awful and disabling. It distorts reality and often produces bad responses to situations. We want to avoid it and will do almost anything to keep fear at bay. Fear often isolates us, makes us strike out, and see others in the worst light.

Living Expectantly: Christ’s Birth & Grown-ups

Isaiah 11:1-9

A Branch from a Stump
We’re reflecting on some important passages in Isaiah’s prophecies that resonate powerfully in the birth and life of Jesus. We began with the sign of the birth of a child: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (7:14); “to us a child is born, to us a son is given (9:6). God’s unique creative power breaking in to begin new life: Sarah & Isaac...Mary & Jesus. 
But in Isaiah’s day, with faithless king Ahaz, it wasn’t enough. He wanted military help now, not God’s promises with whatever signs. It was the superpower Assyria who could bring in the god of war. Ahaz sold his nation and religion to Assyria for immediate war help.