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Saturday
Sep032016

Having Jesus in Your Heart 99

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” Matthew 28:5-10

“A person who comes suddenly from their own life into a life which is in some degree spiritual, are at first afraid, but are renewed by the Lord. This renewal develops by means of the presence of the Divine, and the fear on that account is adapted to reception. The Lord is indeed present with all in the universe, but nearer and more remotely, according to the [goodness they have] from Him. [So if His] presence is in excess, it causes anguish and tremor. When His presence is adapted to the person’s ability to receive, His presence produces renewal.” Apocalypse Explained §80

"All trial carries with it some kind of despair; otherwise it is not a trial. So consolation follows. Anyone who is being tested becomes anxious, and the anxiety causes a state of despair over the outcome. The actual struggle is nothing else. Those who are sure of victory feel no anxiety, so they face no test. Because the Lord endured the most dreadful, fiercest trials of all, he too was inevitably driven to despair, a despair he was to overcome and dispel by his own power." Secrets of Heaven §1787

 

Most of us fear snakes, or spiders, or the dark, or getting lost. This physiological reaction is wired into us for our own survival. We are created this way by God to avoid danger. The angel at the empty tomb, and Jesus alive in the garden, is not talking about being scared of something that will hurt us when he says, “Don’t be afraid.” So we can put that point aside.

We are repeatedly told in the Word of God to develop and hold on to a fear of God. This is a dramatic way of describing a way of being that holds the Lord’s goodness and truth in such high regard that we live in a sacred covenant to obey the Lord. That is holy fear. The angel and Jesus are not advocating the rejection of God’s love and wisdom; that we are not to have this sacred covenant with the Lord. So we can put that idea aside for now.

When Jesus was in the garden praying just three days earlier than the story we read, he was praying so hard, we are told, that his sweat was blood. He repeatedly begged for another way. As we read that story his fear is palpable. This was the worst temptation battle that Jesus ever experienced. So three days later he does not tell the women that he should not have been afraid, that he had succumbed to a merely mortal foible. So what Jesus experienced as fear is not the issue here.

So God and all his messengers must be speaking of an advancement, an evolution, a regeneration, a transformation, of our spiritual and so natural lives when they tell us “Do not fear.”

The process begins when we notice our upset, our worry, our despair. And what is wonderful is that this actually and invitation to be transformed, applicable to all of us, each of us, in any and every circumstance. The Lord has created this process so that when we notice that we are afraid, soimething begins to happen, a process can start. Your fear is what stops you from living with integrity, authenticity, serenity and, on target (which we say of “sin” which means missing the mark). So for a moment, consider what interferes with your joy today. And don’t limit yourself to the mundane, like your car breaking down. Notice an upset, worry or disheartening thought or feeling. Something you know the Lord sees as interfering with your joy, such that he would say “Don’t do that.”

The angel and Jesus both said “Don’t be this way,” and then tells you how to be. Every time the Bible says “Fear not,” there is a simple declaration of how to be. And I note here the simplicity of this makes me laugh. It is ridiculous that God would expect me just to stop being a certain way! And as I meditate on that chuckle, I discover it allows me in that moment to suspend belief in my own, habitual, old solutions and practices which have not relieved my fear. In that moment I am open to another idea. Perhaps you have already caught yourself in a smile, even if inwardly, at the irrational and foolish notion this suggestion is, that the Lord would simply declare that we change.

Our transformation is not going to happen according to our rational, cognitive processing. For as we know, when we are startled there is a physiological impulse to act automatically to defend our well being. So the Lord is telling us that a corresponding process happens in our spirit. When you notice that something you are worried about is interfering with your joy, and you say to yourself, “Well, that makes no sense,” you can stop and listen to the Lord for a new way of being, a new reaction to the circumstance, the fear.

So the angel says, “Don’t be afraid, he is not here.” Consider this: moments of fear, worry, despair, may happen because you are looking for the wrong solution, or you are looking in the wrong place. Perhaps you are worried about your children’s welfare. That is a live one for me. What is the fear you are considering? The angel has told me “Don’t be afraid” about your children’s welfare. And I chuckle, with an inner, wry grin. And I watch myself be that way. And I stop that thought and consider the elements of the fear, and I realize that I want my children to never feel fear or sadness. And I notice that I want to be in their lives, actually that I want to be in control of their lives, so that I can protect them from all harm! This impossible task is the origin of my fear. It is irrational and unreasonable. And I can chuckle at it. How silly of me to think that I can control my children’s lives and so prevent their harm. It is distracting me, grabbing my attention. There is nothing I can do to achieve that control. However, the work I do of letting go of control leads to being not afraid.

