One of the delightful movies this past year is “La La Land.” It’s an old-fashioned musical which many thought would win the Academy Award for best picture, and it almost did because of mix up with the cards given to the presenters.
The Book of Psalms in the Bible is a marvelous collection of songs and poems, but these songs and poems are not from “La La Land.” They are not just bits of piety, poetry and inspiration fit for greeting cards, but rather they come out of the experiences of real life and confront genuine evil and dangers such as fear, anxiety, frustration, and nasty people.
The most fundamental of all human conditions the Psalms confront is fear. We humans struggle with fear – fear of death, fear of life, fear of self, fear of Satan, fear of circumstances, and fear that if people knew what we are really like they would want nothing to do with us.
Psalm 118 is a marvelous poem which begins, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” It is an invitation to praise the greatness and goodness of God.
The psalm reminds us that the context of praise with which it begins is always fear, sadness, anxiety, sorrow, disappointment and terror. The context of David’s praise is his harrowing, nerve-wracking escape from death itself. It is the story of a close escape for David. He was a person with a contract on his head.
It seemed as if the world was out to get him, at least King Saul was. David was in mortal danger. He could not rely on his friends and had few options. Deliverance came out of a squeeze play, and he did not forget to whom the real credit belonged – the Lord. So, David gave credit where credit was due. He rejoiced in his victory not because of his own abilities, not because of his own strength, but because with the Lord on his side, he feared nobody (Psalm 118:7).
The late Dr. Peter Gomes wrote, “Life does not consist of one great dark fear that looms over us like the shadows of a giant or the valley of the shadow of death. It is rather that swarm of little fears, little fevers we may call them. We may even call them anxieties. These are the things that attack our very being. Will it be tomorrow when someone will say something you would rather not hear? Will your email bring you tidings which are not of great joy but rather some dreadful news from the IRS that you are being audited. We live what one author once called “lives of quiet desperation,” in which we live defensively anticipating terror rather than joy. It is the fear of life and it stifles the spirit.”
It was the fear of life without Jesus Christ that made the disciples flee into the darkness on Maundy Thursday night. It is such fear of life that drives many of us into the darkest recesses of our own private anxieties.
Easter utters to us and to the world the three greatest words in the Gospel – “Be not afraid.” That’s what the angels said to the shepherds on the Judean hillside at Christmas. That’s what the angels said to the women at the tomb on Easter morning. That’s what the Gospel says to you and me who are in the midst of our lives of quiet desperation.
Do not be anxious. Do not worry. The Lord is on my side, what can anyone or anything do to me? Once we have vanquished the fear of life and the fear of death, we can live. We can face anyone and we can face anything. At Easter the fearful disciples of Jesus became new people. We can become new people as well.
In Psalm 118 David wrote, “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?…This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it…Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” May the message of Christ’s resurrection, the message of Easter, bring you such hope, freedom, joy and peace. “Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”
— written by Pastor Mike Loudon