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JOHN 14:1, 27 | FEAR’S THE WAY WE DIE; HOPE IS HOW WE LIVE

FEAR’S THE WAY WE DIE,

HOPE IS HOW WE LIVE

JOHN 14:1, 27

OCTOBER 11, 1205

 

THE FIRST INAUGURATION OF FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT AS THE 32ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WAS HELD ON SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 1933.

 

IT WAS THE LAST INAUGURATION TO BE HELD ON THE PRESCRIBED DATE OF MARCH 4TH.  UNDER THE TERMS OF THE TWENTIETH AMENDMENT ALL SUBSEQUENT INAUGURATIONS HAVE TAKEN PLACE ON JANUARY 20TH.

 

WITH THE NATION IN THE GRIPS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION, THE NEW PRESIDENT’S INAUGURAL SPEECH WAS AWAITED WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION.

 

BROADCAST NATIONWIDE ON SEVERAL RADIO NETWORKS, THE SPEECH WAS HEARD BY TENS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.

 

THE SWEARING IN TOOK PLACE ON THE EAST PORTICO OF THE CAPITOL.

 

ROOSEVELT TOOK THE OATH OF OFFICE WITH HIS HAND ON HIS FAMILY BIBLE, OPENED TO I CORINTHIANS 13 (WHAT CHRISTIANS HAVE LONG CALLED THE LOVE CHAPTER).

 

THE BIBLE, PUBLISHED IN 1686 IN DUTCH, REMAINS THE OLDEST BIBLE EVER USED FOR AN INAUGURAL CEREMONY, AS WELL AS THE ONLY ONE NOT IN ENGLISH.

 

MINUTES AFTER TAKING THE OATH OF OFFICE, ROOSEVELT SPOKE THESE NOW FAMOUS WORDS FOR WHICH THIS SPEECH IS BEST KNOWN:

 

“SO, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME ASSERT MY FIRM BELIEF THAT THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS… FEAR ITSELF — NAMELESS, UNREASONING, UNJUSTIFIED TERROR WHICH PARALYZES NEEDED EFFORTS TO CONVERT RETREAT INTO ADVANCE.

 

IN EVERY DARK HOUR OF OUR NATIONAL LIFE A LEADERSHIP OF FRANKNESS AND OF VIGOR HAS MET WITH THAT UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO VICTORY.  AND I AM CONVINCED THAT YOU WILL AGAIN GIVE THAT SUPPORT TO LEADERSHIP IN THESE CRITICAL DAYS.”

 

NOTHING TO FEAR – WITH HIS HAND ON THE BIBLE – OPENED TO THE LOVE CHAPTER – AND SEEKING A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION AND ITS LEADERS.

 

ROOSEVELT, OF COURSE, WAS TALKING MOSTLY ABOUT LEADING THE NATION OUT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION; LITTLE DID HE KNOW THAT THE STORM CLOUDS OF WORLD WAR II WERE ALREADY BEGINNING TO GATHER ON THE FAR HORIZON.

 

“THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR… IS FEAR ITSELF.”

 

FEAR IS, PERHAPS, ONE OF OUR MOST PRIMAL INSTINCTS.

 

MANY CHILDREN ARE AFRAID OF THE DARK; OR OF IMAGINARY MONSTERS UNDER THEIR BED; OR OF BEING SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS;

 

YOU SHOULD HEAR IT AROUND OUR CHILDCARE CENTER FOR THE FIRST MONTH OR SO OF SCHOOL AS SOME CHILDREN CRY THEIR EYES OUT FOR THE FIRST FEW MINUTES, UNTIL THEY ADJUST TO MOM AND DAD LEAVING THEM AT SCHOOL.

 

OUR LIST OF FEARS IS LONG AND VARIED; SPIDERS AND SNAKES; HEIGHTS AND CLOSED IN PLACES; CROWDS AND CLOWNS; SHOTS AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE AND PUBLIC SPEAKING.

 

SOME FEARS BORDER ON PHOBIA, AND IF WE DO NOT SUFFER FROM ANY OF THESE, IT IS HARD FOR US TO COMPREHEND THE CRIPPLING EFFECTS OF SUCH FEARS FOR THOSE WHO DO.

 

IN MANY CASES OUR FEARS SERVE US WELL, SAY, WHEN THEY COME IN THE FORM OF A HEALTHY RESPECT FOR SOMETHING THAT CAN HURT US:

 

WE ARE CAREFUL WHEN CROSSING THE STREET, SWIMMING ALONE, DRIVING AT NIGHT, OR DOING OUR OWN ELECTRICAL REPAIRS.