Jesus says to the women, “Don’t be afraid, you will see me in Galilee.” We are all like those women. They represent the inner states we all experience. So do not disparage your fear by saying it is not as bad as theirs. Rather, note the causes of their fear so that you can identify them in yourself, and be receptive of the resolution Jesus offers.

So the women had placed all their devotion in the ascendence of Jesus Christ to the throne of Israel. They had their hearts filled with his message of unconditional love and acceptance of everyone. Daily, their senses were filled with light, warmth, beauty and delightful aromas. Of course, they had been challenged all along, but almost every day Jesus had said or done something that lifted their hopes. The hard work and depravation were not unfamiliar, anyway. But Jesus was going to make a difference, he was going to change that world! He was going to be King! After all, he was the Messiah!

And, then for all that, now he had been murdered and buried hastily without the full ritual. Their grief compelled them to risk capture at the tomb; to go there, in the dark, without a plan. And when they got there, what they found was not at all what they expected. Their intention was foiled! Their fear and anguish multiplied, and then confused with a new hope given by the angel. The angel gave them a new plan, not of their making, without their thought or intention. In the midst of their distress at their plan failing, shocked that their expectations were dashed, then they saw the angel! No wonder we are told they were feeling joy and fear! But he years of devotion to Jesus prepared them to open their hearts to this message, offering a resolution to their fear and grief. All they could do was impulsively rush back to the safe house to deliver the message.

And then, lo and behold, there was Jesus himself! (I have had a few times in my life when despair has this quickly turned into relief. Perhaps you have, and remember the rush of adrenaline that makes your heart race, and tears come to your eyes.) Their impulse is appropriate – they fall to their knees and put their hands on his feet, continuing their worship of the man who would save them from injustice, handicap, sickness and even untimely death. And Jesus repeats the direction: “Don’t be afraid.” And again I chuckle at dichotomy I feel between this simple directive is the resolution to all my life of doubt and worry! It does not make rational sense. His resolution: go back to the beginning, the origin, and you will see the reality, the true me.

God knows very well what drives the process of our transformation he is describing as “not being afraid.” There is first our realizing the errors of our assumptions and the inadequacy of our solutions. What is difficult is that we have to acknowledge our mistake before we know the fix. This is difficult. We have to let go of our ideas and out feelings. So we have to practice looking, because our normal attention is on the circumstances in the world and on the future. Our brains, and so our thoughts and feelings, are being hijacked by our worry for the way the world is, or what might happen soon, to us and our loved ones. Our anxiety is quite understandable. But being manipulated by that worry interferes with our joy. And this is what Jesus means when he says, “Don’t be afraid.”

We are told why fixing our attention only on what is outside and around our spirits causes this way of being. It blocks our experience of the presence of the Lord. In the terms of New Church theology, whenever we are being merely natural or external, we will be afraid. We will be afraid for our personal safety, the well being of our loved ones, the survival of our society, and the future of the planet. Whenever we are merely materialistic and worldly, we will look for solutions to the problems we experience are the causes of our fears. But, God knows, those circumstances are not the cause of our fears. Rather, it is our way of being, our spiritual state, that allows the fear to rise in our minds, taking over, and grabbing our attention. This is why the Lord keeps telling us “Do not be afraid.”

God knows the desperate straits we are in. He knows the world is going to hell in a hand basket. He knows the threats that face us individually and collectively. And, as many people inspired by God have pointed out: the solutions are found only by rising above the conditions that caused the problems. So, too, rising above the fear, letting go of our assumptions, allows the divinely ordained process of transformation to proceed. Only then do we overcome the fear that stops us from loving ourselves and others unconditionally, from owning our way of being, from rising above the circumstances of our life, from seeing into the future of joy and peace that is the destiny of every single human on the planet.

The task before us does not require superhuman effort. There is the simple, yet difficult, individual practice of mindful observation of our thoughts and feelings. And then there is the necessary support we give each other in a community committed to unconditional love, an acceptance of each other, a mutual reach for a relationship with each other and with God. Let us all the time, look into each other’s eyes, and hold each other’s hearts, and intentionally, knowingly, offer the encouraging directive: “Be not afraid.”

 

 

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