Denial of Vulnerability is Not Faithfulness or Fearlessness, but Foolishness
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:1,4-5, 13-14 (NRSV)
On this date 79 years ago President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his “Day of Infamy” speech. It was the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. If you were around then, or talk with people who were, you know that Americans were stunned by the attack and shocked by the deaths. With all our military might and security services, the attack was a surprise. The deaths were a surprise. We were suddenly aware that we were vulnerable. Wealth and freedom and being in the U.S.A. were not enough to keep us safe.
We felt angry, sad and vulnerable. This December 8, we may be at peace with Japan, but we may well feel angry and sad and vulnerable. The enemy is not a nation-state but a virus. 2,335 people died at Pearl Harbor. Our death tolls exceed this number in the U.S.A. most every day from COVID-19. I write this as I sit with the news that the virus has claimed one more dear, faithful man. The virus has laid siege upon his wife as well. I am profoundly sad.
I have heard many among us conflate fear with vulnerability and lob accusations of fear at people who choose to be cautious. Fear and vulnerability are not the same thing, but almost opposites in terms of our response. When we live in fear, we are susceptible to irrational thinking and behavior, mind control, selfishness and anxiousness. We may well be unkind. When we acknowledge vulnerability, we lean into our faith. We can acknowledge the reality of the threat and make plans and act with courageous, compassionate, peaceful hearts.
Psalm 27, one of the lectionary readings for this day makes this point, offering ancient wisdom for a modern moment. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall, I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? This Psalm goes on to acknowledge the very real threats of every age. Are we vulnerable? Yes. Should we live in fear? No. Our faith compels us to act in ways that express our love of God and neighbor.
Lord, let us acknowledge the ways in which we are vulnerable, so that we may rely on faith in you to guide our ways with love and compassion. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.