Today's Lectionary Text
1 John 4:16-21
So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate a brother or sister are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
To quote the great Indiana Jones, “I hate snakes!” I empathize greatly with Professor Jones, because on the list of things I’m afraid of, snakes are probably number one. When I go to the zoo, shivers run down my spine when I walk by exhibits with snakes. My brain knows they are behind many layers of glass and could not hurt me, but fear and worry take over.
So, imagine my surprise when at the Transition into Ministry (TiM) retreat, one of our sessions included snakes. The presenter, Blake Stanwood, had a bag of three snakes and slowly showed each of the snakes. I was just grateful I was sitting as far away from the snakes as I possibly could.
Blake continued with his presentation and began to talk about fear, and how we fear what we do not know. If anything, the way he discussed these snakes didn’t make me fearful at all, instead I wanted to see them up close. When he asked for volunteers, my hand was raised and then a snake was placed around my neck, something I never thought in a million years I would ever feel comfortable to do. I went out of my comfort zone to hold this snake, but for me it was less about my own fear of snakes, it was the reminder of who are the people in my life I’ve refused to get to know out of fear or lack of understanding?
There are those I write off because I do not understand them, and I am afraid to reach out and learn. In this moment I thought if I can hold a snake, an animal I fear, I can reach out to anyone and overcome my bias and fears. I need to do that work, to ensure I do not let my fear take over from forming real meaningful relationships. Now, I will not repeat Indiana Jones’ phrase “I hate snakes,” because they are beautiful creatures and I want to understand and learn more about them, instead of casting them out.
-Pastor Maddi Baugous
Omaha First UMC
Prayer for Reflection
God of diversity, give us courage to overcome our fears to learn from your creation and to see all people as wonderful and beautiful. Together we pray, Amen.
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