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Choose Courage

Dear Friends,

In my sermon about walking 500 miles along the Chemin du Puy this past June and July, I told you about getting lost. At first, I didn’t know that I was lost. I kept hoping that I had arrived in the village that was supposed to be on the other side of a dense forest. A village called “Domain of the Savage Beast.” But when I asked the only person who was outside in the small village, she told me that I was somewhere else entirely.

As we sat on the stone ledge of her garden, she took the opportunity to tell me that there were savage beasts in that forest. The wolves often took lambs and a girl from the village had been bitten by a snake. It had taken her six months to recover. For the 30 minutes that we spent together, she tried to fill me with fear. She told me of the arguments that had led her away from her family in Aix en Provence to begin a life in that village.

However, she had not found peace in the village. Her neighbors did not quarrel but there was reason to be afraid, she told me. I am grateful that this woman’s fear was so clear that I could see it and reject it. Sometimes fear-mongering is less obvious. It can take us by surprise.

In mid-August, Sukey Jones made me aware of Mayor Goode’s proposal to add to city ordinances to restrict entry to drag shows, as well as making them more costly. This change in the ordinance would send a message of fear. Spreading fear was the tactic of the Nazis during WWII. Spreading fear about what the Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and others would do, opened the way to penalizing ordinances that led step by incremental step to the Holocaust.

We must reject the message of fear and stand with those who are targeted. The message of fear under-mines our ability to think clearly. Fear makes us unsafe. I encourage all of us to listen to ourselves when we talk: Are we spreading courage or fear? It is my hope that Granite Peak is a place where we spread courage to one another out into the world. As your minister, I promise to engage in the work of van- quishing my own fears so that I can be a source of courage for you when you need it.

In October, I will be talking about the life of Etty Hillesum, a mentor of mine whose work gives me courage whenever I need it. A Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, writes, “We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the mor- row, for they sap our energies. We make mental pro- vision for the days to come, and everything turns out differently. Sufficient unto the day. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest, we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries...

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

Amen and may it be so!


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