Whom Shall We Fear?
“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?” – Psalm 27:1
Psalm 27 starts out full of confidence. Sure of God’s presence, light, and salvation, the Psalmist proclaims “the Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” If ancient Hebrew had punctuation marks, he probably would have ended with an exclamation point, not a question mark!
Overflowing with spit and vinegar, the Psalmist lists all the things that could have made him afraid but didn’t faze him in the least. Evildoers, adversaries, foes, false witnesses, an enemy encamped against him, war—the Psalmist could face them all because he knew God would shelter and protect him. God was with him. “Whom shall I fear?” indeed.
But then the confident tone changes. The Psalmist names the one thing that he does fear. “Do not hide your face from me,” he pleads in the second half of the Psalm. “Do not turn away from me or cast me off.” There’s no reason given for the change. Perhaps the second part was written later in the Psalmist’s life, after he’d known God as much by absence as by presence. “Do not forsake me,” he cries.
For Christians in Lent, the Psalmist’s fear has particular resonance. We’ve embarked on a journey that leads to a cross and a cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The paradox of our faith is that Jesus’ story of greatest abandonment has become for us the assurance of God’s greatest presence. Even when we are most afraid or forsaken, we can trust there is One who has faced that same fear and whose presence gives us the courage to face it as well.
Give us the strength, Lord, to face our fears and the courage to trust your presence. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.