Message by Latrice Reid
Everyone I’ve talked to about today’s Sunday gathering has pointed out the irony of the situation: I’m standing here talking about fear and courage and I’m absolutely bricking it.
I used to think that I wouldn’t be able to do this because i was too scared of what could go wrong: what if I messed up the chalice lighting and set the church on fire? What if I stumble over my words? What if what I say makes no sense and people think that I’m rubbish? Maybe I should wait until I feel braver. I’ll just wait until I magically find courage and then i can deliver the perfect Sunday gathering.
And maybe pigs will fly.
I used to think that fear and courage were polar opposites. You’re either fearful or you’re brave. In fact, one of the attributes of courage is feeling fear and yet choosing to act. And learning that made me think of all the people who i consider brave and wondered what made them choose to act despite their fears.
We all know of the achievements of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst... and then there’s those people who take part in Pride Marches, anti-Trump or pro-NHS protests. We remember these people because they have all stood up against injustice in the face of opposition with significant risk to themselves and possibly even to others.
What on Earth would possess them to take such great risks? I believe that the answer is their convictions – their deeply held beliefs. What drove them forward was having the courage in their conviction that their cause was important and that the consequences of not acting would be devastating.
I can think of another story of a courageous figure that I find interesting and inspiring. Today is Palm Sunday – the commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem and the fulfilment of the prophecy made before His birth that foretold the coming of a victorious yet humble king. He is surrounded by this massive crowd of people laying palm leaves at his feet, an act usually reserved for very important people, and these are doing so because they strongly believe that this guy on a donkey is a pretty big deal. and they’re doing this in broad daylight. Right in front of the romans. So there’s this risk that the romans are going to get angry, maybe start arresting people, or worse. Jesus knows this isn’t going to be fun and games. He is also aware of the coming fall of Jerusalem and his impending suffering and death. But when the Pharisees ask Him to tell his followers to keep quiet He responds by suggesting that the truth He is so convinced of will still come out. And so, He takes courage in the belief that the truth cannot be stopped and, crucially, that His fulfilling the prophecy which is a part of the mission He’d been sent for – to be the saviour that the Jews were waiting for.
His conviction did not stop Him from feeling fear. He later asks God to ‘…take this cup of suffering away from me’. But His belief in following His Father’s perfect will strengthens Him to pay the ultimate price for Humankind despite His distress. His conviction was so strong that He found the courage to face suffering and death despite being afraid.
In today’s world, there is a lot to be fearful of, with hate and divisions among people often leading to violence. With what seems like the endless bombardment of bad news on the TV and in the newspapers, it is little wonder that many of us would be feeling fearful that the world is getting darker. And that fear can be paralyzing. It can leave us feeling helpless and like we are unable to make a difference. However, if we cling to the idea that there is the potential to make a difference, no matter how small, and that the alternative is to stand by and watch, we will find the fuel needed to do something and make our truths heard.
I’ve delivered my message for the first time like a white swan: calm and confident on the outside but underneath the façade I feel like everything’s going like crazy. And throughout the process of planning and writing the message, choosing the theme and everything else I’ve often considered begging Andy to take my cup of anxiety from me. But throughout the process I’ve been convinced of two things: 1) I believe that the God I believe in wants me to grow and you can’t grow if you don’t do something that makes you uncomfortable, and 2) I have something of value to share with the world. These convictions have given me the courage to overcome my fears.
So, what are your convictions? What do you believe deep down in your heart? What do you believe in so strongly that you would be willing to fight for it despite the many risks you may face? If you can keep the flame of your conviction burning in your heart in times of fear then you will find the courage that you need to keep up the fight.
May it be so.