 

ONCE BURNED BY ABUSE AT THE HANDS OF SOMEONE WHO SUPPOSEDLY LOVES US, WE ARE TWICE LEARNED ABOUT GETTING INTO SIMILAR RELATIONSHIPS AGAIN.

 

KNOWING THAT THEIR ADDICTIONS CAN COST THEM EVERYTHING, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE, BRAVE PEOPLE STRUGGLE EVERYDAY TO REMAIN SOBER AND IN CONTROL OF THEIR LIVES.

 

AS MUCH AS OUR FEARS CAN CRIPPLE SOME US, PARALYZING US EMOTIONALLY, PSYCHOLOGICALLY, EVEN PHYSICALLY;

 

FOR OTHERS FEAR IS THEIR MOTIVATION AND INSPIRATION.

 

IT IS WHAT DRIVES THEM TO SCALE SHEAR CLIFFS FREESTYLE, DIVE FROM GREAT HEIGHTS, FLY AIRPLANES – OR EVEN IN THOSE WINGED SUITS, OR JUMP OUT OF PERFECTLY GOOD AIRPLANES WITH PARACHUTES.

FOR MANY IT IS THE THRILL OF OVERCOMING THEIR FEARS THAT PUSHES THEM TO GREATER AND GREATER CHALLENGES AND ACHIEVEMENTS.

 

BUT THE DEADLIEST FEARS ARE THOSE OF WHICH ROOSEVELT SPOKE:

 

“NAMELESS, UNREASONING, UNJUSTIFIED TERROR WHICH PARALYZES NEEDED EFFORTS TO CONVERT RETREAT INTO ADVANCE.”

 

BECAUSE OUR FEARS ARE PRIMAL, ENGRAINED, AND OFTEN INTRANSIENT, THERE ARE THOSE WHO WOULD SEEK TO CONTROL US, TO MANIPULATE US, TO SCARE THE HELL OUT OF US, FOR THEIR OWN SELF-SERVING INTERESTS.

 

PREACHERS DO IT; POLITICIANS DO IT; PHYSICIANS DO IT; WALL STREET AND THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX DO IT.

 

PEOPLE PLAY ON OUR FEARS:

 

  • FRIGHTENING US INTO COMING TO CHURCH AND/OR GIVING OUR MONEY TO “PROTECT” OURSELVES AGAINST ETERNAL DAMNATION;

 

  • SEEKING TO GET ELECTED BY TURNING EVERYONE WHO IS DIFFERENT THAN US, WHO DIFFERS WITH US, WHO DISAGREES WITH US, PORTRAYING THEM AS LOSERS, WEAKLINGS, RAPISTS, DRUG ADDICTS, OR PIGS.

 

  • BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ARE WASTED EVERY YEAR ON UNNECESSARY AND UNWARRANTED TREATMENTS FOR MEDICAL CARE THAT SIMPLY COMES TOO LATE AND WITHOUT EFFECT, ALL BECAUSE OF OUR FEAR OF DEATH.

 

  • MARKETS ARE MANIPULATED AND ENTIRE INDUSTRIES ARE PROPPED UP BY PLAYING UPON OUR FEARS OF NOT HAVING ENOUGH, AND OUR FEAR OF EVERYONE NOT LIKE US.

 

  • BUT MOST OF ALL, IT IS THE FEAR OF FEAR ITSELF THAT PLAYS RIGHT INTO THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO WOULD SEEK TO CONTROL US.

 

GONE, APPARENTLY, IS THE SORT OF PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN PEOPLE AND LEADERS ROOSEVELT NOT ONLY CALLED FOR, BUT BELIEVED WOULD COME;

 

AND THE GREATEST GENERATION PROVED HIM RIGHT ON BOTH COUNTS WITH REGARD TO THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II.

 

BUT BEYOND OUR PERSONAL RESOLVE OR INTESTINAL FORTITUDE, AS CHRISTIANS WE SHOULD NOT BE A PRISONER TO OUR OWN FEARS OR THOSE FOISTED UPON US BY OTHERS FOR THE PURE AND SIMPLE FACT THAT WE BELIEVE IN GOD.

AGAIN AND AGAIN, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRETY OF SCRIPTURE, IN GOD’S COVENANT WITH HIS PEOPLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE NEW, WE ARE TOLD “TO FEAR NOT,” “TO NOT BE AFRAID,” “TO NOT LET OUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED, NEITHER LET THEM BE AFRAID.”

 

THEOLOGIAN JURGEN MOLTMANN IN HIS BOOK, THEOLOGY OF HOPE, WRITES THAT BOTH DESPAIR AND PRESUMPTION ARE SYMPTOMS OF HOPELESSNESS, A KIND OF “SIN AGAINST HOPE.”

 

HOPE, MOLTMANN ARGUES, IS A DISTINCTIVE QUALITY OF CHRISTIANITY “THAT CONNECTS THE PROBLEMS OF THE PRESENT WITH AN OPENNESS TO CHRIST’S FUTURE IN THE RESURRECTION.”

 

IN OTHER WORDS, “WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES” WHICH IS NEITHER HEADED TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET, AS SOME WOULD SUGGEST;

 

NOR ON A DIRECT FLIGHT PATH INTO HEAVEN, AS OTHERS MIGHT ASSUME;

 

BUT RATHER, AS PEOPLE OF FAITH, WE ARE OFFERED A “NEW HORIZON” WHICH CALLS US FORWARD INTO ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT.  CHRISTIANS HAVE A FUTURE-ORIENTED YET IN-THE-MOMENT ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE.

 

IT IS, I BELIEVE, WHAT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT WAS TRYING TO PORTRAY IN TAKING THE OATH OF OFFICE FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DEPRESSION, WITH WAR ON THE DISTANT HORIZON…

 

ALL THE WHILE WITH HIS HAND ON HIS FAMILY BIBLE OPENED TO THE LOVE CHAPTER OF I CORINTHIANS 13.

 

NOT SO HIDDEN IN THE TITLE OF THIS MORNING’S SERMON, AS SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE GLEANED IF YOU ARE FROM A CERTAIN GENERATION, IS THE SECOND LINE FROM THE SONG, “GET TOGETHER” BY THE YOUNGBLOODS.

 

YOU MAY REMEMBER THE SONG, ORIGINALLY, OR WHEN IT WAS MADE POPULAR AGAIN IN THE MOVIE FORREST GUMP, BUT HERE ARE THOSE OPENING WORDS:

LOVE IS BUT A SONG WE SING,

AND FEAR’S THE WAY WE DIE

YOU CAN MAKE THE MOUNTAINS RING

OR MAKE THE ANGELS CRY

KNOW THE BIRD IS ON THE WING

AND YOU NEED NOT KNOW WHY

C’MON PEOPLE NOW,

SMILE ON YOUR BROTHER

EV’RYBODY GET TOGETHER

TRY TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER RIGHT NOW.

“FEAR’S THE WAY WE DIE, HOPE IS HOW WE LIVE” – THIS IS MY HOPE AND PRAYER AND CALL FOR US TODAY;

 

THAT AS BELIEVERS, WE WOULD LIVE NOT BY FEAR, BUT BY THE HOPE WE HAVE IN GOD ALMIGHTY, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON, OUR LORD.

 

LET US GUARD AGAINST THOSE WHO WOULD SEEK TO PLAY ON OUR FEARS;

 

WHO WOULD SEEK TO CONTROL US, MANIPULATE US, FRIGHTENING US INTO ILL CONCEIVED ACTIONS OR INACTION, ALL IN AN ATTEMPT TO GAIN POWER OVER US OR FOR THEIR OWN SELF-SERVING INTERESTS.

 

UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE CREATED A CULTURE OF FEAR, DUE, IN PART, TO OUR INSTANT ACCESS, TWENTY-FOUR/SEVEN, 365 DAYS A YEAR OF COVERAGE OF EVERY SINGLE SQUARE INCH OF THE WORLD, WHAT’S HAPPENING IN IT, AND A PENCHANT FOR BAD NEWS.

 

DON’T GET ME WRONG, THERE ARE LOTS OF PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD, AND YOU HEAR ME ENUMERATE THEM OFTEN IN SERMONS FROM THIS PULPIT, SO I WILL SPARE YOU THAT TODAY.

 

BUT EVERY TIME WE GIVE INTO “NAMELESS, UNREASONING, UNJUSTIFIED FEAR” WE SIN AGAINST HOPE.

 

WE DECLARE THAT GOD “CANNOT;” WE PROCLAIM CHRIST “HAS NOT;” WE ACQUIESCE THAT THE CHURCH, AND WE AS BELIEVERS, “WILL NOT.”

 

AS CHRISTIANS WE BELIEVE IN GOOD NEWS, AND WHEN WE WILL ALLOW OURSELVES, IT IS EASY TO CATCH GLIMPSES OF IT, AND OF HOPE, IN THE WORLD AROUND US, IF WE DARE LOOK FOR THEM.

 

THE NEWS IS NO HELP, MOST OF THE TIME;  THE RHETORIC OF POLITICIANS ISN’T HELPFUL, MOST OF THE TIME; OUR DAILY HAND WRINGING AND WORRYING ABOUT “WHAT’S NEXT” WILL NOT HELP.

 

SO WHAT ARE WE TO DO?  WE ARE TO” “BELIEVE IN GOD, BELIEVE ALSO IN CHRIST.”  WE ARE TO TRUST IN THE “PEACE WHICH HAS BEEN LEFT TO US; THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US” BY CHRIST “AND NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES.”

 

AND WE ARE TO LISTEN TO THE YOUNGLBOODS AS WELL – “WE ARE TO SMILE ON OUR BROTHER (AND SISTER), WE ARE TO GET TOGETHER, AND WE ARE TO TRY AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER RIGHT NOW.”

 

THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION WAS FORMED BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT AS THE DEPARTMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR PUBLICITY AND PROPAGANDA DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

IN LATE 1939 AFTER THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR II, THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION WAS APPOINTED BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO DESIGN A NUMBER OF MORALE POSTERS THAT WOULD BE DISPLAYED ACROSS THE BRITISH ISLES DURING THE TESTING THAT LAY AHEAD.

 

WITH A BOLD COLORED BACKGROUND, THE POSTERS WERE REQUIRED TO BE SIMILAR IN STYLE AND FEATURE THE SYMBOLIC CROWN OF KING GEORGE VI ALONG WITH A SIMPLE YET EFFECTIVE FONT.

 

THE FIRST TWO POSTERS, “YOUR COURAGE, YOUR CHEERFULNESS, YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING US VICTORY” AND “FREEDOM IS IN PERIL” WERE PRODUCED AND POSTED ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, IN SHOP WINDOWS, UPON NOTICE BOARDS, AND AT STREET CROSSINGS ACROSS BRITAIN.

 

A THIRD AND FINAL POSTER WAS PLANNED, AND WAS TO BE USED ONLY IN THE EVENT THAT BRITAIN WAS INVADED BY GERMAN FORCES.  SINCE THAT NEVER HAPPENED, THE POSTER WAS NEVER DISPLAYED PUBLICLY.

 

IT IS, HOWEVER THIS POSTER WHICH, WHILE NEVER DISPLAYED AND THUS NEVER OFFICIALLY SEEN BY THE PUBLIC, THAT HAS GARNERED A WHOLE NEW APPRECIATION, ALBEIT IN A VARIETY OF FORMS AND MESSAGES.

 

ORIGINALLY THE POSTER READ: “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”

 

WE KNOW IT TODAY IN ALL OF ITS MANY FORMS, MOST OF THEM SPOOFS:  “KEEP CALM AND CHIVE ON;” “KEEP CALM AND PARTY ON;” “KEEP CALM AND CALL BATMAN;” AND THE LIKE.

 

WHILE NEVER ACTUALLY DISPLAYED IN ITS ORIGINAL FORMAT, MANY IN GREAT BRITAIN HAVE DENOUNCED THE SPOOFS AS INSENSITIVE TO WHAT THOSE IN LONDON AND ELSEWHERE WENT THROUGH DURING THE BOMBINGS OF THEIR CITIES, AND THE FIGHTING OF THE WAR.  YOU CAN KIND OF SEE THEIR POINT.

 

BUT MAYBE BORROWING THE IDEA FROM THE ORIGINAL POSTER WOULDN’T BE SUCH A BAD IDEA FOR ALL OF US, EVERYWHERE, TODAY: “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”

 

THEN AGAIN, AS PEOPLE OF FAITH, WE’VE BEEN GIVEN OUR WORDS TO LIVE BY:

 

“DO NOT LET YOU HEARTS BE TROUBLED.  BELIEVE IN GOD, BELIEVE ALSO IN ME.

 

PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU; MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU.  I DO NOT GIVE TO YOU AS THE WORLD GIVES.  DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLE, NEITHER LET THEM BE AFRAID.”

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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